There is a disconnection between the community and those who engage in our defense and fight our wars. This lacking of “connection” represents a mockery of our Declaration of Independence, and while our war fighters secure for us the rights of “…life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness…” many of them have no lives, they are devoid of liberty and are unable to pursue happiness. We failed to carry out our end of the deal in the past and continue to do so; as a result they kill themselves at a rate of 22 individuals each day.
Ancient Arts and Modern Science
Our ancient ancestors created marvels and explained their worlds far differently than the way we do today. The science behind certain of their creations continues to amaze (Pyramids of Giza), and the art – the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, continues to guide us (Hippocratic Oath).
The ancients used science to create the weapons of war and they used the arts to describe it and how to deal with its aftermath. Those arts explained why their gods, delivered them to battle, drove them to do their worst, demanded that they perform at their very best, and how those gods seemed to delight in the slaughter.1
Throughout history, war making societies have groomed their young to engage in combat, by telling stories, teaching combat skills, describing combat, explaining, dealing with its aftermath of combat, what to expect on their journeys back and developing the skills necessary to grow into leaders of their people e.g. The Odyssey and The Iliad.
Paradoxically, war making societies chose their very best to engage in the very worst. Creating good human beings is not an accidental process and it truly does “take a village to raise a child.” Well rounded individuals are those who have mastered the arts and the sciences whether it is poetry and writing or auto detailing and racing. Children, who are well nurtured, petted, cuddled, cooed, protected and talked to, have pervasive neural development in a brain that is marked by evolution and grow.
The Evolution and pervasive growth seen in the brains of children who have been abandoned, neglected, physically, sexually and emotionally abused, and/or exposed to other forms of trauma are different than that of children who are cared for. While their brains grow, the growth is greater in ancient areas of the brain that deal with saber tooth tigers, bears, wolves and marauding bandits; their brains do not evolve optimally, and survival skills are attained at the cost of thriving skills. Oftentimes, these individuals join the military in hopes of finally finding a “Village.”
While we as a species have achieved spectacularly in the science of war, we have miserably failed those who we deliver to war; in an ironic twist, that must have the gods of war in full delight, the war fighters return home and are oftentimes abandoned, neglected and abused.
Until puberty the males of many “warrior societies” spend a great deal of time just “being kids” with their family and friends in their tribe/group; in addition to play, they spent time watching adults, listening to those adults, and developing their skills at running, jumping, climbing, wrestling, hunting, etc.
At puberty, there is often a knock at the door and the warriors of the tribe arrive and take the males from the child friendly environment; oftentimes the mothers symbolically cling to their boys, but eventually consent to the need for their sons to begin their “war path.”2
In some tribes, the young males are initiated by descending into dark caves where they face demons and other spirits. When the initiation period is ended, the young males learn the codes of behavior and their tribe’s ethos (moral basis) relative to engaging in war, combat skills, and the spiritual/moral reasoning behind the need to engage in “just” killing.
After initiation and training, this second, and highly critical, phase their brain’s neural development has occurred, and, along with fighting skills, they have military codes and moral/spiritual ethos is in place; thus, they have a psychological, spiritual, moral, social, physical and emotional framework for engaging in combat.
Nothing, however, really prepares them for actual combat.
In battle, these young human beings descend into Hell’s cauldron, and they are exposed to the gods of war; the gods of rout and panic wade about the cauldron, also. In that same cauldron, the beast within each human’s is released, and along with it the stealth superpowers that are able to engage and destroy saber tooth tigers.
After the battles/war, these humans must come to terms with their decent into a slice of existence unknown to most humans. In coming to terms with what occurred the god of justice is encountered and demands that they pass judgment on themselves and others for their inhuman and beastly behavior. If they judge themselves guilty or are found guilty of violation the codes and ethos of “just killing,” the Furies (enforcers of Justice) will torment the warriors until they atone (make good), become wise and or pay in blood for their behaviors.
Thus, we have individuals who have physically survived the preparations for combat and the descent into Hell, but who, while being away from the war, remain in a “phantom zone.” They remain trapped in an existence wherein time and reality are distorted and their humanity and inhumanity continuously face off. The old rules governing life do not apply; the past becomes the present, the present becomes the past, the future is past and the past is future.
They, and those around them, want things to go back to the way they were i.e. to view the world through their old “civilized lens;” a lens wherein the world is generally viewed in terms of black and white and “good vs. bad.” War Fighters have experienced a world on nonlinear reasoning and nonsymmetrical warfare, and, not only does that old lens not no longer serve, it contains outrageous distortions.
Throughout history, there have been societies where War Fighters would be ritualistically and methodically returned to their homes/tribes. Some combat veterans were isolated and stripped of all clothes, along with the stench and trappings of war.
Those societies recognized the special status of these war fighters, and the societal need to be part of the return process. In some instances the war fighters were isolated, cleansed, tended to and not allowed to feed themselves.
A hugely important part of finding their way out of the phantom zone, involved the processing of their experiences in Hell; this processing likened to a two-year-old child explaining traumatic events to their mother (the ancient part of the brain has limited language development).
War Fighters have nonverbal knowledge about slices of human existence, but often times there are no words or methods for explaining it to themselves or others. It is a simultaneous process of self-learning and teaching of others, and the messages they carry are critical to societal growth and evolution. They must be our teachers…they must be helped to begin their atonement…they must be helped to attain a new level of maturity…they must accept and we must accept their wisdom.
It is after they have, for the most part, exited the phantom zone, these born-again humans begin their path towards Warriorhood. As Warriors, they will become a valued asset of the tribe/group/community, because they are the individuals who have been stripped of the lies that are believed by most individuals and they have radically altered perspective relative to human existence.
A Final Hurtle
The citizenry must accept that WE CIVILIANS” are the perpetrators of war, and our soldiers, as loving/protective members of the “Village” did our bidding. We drop our sons and daughters into Hell’s cauldron, and have done so since we have placed our feet on the soil of North America; each generation has engaged in war.
It is required that we, as a warring nation, formally create a warrior path, code of conduct, and ethos for those who will be sent to Hell, and develop better methods for returning those individuals from Hell; further, we must recognize that there is a subset of combatants whose neural/psychological/spiritual/moral/social development were not suited for mitigating the impact of that experience, and they have needs that are different from our best and brightest.
Unless we address the issues related to those who have spent time in Hell, the poisons of it will affect us all, and destroy the lives of those who served.
The decision to go to war, and the provision of care afterwards, must not be left in the hands of those war illiterate individuals.
Our war fighters must become Warriors3, and they must not be re-victimized by society and the scientifically sterile/limited diagnosis of PTSD that is based on a disease and mental disorder model. They certainly have features of the condition known as PTSD, but their condition is more complex and is characterized by on-going societal emotional abuse, physical abuse, abandonment and neglect.
The modern scientific practices of medicine/psychiatry/psychology/Social Work/Counseling, etc. have roles in the treatment of subsets of problems within the constellation of conditions labeled as “PTSD” i.e. TBI, biological/neurological injuries/dysregulation, cognitive errors, depression, anxiety, lack of sleep, the roller coaster of emotions, hypersexuality, substance abuse, interpersonal relations, etc. Their practices do not, however, get to the “heart” of the problem, and without getting to the heart of the problem; caring professionals will fail to meet the combat veterans’ whole body, moral and spiritual needs.
Many veterans of the Civil War, like their counterparts of wars throughout recorded history, struggled with return civilian life and they were diagnosed with Soldier’s Heart. It is our position, and that of others who work with combat veterans, that the disease/disorder model for PTSD formulates the problem in a linear, symmetric and incorrect manner, and those who struggle are not experiencing a pathological process, primarily; rather, they are struggling with spiritual and moral wounds that are to be expected in anyone who has visited Hell, faced the gods of war, released “their beast” within, and who have been unable to find a way back.
In addition to physical and psychological problems, combat veterans have spiritual and moral wounds.
Warriorhood is a state of inner health and fullness marked by beauty, strength, nobility, and a guiding/protective inner presence and public role. 4
Not only must we create a Warrior class, we must create a corps of War Literate citizens, professionals and clergy.
To function as an effective society and to assure that wars only occur as a last resort, there is a need for critical links between community and combat.
(Footnotes 1 – 4 refer to conceptualizations contained in Edward Tick’s book Warriors Return)