THE FIRST (noble) Precept

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by Art James


In Book One (1.37—40) of the Odyssey...

“Ah, how shameless—the way these mortals blame the gods. From us alone, they say, come all their miseries, yes, but they themselves, with their own wicked ways, compound their pains, beyond their proper share.”

Thirty-five years ago on the twenty-fourth day of November I was certain war ended forever. Suffering had reached the maximum endurance level. This ‘certainty’ was not reality, of course, but my impression was based on an experience. If anyone read my first AFP article they were introduced to a suppressed, but nonetheless, seething anger in my heart’s belly. A certain people who wield official power do not live in accordance with a dimension of the Greek word themis. Themis is a word that embodies the capacity to know and do “what’s right.”

The epic texts attributed to the poet Homer are best understood if readers consider many performers provide these two epics. The Iliad makes it plain to see brains can be bashed and flung across the floor in war. The Odyssey is narrated in a forceful style, not much different, somewhat parallel, to Old Testament biblical characters who try to weasel out of responsibility and blame. We are all flawed humans. On the allegorical path of life, travels can be viewed from a transcendent distance, though the pathway is parallel, many go the opposite direction. We are observers of self. We observe others. We instruct. Learn?

I sure don’t want to tackle diverse scholarship opinion, hitch up with tense arguers, or deny a fact that all handed down ancient texts are tampered with by high-level committees, and open to discussions and reproof. I am not wishing to shun criticism of my personal views. What is interesting to me is these written down descriptive taunts in past literature are aimed at warmongers. Ancients became a sort of ‘religious’ instructor and guide, and universal truisms were read for centuries at rural festive celebrations.

The portrait that is portrayed in war discussions is not flattering toward the aristocratic hierarchy. A membership into privilege means people cover for caprice, crime, and work with futility, carrying out, justifying the lapdog role. The alliance with ancestral shifty monarchs in any polis town, in some form or another, in this twenty-first century too, is to proclaim to the “kings’ court” that certain citizens’ are catastrophic failures. Horrific and worst disasters await commanders in chief’s like Agamemnon. Bush’s subordinates in modern Trojan War betray “what’s right.”

The entire protective purpose of military defense is diminished. Eventually, everything becomes destroyed. The entire chain of command swiftly becomes a massive causality. The visitation by the dead will haunt. A catastrophic operational failure in the Middle East has occurred. Let the doubting of sanity, fear and rage, and killing guilt commence. To improve the days of our ethos, No replacement of a top military or civilian policy-maker War Study group can absolve themselves they are awash in a bloodbath. None can escape the vanquish sense of loss. The anguish is a result of our violent, present day, imperial force.

IN WHICH my intent to post a thought or two on the blosphere is not to threat the human with dismal and psychic despair, but, to express my gratitude that the Atlantic Free Press is an avenue to remind citizens’ of ways to work together. Gifted writers energize with their ideas and contribute generous accumulated wisdom. There are wonderful guiding precepts being addressed to help us frail humans remake civil society and create habitable worlds.

THE FIRST PRECEPT. Aware of the suffering caused by the destruction of life, I vow to cultivate compassion and learn ways to protect the lives of people, animals, plants, and minerals. I am determined not to kill, and not to condone any act of killing in the world, in my thinking, and in my way of living.



Formerly when came the twenty fourth of November,

The armistice anniversary and remembrance of November 11th was observed.

Today bloody killing rages,

The wicked bear the blame.


Now America has been resisting for almost six years,

Her feats of arm sales have spread around the world.

Although talk of victory is mouthed,

When Time comes defeat is assured.


All over the world anti-American flags flutter in the wind,

Big flags, little flag—THE FIRST PRECEPT is not observed,

Today bloody killing rages,

The wicked bear the blame.

…nevertheless politicians talk of a draft in the wind. Say no. No more killing.





Sir No Sir!


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In the 1960’s an anti-war movement emerged that altered the course of history. This movement didn’t take place on college campuses, but in barracks and on aircraft carriers. It flourished in army stockades, navy brigs and in the dingy towns that surround military bases. It penetrated elite military colleges like West Point. And it spread throughout the battlefields of Vietnam. It was a movement no one expected, least of all those in it.  Hundreds went to prison and thousands into exile.  And by 1971 it had, in the words of one colonel, infested the entire armed services. Yet today few people know about the GI movement against the war in Vietnam.

Sir! No Sir! reveals how, thirty years later, the poem by Bertolt Brecht that became an anthem of the GI Movement still resonates:

General, man is very useful.
He can fly and he can kill.
But he has one defect: He can think.



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