In one of my other classes this semester, I’m reading the novel Regeneration by Pat Barker. While I was studying for my upcoming midterm, I came across something in my notes that really stuck with me: “people are treated as machinery of war.” I wrote that as one of the main ideas of the novel and I feel like this idea is key to this course.
In Barker’s novel, soldiers are sent to institutions to be “fixed” if they are mentally or physically unable to continue fighting in the war. Once they are fixed, or “cured” (as how is one ever really cured from the trauma caused by war?), they are shipped back to the battlefield and continue to fight again. The people in this novel are treated as machinery designed for fighting: fix it, and get it to resume working. Like machinery, soldiers become “mass produced”: every man able to fight becomes a soldier. Even those unable to fight are formed into soldiers (such as those who are injured or under-age). The idea of war is to manufacture android-soldiers. Through gender propaganda, men are encouraged to become the machinery of war. What I mean by gender propaganda is this idea that masculinity is related to violence and domination. To be a man is to be a machine of war. But more than that, to be a man is to be an android of war. In order to be a soldier, one must possess only the emotions programmed into him, emotions that cause the drive towards violence. Like in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? the android soldier must desire to be human; this is what causes the fighting drive. However, humanization can never be achieved because there is always a difference from those who go to war and those who don’t: war changes everything.
A soldier is a mechanized being, one of million, and one who can easily be replaced. A solider loses his identity in the war as he becomes an android of violence, manufactured by social views of masculinity and by the war itself to fight. A solider becomes a replicated android, fixed when needed, easily replaced, with no identity but one: soldier.
Just some thoughts I’d thought I’d share 🙂
“In war, there are no unwounded soldiers.” -Jose Narofsky