A Dog From Hell (and his good advice)
Drink Beer; Kill War. It is simultaneously intuitive yet oddly matched — it deserves an explanation. I first heard this combination through Damion Suomi and the Minor Prophets’ song “A Dog From Hell (and his good advice).” The song recounts poet and author, laureate of low life, Charles Bukowski orignal response to the question “Why are we here?” in the 1988 issue of Life Magazine:
“For those who believe in God, most of the big questions are answered. But for those of us who can’t readily accept the God formula, the big answers don’t remain stone-written. We adjust to new conditions and discoveries. We are pliable. Love need not be a command nor faith a dictum. I am my own god. We are here to unlearn the teachings of the church, state, and our educational system. We are here to drink beer. We are here to kill war. We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that Death will tremble to take us.”
In almost everyway, Mr. Bukowski is not someone I would seek out for inspiration or to emulate. A proud atheist, calling his style pulpy and rough would be an understatement. He is crude in words, voice, and vision. However, his crass articulations of what we all see, but dare not say, are beyond powerful. It’s through this intrepid perspective and approach to writing that I challenge myself to find “why we are here” contemplating “Drink Beer; Kill War.”
“For those who believe in God, most of the big questions are answered.”
For those who believe in a single absolute truth, all complex answers are simple. The military exists to bend the will their adversaries and ultimately seek out to destroy that which stands in its way. Peaceniks may call it murder. Their inverse would call it the application of force. To either of these believers, the military is a simple instrument that does not require the questioning of the problem — the problem has already been solved.
“But for those of us who can’t readily accept the God formula, the big answers don’t remain stone-written.”
War is very simple — but in War the simplest things become complex. The original sage of western thinking on war, Carl von Clausewitz, recognized war as being subject to a trinity (Chance, Reason, Passion), which invariably creates a case of deterministic chaos. Provided this, in the matters of war — of the use of force — of the use of the military — there is never a clear answer — the problems are wicked and require the constant need for framing and reframing of the problems as actions attempt to shape outcomes.
“We adjust to new conditions and discoveries.”
Addressing national security challenges requires agility. Responses can never be treated solely from the constructs of the past. Every challenge is new and different, albeit informed by the past, solutions require framing and reframing of the problem with a clear understanding of the present and projected conditions — and how those conditions change over time.
“We are pliable.”
The national elements of power are often referred to as Diplomacy, Information, Military, and Economics (DIME) — often seen as clearly separate levers of power. However, in truth, the greatest application of power cannot be achieved without bleeding these lines of power into one — whether by unity of effort or by unity of effect. Our organizational limitations are our own — we must be willing to be amorphous in our organizational approaches to problems.
“Love need not be a command nor faith a dictum.”
Eros. Agape. Phileo. Definitions beget love. Definitions are inherently limiting. Though agape brings about universal unconditional love, many faiths pervert this notion to limitations to those who only like-minded. There is no greater love than to love someone who see’s the world differently from your perspective. Love is understanding; unshackled of limitations and preferences. But then again — definitions beget love.
“I am my own god.”
The greatest gift God gave to man is free will. The ability to deny our own creation and our own Creator. With freedom comes the innate ability to question — to grow. I am not my own god — but that is the beauty of Mr. Bukowski’s statement. I chose faith — others chose in something else. The friction born out of our own decisions and questions generates the fire from which humanity can and will grow.
“We are here to unlearn the teachings of the church, state, and our educational system.”
The post-modern need to think critically — to question everything even what you accept as already proven. We must question the greatness we behold ourselves too and challenge prevailing theories attempting to frame the present security environment. We must seek integral analysis against the prevailing thoughts and assumptions that spiral us into conflict without clear connection to the political aims that which we seek to achieve.
“We are here to drink beer.”
It goes without saying that we are here to drink beer. Beer has been in our diet since the days of Babylon. As William Bostwick stated — “if making beer made us human, then drinking beer made us.” It is not to glorify alcohol, but acknowledge that in the right setting enemies beget and old friends are anew together.
“We are here to kill war.”
In today’s era of persistent conflict, peace is aspirational at best — if not naive. Preventing horizontal and vertical escalation of collective violence is the only realist aim. When prevention fails, our responsibility lies with judicious and just application of force. Just in the acknowledgement that as a nation we commit to the expenditure of blood and treasure — whether by our hands or by others we send in our stead. Judicious in the irreproachable violence we commit with careful balancing of expeditious action and perseverance to the long slog required to build anew amity.
“We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that Death will tremble to take us.”
The future is ours. We are the brewers of our own destiny. What we commit to life. What we commit in life. Those are the things that define us. Forget the odds. F*** the odds. Find what is right and pursue with absolute passion, for when our time comes — it comes. Living with love, questioning to the end, and knowing your passion is to die with love, peace at heart, and fire in your soul.
The views expressed in this blog post are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the U.S. Army, Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.