If you haven’t heard Kate Nash’s brilliant song “Foundations,” you are most definitely missing out on life. Look, just listen to it before we get on with the rest of this:
Okay, now listen to it again, just paying attention to the actual lyrics and not giggling at her incredibly British accent and humor. We’ll regroup after you go do that.
I want to take a look at a different kind of war. Thus far, I have primarily been interested in external wars– battles fought for religion and nationalism and territorial acquisitions– as is the normal sense of the word. In fact, according to dictionary.com, these wars are the very definition of the word itself:
- A conflict carried on by force of arms, as between nations or between parties within a nation.
- A state or period of armed hostility or active military operations.
- A contest carried on by force of arms, as in a series of battles or campaigns.
Clearly, the dictionary is advocating that a war is purely externalized, that it requires more than one force to be considered a battlefield.
Now, I’m going to be radical here. I don’t think so, Mr. Dictionary.
Wars, when you boil them down to their base components, are simply conflicts between two opposing sides. Whether it’s good v. evil, Country A v. Country B, the Republicans v. the Democrats, or two men fighting over a woman, it’s a war because there is opposition. War doesn’t need fancy technological weaponry or battle tactics. All it needs a difference in opinion, ideology, philosophy, whatever, to make two sides disagree.
People, I’d like to argue, are battlefields.
As much as we like to identify ourselves by aligning our opinions to one specific view, that’s not always the case. You may have one view on gun control, race relations, globalization, etc. that defines your political perspective; you might always know how you feel about a person or a subject; and you might know what you want on a pizza every single time. If so, congratulations– you’re war-free. I applaud you for your ability to not brood in confusion and indecision. You are a giant white dove, and that’s pretty rare.
Let’s be honest, though: that gets a little boring, and no one is a giant white dove. If you have conflicting thoughts, if you fret because sometimes you think one way about something, but you also believe in a contradictory idea, then don’t worry: you, my friend, are like most of humanity.
Nash couldn’t decide whether she loved or hated her boyfriend. She held tightly onto “the cracks in [their relationship’s] foundations,” because even though she knew she “should let go” of their dysfunctional relationship, she couldn’t. This is the way reality works: it’s all brain v. heart. The big man upstairs says one thing, and cupid in your left breast says another.
We all know this. We hate someone so much we want to cut them out of our lives, even though we adore them. We’re torn between wanting gun controls and wanting freedom and safety. We say that we support this or that, but we contradict ourselves because well, in this case, it’s different. I tried to get a pizza delivered the other day and spent 10 minutes having a mental war between ordering spinach and mushroom or spinach and tomato. (Albeit a silly one, that’s a war too.)
But this is the great thing about being human. Sometimes, our minds are chaos and our identities are contradictory; sometimes we just can’t make a decision because there are so many fronts battling it out in your head– through it all, we find how to be a person. A multi-layered, complex, opinionated, absolutely normal human.
Walt Whitman stated it best in his poem “Song of Myself.” Personally, I’m not the biggest Whitman lover myself, but one of my favorite things about the man is that he is in no way a soft, langourous poet. This guy is all radical statements and cutting imagery, and “Song of Myself” is one of Whitman’s best pieces. (If you have a minute, you can read it here instead of reading me bastardize the entire thing. If you don’t, I’m going to summarize it anyway.) The poem is very personal, both about the poet himself and about all of us. The “self” is humankind as a collective unit. Whitman waxes on, lauding and praising every aspect of himself, but the “self” he describes is universally all of us; he is narcissistically patting himself on the back, but he is also toasting the complexity of humans all around. One of his most famous points, which relates to this blog post, is as stated:
Do I contradict myself?
Very well then, I contradict myself.
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
Kanye West said it too:
“Order, huh? Yo, we at war.
We at war with terrorism, racism,
But most of all we at war with ourselves.“
Artists depict humanity; that’s the point of creative human expression. When two of radically different men from radically different time periods say essentially the same idea, let’s do ourselves a favor and take a hint.
Humans aren’t one-dimensional stick figures. We are composed of contradictory “multitudes,” and thus, sometimes we want or believe in things that conflict. We believe in Gods and science, in loyalty and selfishness, in love and hate, in hating spinach unless it’s on pizza. Our emotional minefield is a conflict of these “multitudes,” and this is the truest war a person can fight: the most basic human conflict is the one he fights within himself.
We are all just battlefields.
Nash, Kate and Paul Epwort. “Foundations.” Made of Bricks. Kate Nash. Fiction Records, 2007.
“War.” Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com, n.d. Web. 17 Nov. 2015.
West, Kanye, and Che Smith. “Jesus Walks.” The College Dropout. Kanye West. Roc-A-Fella Records, 2004. MP3.
Whitman, Walt, Christopher Morley, and Lewis Daniel. “Song of Myself.” Leaves of Grass. New York: Doubleday, Doran, 1940. N. pag. Print.