Coming from a religiously conservative family, my Army experience helped me to see other perspectives. Eventually embracing existentialism, the world started to make sense again. Not surprisingly, existentialism has flourished following World War II, with a brief resurgence after both Korea and Vietnam.
As a refresher, existentialists believe that society obsesses over death, which is important but not very. They tend to see absurdity, where others see structure. They prefer their own company, instead of crowds. They are happiest when rummaging through their own minds.
There’s an interesting article in the October 21st issue of Time on “America’s Forever War.” It points out that new 18-year-old military recruits have never lived a day outside the shadow of war. They were born after 9-11. While only 1% of Americans have been directly affected by war in either Iraq or Afghanistan, these recruits are more likely to have lived in that shadow than non-recruits. It has been an eighteen year long tunnel for them.
Existentialists are not nihilists, who believe life is meaningless and who reject all religious and moral principles. Frankly, I have sympathy for nihilists. If each war produces a resurgence of existentialism, I suspect “America’s Forever War” will produce nihilists instead. All of us who have experienced peace know that life is not meaningless. I suspect those who have lived in the shadow of war every day of their life might drift into nihilism and may need help.