Nina Power: Love and War 2018-05-14T13:14:10+00:00

Nina Power

Love and War

“The less you eat, drink, buy books, go to the theater, go dancing, go drinking, think, love, theorize, sing, paint, fence, etc., the more you save and the greater will become that treasure which neither moths nor maggots can consume—your capital … all passions and activity are lost in greed. The worker is only permitted to have enough for him to live, and he is only permitted to live in order to have.” Karl Marx

We have a frankly impoverished idea of love these days, though the possibilities for loving each other are also a source of great wonderment and possibility. We would like—no, love—to be loved, and we are told that to be the “object” of someone else’s adoration and worship is the highest goal in life. But here we run into our first problem: If everyone is busy being an object to be loved, who is left over to do all the loving? Can an object love in return? We might then try to divide up groups of people—well, here are the people who should be loved, and here are the people who should do the loving. We could call one group “women” and another “men.” Or we could call one group “young men” and another group “older men.”

Or we could call each other ‘comrades’ and love each other to the exact degree and in-tensity that we desire, regardless of other roles we are told we must play. And when we say love we must remember that we have lost all the other meanings of this word, or at the least, we have given this one word too much to bear: is the love between a mother and a child, between two friends, between a group, between the whole of humanity and a stranger in the street able to be captured in this one word—love? Perhaps it can bear it, perhaps it cannot. We confuse affection and love, though they might well be the same thing, and we most certainly confuse sex and love, though they too might well be the same thing, sometimes.

But we are up against large, abstract enemies of love: greed, capital, nations, war. We can of course “love” money, exploitation, borders, and violence and indeed, politics on all sides would encourage us to do so. But usually we can see when we are being forced to love against our will. The problem comes when we no longer know what our will is, when we are being forced to love things that can never feel, work that can only damage, ideas that will end only in bloodshed. Love and war are themselves at war: to be a soldier of love is to recognise humanity above all else.