Monday, December 21, 2009

The Christmas Spirit

Modern Warfare 2 and PTSD

Not to be all holier-than-thou and all, and I certainly know that not all gamers confuse fantasy with reality, but is anyone else troubled by the fact that Call of Duty's Modern Warfare 2 is the highest selling video game in Europe and the USA this Christmas Season, even beating out FIFA 10, even though soccer is the world's most widely followed sport? Is this really Christmas fare...?

I guess the main reason I find it troubling is because there are soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq who are doing their fourth, and even fifth tours of duty. The brunt and burden of this war is being placed upon the shoulders of a small set of families while the rest of the nation has been asked to make no sacrifice whatsoever. Moreover, the realistic action portayed in MW2 is precisely the kind of thing, which, when it occurs in reality, afflicts our troops with PTSD. It reminds me of paintball weekend-warriors who would never dream of actually enlisting themselves. I'm sorry, I'm not anti-gaming or anti-escapism, but I think there's something obscene about this kind of thing while there's an actual war going on.

From Time magazine, on December 14th, A Mounting Suicide Rate Prompts an Army Response:
The recently released figure for November show that 12 soldiers are suspected of taking their own lives, bringing to 147 the total suicides for 2009, the highest since the Army began keeping track in 1980. Last year the Army had 140 suicides.

Although Army officials don't blame the spike on repeated deployments to war zones, evidence is mounting to the contrary. Only about a third of Army suicides happen in war zones, officials note, and another third are among personnel who had never deployed. But that means two-thirds of Army suicides have deployed, many returning home with mental scars that make them prone to take their own lives, the Army's No. 2 officer said last week...

Nearly 1 in 5 soldiers — more than 300,000 — comes home from the wars reporting symptoms of PTSD. Army officials also acknowledge that substance abuse, fueled by repeated combat tours, and a war-created shortage of mental-health professionals, contribute to mental ills that can lead to suicide...

Chiarelli, the Army's top suicide fighter, finds the challenge daunting. "This is horrible," the Army vice chief of staff said recently. "The challenge of suicides," added the former top U.S. commander in Iraq, "is without a doubt the toughest that I have had to tackle in 37-plus years in the Army."

Chiarelli has singled out abuse of alcohol and prescription drugs by soldiers as a mental-health issue that can lead to suicide. "I think there's a link to substance abuse in some of the issues we're seeing," Chiarelli said last month. A recent Army study shows that the percentage of soldiers in Afghanistan taking antidepressants and other mental-health drugs nearly tripled — from 3.5% to 9.8% — between their first and third deployments.

The Army's corps of substance-abuse counselors is hundreds short of the number of trained personnel needed. "I have been pounding the system to say we have got to sit down and determine what we need after eight years of war," Chiarelli said. That shortage has made it tougher "to handle what I think is a higher rate of substance abuse today than eight years ago." Why is it higher? "I think it's only natural you're going to see that as soldiers come back [from war], you know, with the dwell time that they have [before returning to war], that we're going to have a higher rate." Last week, Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said pressure on the Army means that for the next two years, soldiers will continue to ship off to their next combat tour without sufficient rest at home.
The Hidden Front - Combat PTSD

Today's Boston Herald cover story:

911 on video game obsession

Prof: Games are fun, but play down pain of warfare


Deacon Denny said...

Wow. Jeff, I was blown away by the post. I was watching it, and my whole being actually reacted with disgust and revulasion. And so finally I realized why you posted it. Yeah, that's it, isn't it?

I've got to do something different, something more. That's my challenge. Thanks!

We're within a whole society of people who raise the notion that VIOLENCE is the force that redeems us. Violence!

And yet we do call ourselves a Christian nation... with a savior whose birth we have just celebrated... whose message was that LOVE redeems us. Who taught us again and again to serve one another and to be willing to give up our lives for one another... not to use our lives to take one others' lives!


Jeff said...

Thanks Denny,

Good to see you... Sorry if it took a while for my intent on this post to show through.

I guess I feel that even if a war is a regrettable necessity, the regrettable nature of it needs to be emphasized and remembered.

Joe said...

Chalk up another great post for Jeff!

Regarding the anesthetizing violence of the games and our kids' addiction to them: Its a daily uphill battle for parents who share your viewpoint. Your post provided me with "ammunition" for today's battle with the boys and I am happy to report a decisive victory!! - but it will continue tomorrow I know. The hope is that they'll eventually "get it", that they will eventually understand - at some level - what is was that we were trying to convey...Time will tell.

What can I say about war that you haven't already heard from me my friend? I'll cut and paste my comment from last year at this time since it still applies:
- - - - - - -
"...we deviate from the example of Christ's Faith and His concept of Love. Love was not about hugging and adoring smiles, it was about our capacity to forgive our enemies.

I feel that this is true even in the best of war cases (as though a "surgical" bombing with no innocent collateral casualties could actually be carried out! What a f****ing joke!) How much more true when we consider the reality of war: more than 300 innocent children (exactly like your kids and mine Jeff) have been brutally murdered during the past weeks by the Israeli intervention in Gaza.

Last point (less philosophical and just a bit "bruto" I will admit)... as my dad's cut out newspaper clipping from many years ago said: "WAKE UP AMERICA!!!" We've been in la la land for too long. Our ignorance is convenient and in spite of the sacrifice we make as a nation through the lives of young soldiers (another travesty), I cannot imagine how we can ever be forgiven. "Father, forgive us for we know not what we do!" It won't wash... Peace!" (end of copy/past)
- - - - - - -- - - - - - -

The next battlefield is Iran - a war that was announced years ago, for the same reasons (pronounced "resource", pronounced "oil") as Iraq. The razor sharp minds of our fellow citizens wouldn't buy into another lame WMD sales pitch this time, so real justification work needed doing behind the scenes. Its sad to note how well its being done and I sense that there will be just cause in no time.

So what are we to do Jeff? I still don't know. My sense is that we could start by making a better effort of informing ourselves before we buy into more just causes. I don't know where the truth lies, but by checking more sources we can begin to see where the truth does not necessarily lie. So I still encourage people to tap other sources like Xinhua, Al Jazeera, Al Arabiya, Pravda, Le Monde, BBC etc etc in addition their CNN, Fox News etc. All can be pulled up in English on-line. Even more importantly we can recall the example of Christ. He was quite straightforward in His teaching...not necessarily an easy example to follow, but simple to understand I think.

At the end of the day, and different from what I thought as a cocky kid and young adult, there's a lot more gray area in the reality of living than black & white. But black & white is easy with very little merit. Life is about how we handle the gray stuff. - Peace!

Jeff said...

Hi Joseph,

Thanks for the thoughtful remarks, as always.

So what are we to do Jeff? I still don't know. My sense is that we could start by making a better effort of informing ourselves before we buy into more just causes. I don't know where the truth lies, but by checking more sources we can begin to see where the truth does not necessarily lie.

I hear you, for sure, although I'm less pessimistic than you are about the Iran scenario, whether inexorable forces unleashed by peak oil are brought to bear or not. Invade Iran? With what and with whom? I think that between our staggering economic troubles and being bogged down with limited and over-extended military resources in two wars already, I'm having a hard time imagining how that would ever happen, especially with a country far larger and more challenging that Iraq and Afghanistan put together, but the probability of an Israeli-Iranian conflict this year looks quite plausible (even probable) to me, and if that happens, who knows where it it will lead to?

Joe said...

You're right in that its hard to fathom how the US could involve itself on yet another front. And I hope that this limitation would keep things from going any further. But as you point out Israel has to be factored in as well. I'm mostly concerned about the magnitude of the event that could either trigger the conflict (or take place after conflict breaks out, should Israel use the US precedent of launching a preemptive attack.)

Right now Iran has plenty of things going against, of which 3 or 4 stand out:
1- They have the 2nd largest reserves of oil (136Bn b) in the region after Saudi Arabia (260 Bn b)
2- they decided several years ago that their oil trade would be done in currency other than the US dollar - a devastating blow to the US currency (and economy)
3- They have a cool, collected and intelligent nut-case at the wheel in Ahmadinijad who is doing everything possible to antagonize Israel, US and Europe with denials of the Holocaust, statements about wiping Israel off the map, testing long range missiles, advancing a questionable nuke program, etc... As always, I am skeptical about how a guy like that gets to power.

My concern Jeff is that there will come a time when it won't be a question of "how can the US go in...?" but rather a "how can they not?" And as I said in my original comment, its a war that has been a long time in the making.

I hope I am wrong. PEACE!