Men like the immediacy of war. There are no maybes here, there is only the truth of steel and strength of arm. Those dry philosophers do not last a minute on the fields of flying rage, nor do their brains look any different from the stableboy's when dashed on iron and stone. If there are or ever were any such things as morals, or gods, they are absent.

Some men swear they see glimmers of the divine during the heat of battle; an act of heroism, an impossible archer's shot - but afterwards, afterwards the flash does not linger. In the aftermath of armed conflict there is no soft angel-song, nor the hiss of demons in the shadows. Good and evil have no meaning to the corpses, nor to those who afterwards walk the red ruin. Good and evil do belong here. They did not make this happen.

Nothing belongs, not here where what it means to be mortal hangs from its own bones. Indifference. The survivors nursing spirits crushed. On their faces writ large and disbelieving the end of all reason.

It's the stuff of scars, the scars that scab on the inside and do not heal in a lifetime. Indifference is opposite to life. It's the anti-emotion which fragments the soul. Here, here of all places, how can there be this lack of feeling, this numb void beyond sadness and despair and triumph and survival? A field of empty faces. A field of skulls vacated.

Perhaps this void is the purest distillation of what we routinely call evil, for it is only in the absolute absence of empathy that such butchery can take place.

Men will not strike down their brothers. But men can be incited to call their brothers enemies, can be marched into the field all boiled and frothed and made to strike down these enemies, and come out the other side. That is one way. Another is the temptation of coin.

But the bloodlust subsides. The men return home. What's left of them. Families greet their ghosts.

Show me he who comes back from war with no scars and I will make him look at you and speak, and you will see living wounds that run deeper and sadder than any crudely cauterized stump.

But there is one. One who stands impervious, as if it all slides from his spine. One whose mind is made to not see.

He is the butcher. He alone. To him slaughter is mindless, unthinking, an everyday labor. Something is missing inside of him, and when he stands covered in gore he shakes it off, just a job like any other. A callous is formed over his empathythe blinding belief that what he cuts cannot feel, isn't human, isn't suffering, isn't conscious. That what he kills deserves to die.

A special case. Not a warrior but a soldier. Kill for money, to make a living. For king and country. Just a job; to provide for one's family. To be a Man. To work, to work at cutting meat, to work at peeling life from bone, bring home bread and blankets traded for the lives of foreign fathers, of boys with other skins, the evil ones who do not matter. Able to operate a blade as a tool. Machine. Nothing more.

The butcher sleeps like a baby at night in the arms of his wife, his hand on her pregnant belly. He's so happy. What he's done is good.

He's cremated his care. Unfeeling towards the ones labelled enemy. Because some lives are worthless, and some men are not men. Incapable of any empathy during what for him has become a mechanical act. The erasure of our nation's enemies, a simple thing. A necessary thing. Such a man is indifference incarnate.

What terrifies me to my core is how the doctrine of indifference is taught. How it's blatantly preached and practiced. Now woven into the fabric of everyday language where it works an invisible death magic. No big deal. Normal. The glib exchange of man-stories. The respectable profession of murder. The honor of a fighting man.

Made through rote repetition to no longer feel. It's easy. A trick baked into the bricks of ours the greatest of civilizations.

A blade, a tool, a job.

Butchers are not born. They are made. They are trained. The heart is soldered, soldiered, shut. Methodically. Because it's important they go home to their wives and buy things with the blood money. That they raise the next wave of machine operators. Boy, do you not lust for the wet edge of a killing tool? Boy, are you not a Man?

At the burnt black heart lurks a language of labels. The labels we learn to put on packages and people.

How to box a human. How to see selectively. How to close the lid.



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