I was the most surprised from this documentary that PTSD is almost all-pervasive in war-time veterans, and that different war-time veterans have a disparity only in how effectively they recover from PTSD they experienced in the battlefield. This was especially counterintuitive for me primarily because I had abnormal psychology classes both in my undergraduate and the graduate school, by which I became extremely familiar with “Risk Factor Hypothesis” especially in terms of schizophrenia and the likes. Therefore, as much as I am not exactly an expert on this field yet, it was surprising for me to be informed that PTSD in war-time veterans does not really fit into the consideration of personal risk factors (which I am familiar of) and instead, shows almost all-pervasive prevalence among this specific set of population.
As I studied cognitive science in my undergraduate, I can never agree that this documentary was “too anti-war.” I am confident to say this partly because one of my articles in the cognitive science department was about cannibalism and Kuru.
Kuru is a pathology commonly found in illiterate societies that endorse cannibalism as a tribal practice. It was made certain back in 1940s that this pathology is a result of cannibalism. The reason why I cite this is because it basically reflects the evolutionary trait by which certain mammals have evolved in a way that they are not supposed to consume other individuals of their species as a prey. I would claim that, as much as humans have evolved in this same way, it is against their own nature as a species if they slaughter other members of their own species for any different reasons other than fighting one another as a competition for mates. Of course, wars do not involve cannibalism anymore (for the most part), but in the grand scheme of things, I still believe that what human society has labeled as a “total war” is just a metaphorical form of cannibalism. Therefore, as a result of my studies on cannibalism and how our species have evolved in a way that we might develop even a terminal illness from cannibalism, I basically believe that wars by themselves are against human nature. Thus, I would not call this documentary “too anti-war” in any sense.
Even if Jimmy Massey later became so skeptical of war itself to the extent that he was discharged from the Army, he actually remembers that what he felt as his first murder in the battlefield was an extreme kind of joy. He explains that this paradox stemmed from the fact that murder was the very objective for which he was trained by the Army for an extended period of time. Therefore, he basically felt a lot of joy upon his first killing that all his training in the Army did have a meaning.
Jimmy Massey says towards the end of the documentary that he already sold his soul when he was a part of the battlefield as a soldier. He also says that having a demonstration against the US government makes him feel like he is being reborn. Basically, the reason why he feels as if he even sold his soul is because he realized that he murdered too many people, mixed with an uncertainty if all those who were murdered were really enemy combatants. Meanwhile, “conscientious objector” is usually a term for those who refused to partake in what the Army wants them to do because of their religious or spiritual belief that the military itself is unethical. Yet, because Jimmy Massey is already willing to even state that he has no soul, it must have been considered inadequate for him that he would be put into the same category as those who are particularly religious or spiritual in the first place.
I actually suppose that the anti-war demonstrations held by war-time veterans are the most powerful form of demonstration against governments. It is the best way to reveal the hypocrisy behind the governance by which those who do not know anything about the field indulge themselves in a mistaken belief that they have the rights to “move the history” while those who were trained with the skills to fight and kill in the battlefield are not positive about the governance. It basically reveals the disturbing fact that those who are in charge of the governance are actually not the most optimal individuals for the job, while those who are at least way more optimal than these individuals are out on the street as a helpless part of the society.
As the psychic cost of war, these veterans could not go back to whom they were before their participation in the Armed Forces. This becomes a major problem because these individuals had family and other acquaintances before they became warriors. Yet, because they could not go back to whom they were before the war, they had to sacrifice a lot of positive features they used to have as a part of their life.
The documentary basically concludes that a “good soldier” means an individual who is crazy enough to murder another human being, while not being crazy to the extent that he cannot become a part of a military operation. Therefore, in a complete irony, a “good soldier” is someone who maintains the “golden mean of psychopathology” so to speak.
I actually do agree with this because a lot of veterans claim, despite the rigorous training they went through, that their military training could not be transferred to civilian life. To be honest, I actually suppose that this is not entirely due to the fact that the military and a civilian society are two different existences, but also due to the fact that their training itself had the objective of providing them with a controlled amount of mental instability, while the “golden mean” as mentioned above is actually very difficult to maintain and tends to move in a way that a veteran does become too crazy to act as a functional human being at the end of the day.