War, Peace, Money & Steinbeck

I am sitting in a coffee shop in Bombay, prior to catching my flight back to Delhi. Some awful music is playing in the background, and this is supposed to entertain me. However, not to quibble too much, I shall get on with it.

Sometimes I regret not following my dad into the army, and most of the times, I do not. There are some really fantastic things about the armed forces. We could well incorporate some of these into our daily lives – the dignity, the protocol, the constant state of preparedness, the training and the overall discipline.

Yet, armies are engines of war, and to some extent, they are controlled by the leaders of a nation. An army will not, in general, go to war unless provoked, or unless someone like Obama or the Head of the ISIS asks them to do so.

I also read an interesting book called “Why Nations Fail”. I also read an interesting history of Aurangzeb, the last of the great Mughals. As per the first book, countries fail because they fail to build proper institutions. True.

Empires also fail when they run out of money.

The British Empire ran up huge bills in controlling the British Raj, and during Wold Wars I and II. The decline of Great Britain started and the ascent of the USA started.

War costs money. Aurangzeb ruled for 50 years, and under his rule, the Mughal Empire reached the largest extent of its geographical coverage. He spent the last 26 odd years of his reign at the battle front in South India, and did not return to his capital, Delhi. Governance collapsed, and do did the army. Since he did not govern, he could not build institutions, and could not generate revenue. At the end of his reign, the army had not been paid for 3 years.

The Mughal Empire started to implode thereafter, and slowly the British Raj came into India over the next 150 years. The Mughal Emperor became a puppet, until the last one was deposed in 1858 and exiled.

In his marvellously crafted book, ‘The Grapes Of Wrath’, John Steinbeck urged us (and I am sure I misquote) to fear the times of peace, and not the times of strife. We push ourselves in times of strife. There is merit in this. However, I am sure he did not have war in mind.

I believe that nation’s leaders before Steinbeck and and after have misunderstood what he meant, and have come to believe in the glory of war. Never mind the fact that the stories of the horrors of the trenches sometimes see the light of day. Never mind that there are enough stories of the trauma of war veterans, like those of the Vietnam War.

War costs money. War costs a lot of money. There is a certain false glory in building machines of war. In the old days, the King and General would lead from the front. Now, the modern day equivalent pushes a button, and smugly tells the Nation on TV that the Nation has gone to war to defend human liberty, and that glory in Heaven will be theirs.

We, as nameless citizens, pay for this liberty via our taxes, and the smart ones evade paying tax!

War brings wealth to a few – the makers of weapons, Blackwater and their ilk, and a few others.

To the rest, it brings misery.

The money can well be spent on fighting pollution, hunger, on education and other causes.

Yet, we fight. We put up statues for The Unknown Soldier, and then switch channels to find out which toothpaste the glitzy, busty starlet is using.

We cannot just blame politicians, if we break laws, or think violent thoughts.

If we want war to stop, it starts with us. Each one of us individually and collectively.

Let Steinbeck not turn in his grave.


  1. Everything starts in ourselves. If the world is as it is right now, it’s because human want it and/or just don’t care.

    You wrote this words as China taking seat on the throne of the world’s largest economy, which was held by USA since the world war II.

    Another Era has begun. We will soon have to think in terms of «…dignity, protocol, constant state of preparedness, training and the overall discipline…».

    This the part that hurt me the most, here in the westerns countries. We believe that this situation will last forever and it is due to us.

    Have a good day Rajiv

  2. I agree, Steinbeck wasn’t talking about war. Today, war is about securing more resources for genocidal billionaires. It has nothing to do with liberty or even conquest. The US has a war economy, and despite the money they make, it will eventually topple the ’empire’. Who’s next?

  3. In “The Grapes of Wrath” Steinbeck was talking about poverty and the governing forces that brought it about. It was a Depression Era saga of epic proportions. It was man’s inhumanity to man. Many Americans died from hunger and lost all possessions because the banks repossessed farms…their way of life. It was a war of another kind. It affected the global economy. It took away the pride of the very rich and made them humble and took away from those who were already struggling just to survive. I would bet it was the latter who fared better than those who always had the ‘good life.’ Survival of the fittest? Sadly, the innocent weak are always the unintended victims.

    Jesus said, “When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. ” Mark 13:7

    Again Jesus said on the night before he was to be arrested:

    John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

    All biblical prophecy hinges on war and peace. The two are synonymous with “the end.” While I believe we must strive for internal peace I also believe that to be unarmed and ill-prepared to meet the enemy is unwise. War is unavoidable. Right now America is governed by the most dangerous people to ever have power. Idiots. All empires have fallen. Rome for one. It divided and was conquered. America is divided.

    Again, Jesus said: “And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand:” Matthew 12:25

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. God bless.

    1. I agree with what you say about Steinbeck, which is why I said people before and after misinterpret him.

      In the Mahabharatha, at the end of reciting the Gita, the God Krishna urges Arjun to do his duty and fight. Yet, this is in itself simplistic. The fight is a holy one

  4. Except for the part about Steinbeck, which I would not follow suit, a reflective and contemplative post. Men has to change his consciousness, if he desires to avoid his more or less complete destruction.

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