At the centre of Kathleen Barry’s book Unmaking War: Remaking Men is the question: ‘Why do wars persist in the face of our human urge to save and protect human life?’ The book starts with describing an incident on a beach at Bodega Bay. Onlookers at the beach watch as a killer wave sweeps away a young boy whose father dives into the water to rescue him. The father manages to hurl his son back to safety but is unable to escape the strong currents of another wave that crashes him to the ocean floor before sending him afloat on the sea. As rescue helicopters retrieve the young father’s body, a typical day at the beach is disrupted. Many of the beachgoers are moved to tears and find it impossible to ‘go back to their activities as if nothing had happened’. Barry says that this gesture of empathy—of feeling sad at another’s demise—is evidence of a ‘shared humanity’ that war and military not only disregards but systematically dismantles.
February 2013, volume 37, No 2-3