Digital Dharma

The Middle Path, One Day At A Time


When you put people in survival situations, it doesn’t take long for their thinking to change to what they perceive as supporting survival. Our troops in Iraq have been under that kind of pressure from the beginning, with no end in sight.

The Iraq war and the several other wars (mentioned and unmentioned) since the mid-1960’s have one overarching characteristic that distinguishes them from all the previous conflicts fought by the US military: largely-disaffected indigenous populations that are willing to fight. In the case of Iraq, that circumstance is exacerbated by a readiness–not to say eagerness–to die as well. Not even in Vietnam, where there was always the odd chance that someone would toss a grenade into a restaurant, did our troops have to fear the faceless, fight the invisible, and sustain most of their casualties without warning, and with no way of fighting back.

Imagine, if you can, a situation where, at any time during your workday, there was a fair chance that you and/or several of your coworkers could without warning be maimed or killed by faulty office equipment. Imagine that this could happen at any time. Imagine further that remaining in your job, in that place, was the only way that you could 1) support your family, and 2) stay out of jail.

Imagine that when you took the job you were told that there could be some danger, but that you would be exposed to it for only a short time–probably not at all–and that after you had your turn you could leave for a safer position and someone else would take your place if workers were still needed.

Imagine that you were assured that you would have the best possible equipment to protect you from the hazards. Imagine that your superiors not only reneged on that, but told you that you couldn’t even leave the job when your contract expired. Imagine that when you finally were permitted a respite, after a few weeks or months they sent you back to the same office and the same old hazardous working conditions that previously obtained, if not worse.

Imagine that this job required you to leave a different job that you had chosen as a career, and work for lower pay and much longer working hours.

Imagine that you also had to leave your family, and live in conditions that were terribly substandard.

Imagine that you and your coworkers were losing marriages, businesses and other opportunities, for the privilege of “serving” your current employer.

Finally, imagine that those responsible for the dilemma showed little or no concern for your plight, problems or well being, and that your superiors were much busier sucking up to the people who would offer them cushy jobs after retirement than they were in looking out for your interests.

Imagine that the executives cut your benefits whenever they could.

How do you imagine you’d feel? Don’t say, “Well, they volunteered;” answer the question. How…do…you…think…you’d…feel?

These people’s lives–personal and emotional–have been affected and, in many cases, ruined permanently. Divorces are forever. Post Traumatic Stress is forever. Lost businesses, lost income and lost opportunities are forever. Their lives are completely out of their control, and they have no way to (legally) change their situations. Even desertion is essentially impossible, due to the location.

Is it any wonder that some of them lash out? Is it any wonder that they discharge their frustration, rage and fear inappropriately? There is no appropriate way. Is it any wonder that they project the hatred of their circumstances, their fear and their xenophobia onto the only targets available? Is it any wonder that sometimes it gets completely out of control?

The wonder is that it happens as seldom as it seems to.

I believe in compassion. I think the concept of “battlefield ethics” is obscene, as are battlefields and those who cause them. I do not in any way condone the actions of those who lost control.

Nor do I wonder why.

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