Not a design flaw. A caution.

30 May

I’ve been reading David Finkel’s Thank You For Your Service, which deals with the reintegration of American soldiers after service in Iraq and Afghanistan. And so of course there’s a lot of attention paid to PTSD and traumatic brain injury and therapies meant to relieve the suffering caused by both. It sort of suits Finkel’s agenda (this is a book with an agenda, I think, as much as it is one of reporting) to show how this is kind of an insurmountable problem, that n0ne of the therapies quite do the job.

But it made me wonder, too, about what other message could be heard from these circumstances, these injuries, and how they go all the way back to the initial diagnoses of shell shock following the first world war:

To wit, that we have developed warfare to such a degree that no one, whether on the victorious or the losing side, can do it safely enough. That IEDs, and mustard gas, and just generally the level and degree of horror that soldiers face in modern warfare is more than the human brain can process. And maybe we should be more aware of that, and full back.

Instead, of course, we see it as a challenge– the idea that science (and medicine) will find a way to deal with this, and one thing we are not lacking is subjects to experiment on. (This is, sometimes, the problem with the progressive ideology of science– that there’s a solution, we just need to find it. A less scientist perspective might be, that’s a dead end; let’s not do that anymore.)

It makes me wonder, a little, if this is part of what drove the modernists to make the claim that we’d gone wrong someplace, that a progress that led to this was a progress that should be rejected. I mean, it’s hard now, a hundred years since the start of WW1, to step outside of everything that’s happened since, but it does make me at least feel a flutter of sympathy with those guys, with what they saw as horror and we see as one more problem, something that can be solved, so we can get back in there.



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