u_topn picture
Books & Authors
Atlantic Unbound Sidebar
Paul Fussell
From Doing Battle
(Little, Brown, 1996)


From Chapter Seven

From the 1950s on, my presiding emotion was annoyance, often intensifying to virtually disabling anger. Anger at my accepting invitations to make too many changes of identity too fast: from college to professional killer, and then to benign professor. I was angry at myself for my inability to make sense of this process, to infer from it some general enlightenment instead of cynicism and nihilism. I was angry at the whole postwar atmosphere of public misrepresentation and fatuous optimism, the widespread feeling that the war had produced good for the United States, with good defined as people's ability to buy new cars and refrigerators. So what if 85 million people had been killed, most of them civilians? Here, no one had been bombed, eviscerated, burned to death, raped, or torn apart. Here, the war was now largely represented almost as a source of fun, for which act national euphemism became necessary: the War Department was euphemized into the Department of Defense, the armaments and war budget became the defense budget, and soon air strikes -- later, surgical air strikes -- would replace the bombing of women and children. Public rhetoric was growing indistinguishable from commercial advertising, and I came to regard both as the cynical manipulation of the weak of mind by the cunning and the avaricious. Increasingly the country seemed managed not by an elected government but by the National Association of Manufacturers, abetted by the Central Intelligence Agency, forcing anyone of energetic conscience to embrace the role of enemy. And how could I avoid indignation at the local bragging habit, America's proud pointing to its three thousand colleges and universities without noticing their failure to produce more than a handful of first-rate minds? I was bitterly conscious that the central thinkers of the modern world -- Freud, Marx, Darwin, Jung -- had all arisen elsewhere.



Hear Paul Fussell read this passage (in RealAudio):

  • "Annoyance then Anger" (2:37):
    RA 28.8, RA 14.4

    (For help, see a note about the audio.)


  • Return to The Other Side of War: An Interview With Paul Fussell

    Copyright © 1996 by Paul Fussell. All rights reserved.