War is beautiful
“War is beautiful because it establishes man’s dominion over the subjugated machinery by means of gas masks, terrifying megaphones, flame throwers, and small tanks. War is beautiful because it initiates the dreamt-of metalization of the human body. War is beautiful because it enriches a flowering meadow with the fiery orchids of machine guns. War is beautiful because it combines the gunfire, the cannonades, the cease-fire, the scents, and the stench of putrefaction into a symphony. War is beautiful because it creates new architecture, like that of the big tanks, the geometrical formation flights, the smoke spirals from burning villages, and many others ...”
Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, on the Second Italo-Abyssinian War (1935-36)
The drive to wage war is an aboriginal impulse securely rooted within the unfathomable depths of the human consciousness; it is therefore associated with some of its most ancient cultural archetypes, whose origins now lie shrouded in mist by virtue of their great antiquity. But it is much more than this: war is the highest expression of a particularly instrumental rationality. What is rational is to be identified with what is actually self-existent, a thing existing-for-itself, imperceptibly and seamlessly interwoven into the logical structure of reality; war is actual, it is self-existent because it synthesizes all antagonism as it unfolds dialectically, resolving itself upward in the direction of absolute mind as it operates within the iron parameters of some invisible historical process. War, of necessity, must be rational; the state, as it realizes its fundamental essence through war, is really a synthesis of numerous individual rationalities welded into a single, unified rationality. It is supra-rational, being merely a glimpse into the multiverse which straddles the limits of all phenomenological analysis and is therefore outside the scope of human knowledge. War, as an instrument of the state, is the purest expression of this collectivization of individual rationalities, the supremely rational will of an all-encompassing rational faculty directly channelled and mediated by the institutional apparatus of the state, which approaches the absolute in the same way that positive and negative integers approach zero as they diminish in value, without once becoming, superseding or replacing it.
In this respect, war is to be identified with a kind of Stoic Logos, a primal demiurge situated between the rationality of the state and the material substrate of an undifferentiated being; it is a kind of generative and transformative vehicle, superimposing form and symmetry over the inchoate and dark expanse which spreads itself outwards along all Cartesian axes and co-ordinates, as if it were a kind of celestial Praxiteles wielding chisel and hammer over cold, unadulterated marble. All existence is extended and fully articulated through homogeneous space-time by means of thesis overcoming antithesis as ultimately consummated in war, which is the cosmic organ by which form is materialized and grounded in the design architecture of the real world. Thus, it must be further asserted that man locked in combat with his fellow man - man-at-war-with-himself - is the fundamental ontological condition by which the possibility of human existence is realized and further articulated, the means by which the materialist basis of the historical process subsumes all antagonism, all polarity, all contradiction and is subsequently unfolded dialectically. Indeed, war and the modern articulation of the state, with its labyrinthine apparatus to discipline and to punish as exercised over extraterritorial space, are a single, unified entity, their porous boundaries dissolving imperceptibly the one into the other by a kind of osmosis operating on the level of abstraction.
Because the modern state is of western origin, it follows that war as presently fought is the highest expression of a particularly Occidental rationality. To paraphrase Hobbes, all human life and social organization, and the contractual obligations which bind these together, find their origins in war; in the absence of which, man would be at perpetual war with himself, threatened by other men who possess the same level of power and influence that he possesses. Hence, without war, there would be no culture, no civilization, no science, no technology, no literature, no art so to speak; indeed, the scientific and technological development of entire nations can only be brought about by the most terrible and destructive bloodlettings; only through indiscriminate slaughter are the productive forces of industrial capitalism truly and fully unleashed, so that man’s creative impulse and intelligence are given free rein and revealed in all their awful magnificence. Civilization has only triumphed over native savagery by means of the mass slaughter of those recalcitrant elements which would impede its progress. Just as Roman Caesarism was only spread by flushing out the tattooed, spear-throwing Briton from the forests around the Thames, so also the predominance of western culture is the result of that subjugation made possible by war and its technologies. Alas, even these propositions grounded in fact demonstrate that the feasibility of a one-world government and a universal peace is an idealized political fiction, as the natural condition of humanity, when not deliberately sanitized by those who would argue for the infinite plasticity of human nature, is one of war, where man cuts down his fellow man with the sword, where tribe exterminates tribe and whole nations must wage the bitterest wars against their enemies, for this is the will of the Absolute, of which the rationality immanent in the state as autonomous agent is but a dim reflection.
Only through war is man’s role as rational agent amplified to such an extent that he functions at the height of his own agency as individual subjectivity and autonomous agent, coinciding with the higher rationality of the state wholly immersed in total war with itself and everything around it. War makes lucid; war assigns clarity to an existence which is at once dark and marred by an unceasing pessimism; it clears away that field of illusion which gives a sense of timelessness to what is in essence, always in a state of flux. It follows that perpetual peace cannot be the highest expression of rationality and therefore the fundamental precondition upon which man’s natural ontological state rests, as Kant maintained, because without the continuous reinvigoration of the human condition and the social order by which it is expressed by new energies, there would be eventual stagnation and inevitable decline, followed by a final extinction of life as we know it. Again, it must be stated: without war, change would be rendered a near impossibility; the dialectical unfolding of all historical processes and its contingent elements has been mediated by war; civilizations can only succeed each other by means of the driving engine of national and even international conflagration. War is a universal law of nature; even the structural complexity of the biological organism diversifies and increases only by means of a ceaseless arms race by which prey develops a more advanced system of defences and predator simultaneously develops a more sophisticated array of armaments.
War is the lifeblood of the nation; it is the final end of human rationality as an instrumental agent, its necessary consummation, because he who wishes to optimize the conditions of his own existence by incorporating his individual essence into the transcendent unity of an all-encompassing state can only do so by means of struggle. However, this need not reflect the automatization of the individual who extinguishes his own consciousness by means of immersing himself in the universal will of the state. Through the coalescence of the individual into the personality of the state-which becomes an autonomous subjectivity in its own right-albeit on the level of sovereign democratic principle, the individual is able to participate and share in the state not only as an instrument by which the higher rationality of war is revealed and made manifest, but also to partake of and be submerged into the final end of humanity as an advanced expression of universal reason.
As the operations of war unfold dialectically in nonlinear fashion, by virtue of its function as a series of Bayesian probabilities, both rationality and the logical structure of reality become closely identified in this process of gradual synthesis ; rationality in its fullest expression is only revealed by that process of actualization facilitated by means of war, erasing all ideological superstructures which impose rigid, predetermined meaning over random data extrapolated from sensory perception, leaving us with the representation of the thing-itself as it is; meaning, the actual as rational, with war as the final expression of what is rational in human nature. War is the incarnation of freedom; he who wages it against another has realized a freedom immanent within the dynamic transformational matrix of his own aboriginal nature; a freedom which can only be realized and fully articulated by the higher rationality of the state, being ultimately reflected by the institutionally mediated collective freedom of the state to wage war against other states. Hence, the state emerges as a person, which materializes by virtue of the dialectical opposition of state vs. state locked in some embrace of death, a cyclically recurring power struggle which operates on the peripheries of a jurisprudence to which they are no longer bound. By identifying his individual powers with the collective will of the state at war, man realizes his own freedom, a freedom to confront the existential despair which arises from the malaise of an existence which violates the preconditions of his natural ontological state; a freedom to resist the shackles of an artificial and externally imposed system of pedagogical tutelage and to recover what is necessary to his own revitalization as a dynamic centre of human volition. And how is the individual participant to revitalize his own being, to reinvent himself anew, other than to have revealed before his eyes the ephemerality and finitude of his own limited epistemological sphere, save by means of the destabilizing influence of war?
The fascist aestheticization of violence entails that war is first and foremost, a creative agent by which the structure of the prevailing social reality is moulded in the image of the state. It is therefore wrong to see war as a primarily negative act; through war, one affirms the striving of the will to power by imparting form and substance to what was once inchoate and barely intelligible, further energizing this striving of the will to overcome the world by giving it free rein to mould reality as it sees fit. Those who conceive of war as being a destructive act fail to understand the fundamental essence of war, its breathtaking beauty and its transcendence above the mundane, its profoundly spiritual nature and radical rejection of materialism. Through war, one builds, one organizes and develops. In a word, to wage a war is to unleash the full creative energies of humanity. There is no other mode of praxis which reaches or strives to reach the full summit of perfection other than war; there is nothing under the earth or above the heavens which can match it for sheer elegance or splendour. In retrospect, this is why Georg von Hegel in the Philosophy of Right concluded that the state was god triumphantly marching through history. War is a perfect act, a beautiful act and he who wields it allows his eyes to be opened. He has become as god, for he wields an absolute power, the power to bring to life and to put to death, to summon from nothing and to live in the fullness of his own unconcealed being.
Treitschke said: “War is elevating because the individual disappears before the great conception of the state. The devotion of the members of a community to each other is nowhere so splendidly conspicuous as in war.” That the individual is nothing in the face of the state-and the state everything - is precisely what makes war an instrument of the most resplendent pulchritude, its gradual unfolding according to some internal dialectic a mirror image of the perfect symmetry and harmony found in nature. And who can deny how breathtakingly beautiful-even magical-is war? Amidst traditional pomp and circumstance, and the full pageantry of military preparation, it is only war which takes what is disparate, what is alienated from itself, and forges these into a single, organic and all-encompassing whole; underneath the fabric of war, there is a vitalizing force which effaces the artificial boundaries separating one man from another, subsuming each under the rubric of a single collective subjectivity, the electrical current which drives the engine of war. Together, what was once a multitude of disparate elements acts harmoniously as one; as one will, one personality and one intellect, all united in the actions of a single collectivity, a oneness through which even the highest and the most autonomous individuality is made manifest.
The exploitative industrial capitalism of this modern age both divides and rips asunder; it isolates, atomizes and compartmentalizes, producing solitude and the profoundest alienation when in the presence of others, and a sense of companionship when surrounded by no one, save one’s personal thoughts. But war binds together and includes all in the consummation of its holiest of holy tasks; those intimately acquainted with the beauty of war can attest to this. War imparts substance and meaning to human existence, transforming what was once moribund into an energetic dynamism what was once monotonous and profane; it replaces the grossly materialistic with the ineffably spiritual and transcendent. Even the vilest philistinism cannot withstand the rushing onslaught of war. Just as war is the highest expression of rationality, it is also the highest expression of morality, a kind of romanticised, if not muscular Christianity whose sacrament is the wanton spilling of human blood, whose only gospel of salvation is the wielding of the sword and the vigorous thrusting of the bayonet.
Paradoxically, it is said that the multi-ethnic composition of a nation vanishes almost without a trace through the agency of war; those of differing religious affiliations and political stripes shed their ideological differences to fight under a single banner, represented by the military prerogative which serves its purpose as a tangible manifestation of the collective will expressed through the instrumentality of war. In war, that egalitarianism which is found impossible to implement as a matter of political expediency, is made actual, which renders the parable of that crass and ignoble charlatan Jesus Christ a lie, as the kingdom of heaven can only be established by means of the sword. Imagine this, the wise and the foolish, the poor and the rich, the valiant and the cowardly perfectly at home with each other, expressing a tenderness and compassion for each other, which would be impossible otherwise. This is because only through war, do men sublimate their egos to become truly virtuous, culminating in that ultimate expression of the ethical life: the sacrifice of one’s life for the lives of one’s fellow men in an act of unselfish devotion to the fatherland. Such is the underlying ethos of war, that if there is any enterprise more humanitarian, more charitable, it is the waging of war itself, the greatest form of philanthropy there ever was as its sole purpose is the mitigation of all present and future suffering. Whoever said that charity begins at home was a shameless liar; charity begins on the battlefield. The greatest acts of generosity occur only when one is under fire, those of kindness occur only in the face of an immediate and mortal danger. How could it be otherwise? In peacetime, men are cold and selfish, given over to the satisfaction of their own crude bodily urges. But even during the most brutal war, man’s glorious humanity is revealed in all its fullness, the beauty of his tender moral nature is made manifest for all to see. Thus, it should be clear: the soul of man under the spell of war is ennobled, whereas under an unholy peace it is degraded to the level of a beast.
But at the same time, through the agency of war, hierarchy is established, a natural aristocracy of the spirit, in sharp contrast to this afore-mentioned egalitarianism, where the flower of humanity rises above the writhing, seething mass down below. The hero, that redeemer of mankind and rare specimen of the most evolved humanity, only makes his appearance amidst the convulsions of the battlefield; indeed, courage and heroism are only made manifest by means of the anvil of war, from which they are daily forged. Through war, men who were once aimless and lethargic, are subjected to emotions of raw intensity and great power; men who had nothing else except the most brutal contempt for their fellow men, now cleave to their comrades as if they were the Sacred Band of Thebes, and indeed they are, armed lovers whose fates are now intertwined, in the deliberate and heroic pursuit of martyrdom on the battlefield. This is one of the mysteries of war. The state at war is a reflection of nature pristine and unadorned, “red in tooth and claw”, as Lord Tennyson rhapsodized ecstatically; the final end of the state is to perpetrate war so as to preserve its strategic geopolitical advantages, upon a world stage occupied by other powers. In this respect, the struggle for dominance between states is one of Darwinian natural selection writ large, where each state wages war on its rival in an attempt to maximize its chances at self-preservation across generations. And what, may I ask, is more rational than the self-preservation of one’s own being in the midst of a chaos which threatens to engulf it?