Academic journal article The Journal of Psychohistory

The Warrior Ethos

Academic journal article The Journal of Psychohistory

The Warrior Ethos

Article excerpt

Steven Pressfield, New York: Black Irish Entertainment Press, 2011,90 pp.

Reviewed by Lloyd deMause

Steven Pressfield candidly explains why nations start wars. It isn't to get anything. Nor is it even to prove their masculinity or to get approval of their group. Instead, he says, with great enthusiasm, they "Go to war to die to please their mothers," who want them dead.

Pressfield's book is filled with statements by mothers throughout history that are similar to the famous one by the Spartan mother:

A Spartan mother handed her son his shield as he prepared to march off to battle. She said, 'Come back with this or on it.'"

Pressfield asks "Do humans fear death?" Of course. When you die you have no family and no nation (both mother substitutes) to love you any more. So "The Warrior Ethos evolved to counter the instinct of selfpreservation, to show "you do not need love." The basis of his book is that "The Warrior Ethos must be taught":

"The Spartan youth receives his shield, the paratrooper is awarded his wings, the Afghan boy is handed his AK-47."

The hundreds of citations Presssfield provides his reader all end with praise for one virtue: "selflessness." Real men fight and kill and die "not to protect your family or your home" but to show you are courageous enough to choose death. …

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