Cuomo 1996

Allied World War II soldiers
Image by Dunechaser via Flickr

I propose that the constancy of militarism and its effects on social reality be reintroduced as a crucial locus of contemporary feminist attentions, and that feminists emphasize how wars are eruptions and manifestations of omnipresent militarism that is a product and tool of multiply oppressive, corporate, technocratic states.(2) Feminists should be particularly interested in making this shift because it better allows consideration of the effects of war and militarism on women, subjugated peoples, and environments. While giving attention to the constancy of militarism in contemporary life we need not neglect the importance of addressing the specific qualities of direct, large-scale, declared military conflicts. But the dramatic nature of declared, large-scale conflicts should not obfuscate the ways in which military violence pervades most societies in increasingly technologically sophisticated ways and the significance of military institutions and everyday practices in shaping reality. Philosophical discussions that focus only on the ethics of declaring and fighting wars miss these connections, and also miss the ways in which even declared military conflicts are often experienced as omnipresent horrors. These approaches also leave unquestioned tendencies to suspend or distort moral judgement in the face of what appears to be the inevitability of war and militarism.  (Cuomo, C.  1996.  Hypatia, 11(4).)

One of the things I enjoyed so much about 2666 was its focus on this sort of cultural analysis: how the conditions of possibility for large interstate wars are also the very conditions of possibility for the ubiquitous and often invisible violence in those same cultures.  Bolano tracks this dichotomy and even prioritizes the importance of the micro-level violence, for lack of a better term, vis a vis the macro-level violence.  The first four parts of the book are an increasing crescendo into the micro violence culminating with a painful and gut-wrenching Part Four.  Part Five has Bolano treat the German character to World War II and the analysis traditionally done by those concerned with politics.  This is not, however, to say WW2 was unimportant, but in the scheme of grisly violence that needs to be dealt with the choice is clear and the neocons have it all wrong.

Bolano’s book is an implicit answer to how many people deploy this very piece of evidence: reading the section “While giving attention…declared military conflicts” as a reason why the conflicts of both micro and macro level violences ought to be weighed next to each other.  However, that is a misreading of this evidence.  Cuomo would argue that the divorcing of the two from each other is the very problem, that they are intertwined and only by resolving issues larger than arms control and global trade can we truly achieve a level of peace both internally and externally to the states.

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