Abstractions

I think (just generally) we look at war as this abstract thing that happens when in reality I don’t think it is. People send other people into war.

In class today, we repeated the question, “Is this enough?” Was it enough to offer up the coffee? Was it enough for the narrator to lie to the blind man? What is enough?

Focusing in so much on this question really got me thinking about the juxtaposition presented in the text that we all seemed to be missing. Yes, the narrator may have been offering some form of salvation to the man, but at the same time, the very nature of her job is to bandage the wounded and send them back into war. Fix them and send them to die. We’re faced with this huge dichotomy. How can we choose to see something as a sign of warmth and salvation, and shield ourselves from the inherent coldness presented?

Is the nurse’s actions a sign of humanity? Or does it just function as a way to even the playing field?

Further (and to relate this question to some of the other texts we’ve read this semester), it seems as though war literature forces us, as consumers of their messages, to view war un-abstractly. We saw this  in All Quiet with the suggestion of getting only the people in power to fight as well as in some of the other books we’ve read.

I guess my question is, were the nurses actions meant to restore this faith in humanity or was it intended as sarcasm? Are we meant to view war abstractly as an entity that just happens? Or not? Are we supposed to see war as inevitable? Or as something we have a hand in continuing? How much of a hand do we actually have in continuing war?

8 thoughts on “Abstractions

  1. I think that’s a really provoking question, it really stopped me and made me reconsider some of the texts. I knew before reading these books the flipped side of triage–how the more severely wounded men are the least concern because they need to fix up the men that can be more easily returned to fight. I know how this haunts and conflicts a lot of people in the medical field. The optimistic side of me wants to say this isn’t a sarcastic message. This side of me wants to see the human connection, the small bits of resistance we see when the nurse allows Rosa to keep of the bandage and to die, or when the old ones show comfort and solidarity with a cup of coffee. But then I think harder about your last question, about our own involvement and ethics in war today and in the future. That rattles me. Because then I don’t know if the bandage or the cup of coffee really matters in the scheme of things, when they are men and women who don’t get to have that last comfort, that last human connection to tell them they are not alone. Because so many do end up dying alone. So now I have all the feelings right now. I know this isn’t really an answer, but I don’t think you can have one. I think what matters is the idea that you stop and start to question these large topics that are usually presented as abstractions, as ubiquitous, as far away. Because the really do matter in our own, personal lives. I mean, that’s why we have agency as humans, right?

  2. I think that the difference between the nurse doing her job and helping out of sympathy was due to the fact that she chose to to write about this one specific man. Yes, it is her duty to help every soldier. However, she was described as a desensitized robot. She only did her job and nothing else. Yet, when she comes across this particular soldier her humane self comes back and she eventually has a mental breakdown. She wants to give this man some sort of relief even if it means lying to him. I feel like this part of the book is to show that there are still good people out there and there is some light in the darkness.

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