23 February 2022   Leave a comment

It appears as if Russian forces intend to invade Ukraine, presumably to change the government to one that will be more submissive to Russian interests. The evidence suggests that the Ukrainian forces will be severely outgunned. Nonetheless, the Ukrainian military and civilian population seem prepared to resist the invasion to whatever extent is possible. But even if the government is changed, I would predict that resistance will devolve to a long-term civil/guerilla war. The media attention will focus on the casualties suffered by the combatants. We should, however, keep in mind that in almost every war in the 20th and 21st centuries the largest number of casualties will occur within the civilian population. But the civilians suffer and die in silence and darkness.

I had the good fortune to work with some of the most devoted and brilliant colleagues at Mount Holyoke College in a course entitled “War: What is it good for?”. The course title was inspired by the song “War” which was most successfully sung by Edwin Starr with the background singers in the bands The Originals and The_Undisputed_Truth. Songfacts provides the context of the song:

“Motown hitmakers Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong wrote this song. Starr began his career recording for Ric-Tic Records, a Detroit label that was a rival to Motown. In 1968, Motown bought Ric-Tic, which gave Starr access to their writers and producers.

“This is a protest song about the Vietnam War, although it makes a broader statement of the need for harmony in our everyday lives. ‘War’ was one of the first Motown songs to make a political statement. The label had always been focused on making hit songs, but around this time Motown artists like The Temptations and Marvin Gaye started releasing songs with social commentary, many of which were written by Whitfield.

“The Temptations were the first to record this; it was included on their 1970 album Psychedelic Shack. Motown had no intention of releasing it as a single, but many in the protest movement, especially college students, made it clear that the song would be a big hit if it was. Motown head Berry Gordy had other plans for The Temptations and didn’t want them associated with such a controversial song, so he had Starr record it and his version was released as a single. Starr didn’t have as big a fan base to offend.”

The song was an important part of my personal experience in the anti-war movement in the late 1960s and early 1970s. And my colleagues, who represented disciplines in the humanities and the social sciences, thought that it would be important to include the song in the course. To that end, I created this video, using the song as the essential backdrop to the photographs.

The educational purpose of the music video was to disabuse students from thinking about war with no reference to its horrors. It is deliberately disturbing. It is graphic. It portrays extraordinary violence and profound suffering. Emotions we should keep in mind if a large war develops in Ukraine.

Posted February 23, 2022 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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