Moral fantasy

“Hence it becomes more and more difficult to estimate the morality of an act leading to war because it is more and more difficult to know precisely what is going on. Not only is war increasingly a matter for pure specialists operating with fantastically complex machinery, but above all there is the question of absolute secrecy regarding everything that seriously affects defense policy. We may amuse ourselves by reading the reports in mass media and imagine that these “facts” provide sufficient basis for moral judgments for and against war. But in reality, we are simply elaborating moral fantasies in a vacuum. Whatever we may decide, we remain completely at the mercy of the governmental power, or rather the anonymous power of managers and generals who stand behind the facade of government. We have no way of directly influencing the decisions and policies taken by these people. In practice, we must fall back on a blinder and blinder faith which more and more resigns itself to trusting the “legitimately constituted authority” without having the vaguest notion what that authority is liable to do next. This condition of irresponsibility and passivity is extremely dangerous. It is hardly conducive to genuine morality.”

From Passion for Peace: The Social Essays of Thomas Merton, edited by William H. Shannon

(The Crossroad Publishing Company, New York, NY, 1995) pages 113-114.

I think there are implications from Merton for today the feast of September 11th. On this date five years ago the United States was attacked by terrorists who were not from Iraq but from Saudi Arabia. Five years later Iraq lies in ruins, thousands of innocents have been killed in Iraq and still the mastermind of this slaughter of innocents in this country is still at large. It boggles the mind of most Americans that our own country sold out its own citizens in favor of a political agenda. Since September 11, 2001 over 3,000 innocent American civilians, 2650 American military personnel and tens of thousands of Iraq and Afghan civilians have been killed, nearly 20,000 American military have been wounded and God only knows how many innocents in other countries have been maimed for life and to what purpose. Are we any closer to ending the ignorance that brought about the attack on America. No, we’re no closer. War profiteers have made billions of dollars. Politicians have thumped their chests and spouted pious and patriotic oaths. Political fortunes have been made and lost but sadly we are no closer to peace than we were five years ago. The war on terror has in fact produced more terrorists. Average Americans are no safer than they were five years ago. Hundreds of billions of dollars of the average American’s money that could have been spent of schools, health care and programs of social uplift have been squandered instead on war and destruction. I am reminded of the words of Martin Luther King.

A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

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thomas merton, martin luther king, war, social justice, peace

One Reply to “Moral fantasy”

  1. Thanks for posting these words of wisdom. The situation has gotten to the point that I feel cynical about every news report, no matter which view it represents. It all seems to boil down to money one way or another. Our military service men and women are the finest –most are such good people, wanting to help. But the whole politically driven machine reminds me of Orwell’s “Ministry of Peace.”

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