War, Peace, Space, and Time

We can’t have it both ways. If Putin really is as crazy as we say (it’s likely) then what is our excuse for provoking him? It’s almost as if America expanded NATO to Russia’s doorstep so we could act morally superior the moment they took the bait. Working class Ukrainians (and Russians) will die and we will celebrate the “ordinary Ukrainian” as a hero from another time who died for their country. We will act like this is a victory simply because it’s admirable.

But these people will be dead. And for no reason. Are the dead really the victors? In whose eyes? We aren’t God. Who could be impressed by Biden and Blinken predicting the war? Where was the effort to prevent it? While Russia is demonstrating imperialism isn’t uniquely American the unique American deceit that persists is that leadership comes with all the power and none of the responsibility.

There are no victories in war. Only death and destruction. Anyone who sees the Ukrainians as all good and the Russians as all evil ignores that on both sides most people are coerced into risking their lives. All such conflicts come from disagreements between powerful people.

The question should never be which one of the war profiteers is good or evil, but rather how such bloodshed could have been avoided. It seems unclear to me how anyone fighting in the war could be bothered by the inner workings of Putin’s mind, nor how they could care about how much wealth and power he has compared to other capitalists.

American talking heads use Putin as an example of a communist dictatorship to cover up a declining rate of profit at home despite Putin’s own recent demonization of communism used to justify the invasion. Putin for his part wanted it both ways too when he likened invading Ukraine to the communists beating Nazis in Germany. The truth is that all wars, even World War II, was its own form of genocide, of both people and ecology alike. War is framed as saving civilization but its real purpose is to reboot capitalism. War can resolve the political crisis that rises from the economic crisis but it also destroys the environment. By destroying the economy capitalism can have a reset and a boom before its contradictions form over time yet again.

The world could be game over sooner than climate change desires. This is not because of nuclear war between global capitalists who care little for what they claim to, but rather by accidental leaking of nuclear facilities like the ones in Ukraine right now. What moral ground will be left to stand on then? If death really is a sign of morality then we all may be going to heaven earlier than we planned.

What is the left response to this? There’s a lot of confusion and I’m going to hesitate on the left bashing which I see everywhere, maybe even especially on the left. There’s a reason for this and I don’t think it’s a productive one.

The left in my mind is defined by universalism while the right is defined by particularity. We all want the same things. The left wants it for all and the right wants it for some, few, or even one. This is why the left is always critiquing the left from the left. Any leftist who violates the law of universality is seen as a particular and a rightist. This isn’t quite accurate. Everyone, including me, and including the left, has been too hard on the left.

How far should this universalism apply? Why not all the way? Is it possible we are all one soul? Now that we know the relationship between space and time as a relative one we should not hesitate to say that neither time or space really separates us at our core. If every point of time is experienced differently at every point in space and vise versa what is stopping one soul from existing in two bodies at the same time or in the same place?

If time and space are related dimensions then one soul could occupy the same part of time as long as it was in a different space. Someone could be in the same space at a different time than their future or past self. Our conception of coherent time and space as separate from one another is yet another ideology and alienation.

We perceive we are different from other beings because they are in another container of space than us. We like to think that time brings us closer but time for each of us is experienced differently depending on our orientation to space.

On the one hand, we have a strict dividing line that is space. We cannot be in the same space as someone else. If we come close it’s an intimate and terrifying affair. Yet we act like we live in the exact same time as someone else when really our relationship to the passage of time is just as unique as our relationship to space. As our body degrades over time so does our ability to process the neurons communicating our reality of time. Each snapshot of our life has more time between it and time feels sped up.

A new space on the other hand gives the brain more to do and it will slow downtime for you to process it. That’s why a risky and short life can be longer than a safe mundane one. If every day is a new challenge the mind will make that day count. If not the days will go by and you will die after a lot of time counted and little time experienced.

All of this is to say that our ideas that time is shared and space is individual can only lead us to one of two conclusions when we find out that space and time are relative to one another. Either neither time or space are particular or both are. If neither time nor space was particular then we would all be in a sort of mush together. Just as we run into someone experiencing the same time as us we could also do so with space. The barriers we take for granted in space would not exist. We could run into each other in space just as we do in time.

This doesn’t seem right. We would be bumping against each other quite a bit and while spacetime is alienating it does present itself as coherent which increases its alienation. Only by bumping into an obstacle do we stop time, space or both to evaluate our situation. This not only allows us to experience space with more depth but time with more length. The former we accept and the latter we don’t even though they are related.

The left should oppose war because the left is a universal position. Any war between parties is a war on on oneself. We are all one. We certainly don’t like each other and we are right not to. One of the things we realize about life as it goes on is that just like space and time are relative to each other, so is the self and the world. When we hate each other this comes from hatred for ourselves. When we hate our self it is because we hate what the outside has asked us to become and we hate how we conformed to it, how we didn’t, or how we couldn’t.

The right represents a particular interest and at times this is the working class position because the universal position is a bourgeoisie position. The ruling class position is the position that differences don’t really matter. But what do the 1%, the global elite really believe in? They believe in nothing. Any sincere particular position is seen as naive. For the lonely elite there is no outside, there is only within.

Therefore the task of the left is to turn the competing particulars into the universal. The point of the left is to find peace amidst a war between two parts of the self, for each of us share one soul, unless of course the alternative is true, which is we are different in every space and time, which would mean different from not only each other, but also different from ourselves who never live in the same time at once.

This might be true. I don’t know. But if it is true how do we organize our perception of reality? If we are different from even ourselves at every moment in time then how can we ever form any relationship to the world or even our own body? Therefore let’s assume a thesis that might not be true for the sake of performing in the world. We are already performing, let’s venture to this. We are all one.

To find peace between these different parts of ourselves should be the goal, whether they be in a different body, human or not, at the same time or a one we don’t know. Why would we have empathy for anyone else? The argument for empathy rings hollow because it is a moral argument and we always tell those using it how hard our lives are. They must respond with empathy.

Rather there is a far more radical truth. We are all one. Any time we hurt another we strike the same blow upon ourselves. Rather than being able to treat the wound as we could upon ourselves, we strike the other and we are never able to fix the damage within ourselves as we don’t know the other and how they hurt. They may even tell us they are fine. We’ll never know. Such is the wound of war.

Such is the dialectic of war. The spirit of unity is mobilized but only as a weapon of division. The real divisions between those giving the orders and those forced to take them are obscured. As we kill the part of ourselves on their side we feel closer to another part of ourselves who is on our own. We have to not only because they are the last ones left but because we have to justify the horror we just did.

We don’t recoil because we killed another. We are brainwashed to believe the other is very different from us. We even begin to think they deserve to be killed. We recoil because we kill a part of the collective. For those at the top of society, such divisions are not layered with trauma but rather reduced to egotistical pissing matches. Rather than a blow upon our own body the deaths for the ruling class are a way to peel back layers in hopes of finding the truth behind the farce. Peeled back they are and all that’s left are more ordinary heroic people and the ruling class looks away in disdain, hoping there would be something more than their kin there.

Nick Pemberton writes and works from Saint Paul, Minnesota. He loves to receive feedback at pemberton.nick@gmail.com