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It is a disturbing fact that most of the major disputes throughout history have been settled by physical fighting involving killing. Have we really risen much above the rest of the animal world? On the contrary, many animals do not kill members of their own species even though they may fight. It used to be that battles were fought in a remote location between two armies that comprised a small percentage of the population. But let us not forget that military fighters, whether voluntary, conscripted or press-ganged, are human beings too. This mode of warfare culminated in the First World War, when millions of soldiers were killed in a puerile macho attempt to solve the differences between branches of the family that supplied most of the so-called royalty for European countries.
That cataclysm also saw the introduction of one of the most horrendous inventions of the 20th century, namely aerial bombing. This continued in 'peace-time' with the 1924 bombing of Iraqi villages and other rebellious parts of the British Empire. This barbaric practice reached its first nadir in the Nazi destruction of Guernica in the Spanish Civil War. Everyone, not just the military, became a potential casualty in the Second World War with its long list of cities devastated from the air – Coventry, London, Berlin, Dresden, Tokyo, etc, etc – culminating in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which had to be hastened when it was realised that the Japanese were already making approaches to surrender.
Perhaps the greatest density of aerial bombing occurred during the Vietnam War. People who subsequently flew over the remains of that country have reported that there are unbelievable numbers of bomb craters everywhere. That abortive invasion also involved the greatest use of chemical warfare, mainly Agent Orange and napalm which indiscriminately deformed people, animals and plants. It is therefore not surprising that millions of people throughout the world protested against this wholesale sub-bestial butchery.
Steve Lacy and Irene Aebi were amongst the protesters, their first musical protest being Chines Food using words by a Chinese writer who saw the futility of war some 2500 years previously.
We were doing protest music about the Vietnam War at that time. Everybody was saying, 'Johnson. Baby killer' and all that. So we were in WBAI and Irene was hurling these Lao Tsu texts about politics and weapons and things like that. It was like political music. The name of the piece we were doing was CHINESE FOOD. Texts from Lao Tzu, which illustrated the absurdity of war and weapons and things like that, were chosen.
Steve Lacy (1997 – interview with Lee & Maria Friedlander)