Wednesday, April 05, 2017

War and Character

There are many people who claim that, because the World War II generation has been through the character-building experience that was the Second World War, they developed a better character than baby boomers, who did not go through such an experience.

My response to that is that there are all sorts of ways to build character that do not involve slaughter of millions of innocent people around the world.

Different places have different approaches to building character. The American approach is to overcome challenges. The Russian approach is to endure suffering. The Muslim approach is to rigorously follow the edicts of the Quran. In all of these cases, character is built, and most of them do not involve gas chambers or anything of the sort.

In many places where wars take place, character is not what is being built. Very little of any kind of character was built by the genocide in Rwanda. Instead hundreds of thousands of people were raped or murdered. Certainly many of the people who endured it did develop personal strength. But it was not the right way to go about doing that.

Milton Freedman opposed war, but he was in favor of military training. He believed that military training built character; and in many cases it does. But there are other situations in which it does not do any such a thing. In Russian dedovschina, 5,000 people per year die of torture. Maybe some people build character that way; but it results in vast losses to the country.

It is desirable to build character; it is not desirable to have innocent people slaughtered. There should be ways to build character that do not involve such a thing. There are many ways to build character that do not involve mass murder; and it should be possible for people to practice them.


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