On Yossarian (Catch-22)

He claimed he was crazy so he wouldn’t have to go on any more bombing missions, but his self-proclaimed insanity is a sign of self-preservation and mental health, so he had to keep on flying the bombing missions. That’s Catch-22. That’s the best there is. I totally empathize with both sides: Yossarian is afraid of dying, so he claims to be insane. The doctor recognizes this as the work of a rational brain, so he sends him back to fly more missions. The logic is inscrutable, but the irony is diabolic. I guess the problem is war and how pointless most wars are. People have fought wars for most of the history of mankind, but after the blood has dried and the dead buried, the only thing that has really changed are the increases in widows and a decrease in sons. Politics, ideologies, economics, geo-political domino theories are all washed downstream so that something new may take its place–a new religious fanaticism, other ethnic rivalries, extreme political infighting, fratricide. The reasons for sending Yossarian back up in his plane so he can bomb people without ever really seeing them are almost always irrelevant, or perhaps even trivial, perhaps non-existent. Revenge, hate, conflict, jealousy, irrelevant meta-narratives, petty thinking have always driven conflict to the extreme of killing. This is an old song for humanity, but the problem has never been a lack of new verses. Yossarian understands the pointlessness of what he is doing. He understands that you can bomb, and bomb, and bomb, and you change nothing except the number of dead. War is an insanity that cures no evils, solves no problems, does not increase the standard of living for anyone, does not prevent the sowing of new evils, new ire, new hatreds, new violence, and so the wheel turns but nothing changes. Peace can only exist as a state of mind when all sides decide that there are no sides, that humanity must stand together and accept the “other” as brother and sister and not as foe. When color and religion and gender and age and politics and sexual orientation cease to define who we are, then war does not stand a chance. Peace cannot be dictated by peace accords, or summed up in a treaty, it is not compromise to disagree. Peace exists when humans can get past their differences and find their commonalities. Yossarian is not less patriotic because he doesn’t want to kill anonymously, he is more human because the killing is entirely senseless. The war against Hitler and his ilk seemed to have a point–destroy Hitler–but in the end, it was a war of attrition that killed millions and solved none of the problems that Hitler developed and kindled. Hitler was inevitably destroyed because he engendered war, and there would be no other outcome. What is entirely tragic is the idea that a good man such as Yossarian had to do what they did–kill–to bring him down.