War Cry

According to Webster’s, war is “a state of usually open and declared armed hostile conflict between states or nations … a state of hostility, conflict, or antagonism … a struggle or competition between opposing forces or for a particular end.”

For its part, Oxford’s simply says that it’s “a situation in which two or more countries or groups of people fight against each other over a period of time.”

When the 1,728-page Microsoft Encarta College Dictionary appeared in 2001, Linton Weeks in The Washington Post reported Encarta’s top American editor as saying, “it will start the Third World War of Dictionaries.” Added Michael Agnes, editor in chief of Webster’s New World dictionaries, “It will shake things up.”

Encarta lasted until 2009.


The “legal” definition of war can be found in the Geneva Conventions of 1949, which identify two categories of armed conflicts (or wars) – international and non-international.

Which begs the question: When does war before a world war?

Declares Webster: A world war is “a war engaged in by all or most of the principal nations of the world.”

Some examples the dictionary cited:

• The situation defused after initial investigation suggested the missile came from the Ukrainian side in accident during missile defense – but highlighted the potential for a miscalculation to spark a world war.—Simone Mccarthy, CNN, 18 Nov. 2022

• That money supplies the Russian army, which is still invading Ukraine, killing Ukrainians unmercifully, bombing Ukraine’s cities and infrastructure into oblivion, risking a potential world war, and threatening the world’s food supply.—Daniel Markind, Forbes, 21 June 2022

• Former officials at the Departments of Defense and State were skeptical that Russia would intentionally target Poland, knowing a provocative attack could spark a world war.—Francesca Chambers, USA TODAY, 16 Nov. 2022

NATO – the North American Treaty Organization –comprises 30 nations today. Two more, Sweden and Finland, are hoping to join the pact when it meets officially later this year. Still, like the European Union by and large, most “Western” NATO nations are defending Ukraine and supplying it with increasingly sophisticated arms, tanks, drones, aircraft, and weapons of war.

Are we already in a world war? If so, is it “cold” or “hot?”

Marshall McLuhan infamously stated that “the media is the message”; i.e., we tend to believe what see and hear via our preferred media. So, maybe the matter is mine: I’m watching too much TV, reading too many newspapers, spending too much time online distilling the “social” media.

I am sick of hearing about China continuing to threaten Hong Kong and Taiwan. Of North Korea testing nukes and guided missiles while saber-rattling at its southern step-brother. Of Brazil copy-catting the USA in terms of insurrections. Of revolutions in Venezuela, Peru, Haiti. Of conflict in Syria, insanity and instability in Iran, the Israeli-Palestinian crusade, El Salvador’s never-ending gang wars, cartels and drug lord crises in Mexico. Of London Bridge falling down while leavers and stayers, pro- and anti-monarch loyalists, Tories and Labour, duke it out daily as people try to go about their business worrying about how they’ll pay their bills.

And America?

If referring to the USA, the country is a gun, a powder keg, where mass shootings and massacres occur continuously. Where the divided states and absurd politicians annihilate each other as the three branches of government are caught up in turf-minding and guessing which officials will be the next ones to be found with smoking guns – aka classified documents – in their homes or their hands. Where law and order are quaint concepts defined today by who’s doing the policing. And dearly beloved Canada, that place where Americans wanted to escape to as far back as I can remember (Vietnam), now finds its population at odds over Hollywood handsome Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Inflation and strikes are everywhere, along with territorial disputes and civil wars. Snipers lurk and attack total strangers unmercifully online. When countries and peoples are so polarized that they no longer can talk civilly to others, we’re at war.

According to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s Global Protest Tracker, since 2017 over 400 significant antigovernment protests have erupted worldwide; more than 132 countries experienced significant protests; 23% of these significant protests have lasted three months or longer; 135 significant economic antigovernment protests occurred worldwide.

From Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, we have blood on our hands.

And the bottom line, I believe – whether measured by militant politicians or organized crime, billionaires and oligarchs, oil and energy blackmail, drugs and even domestic disputes – is money.

Blood money.

So far, so good in Portugal and Spain … although we’re told that grift and corruption do occur here, too. We’ve learned enough Portuguese to get the gist of the news broadcast on the TVs prominent in every bar, café, and restaurant. And there’s always CNN “breaking news” to inform us of the latest catastrophes–man-made and “natural.” But at least our streets here are quiet. Portugal and Spain are accessories, not accomplices, to the wars. We’re paying more, but we can still sleep soundly and eat regularly. We’ve bought some time until drawn into the brawl.

Comfort: Maybe that’s the real problem? Like safety and security, we crave and will do everything possible to defend it.

Have we become too comfortable?

I don’t know. But I do know that I got an email and postal letter from our Internet provider today, informing me that prices are going up.

“Life will only change when you become more committed to your dreams than to your comfort zone,” noted Jimi Hendrix’s sidekick, bass guitarist Billy Cox.

Perhaps it’s time to pull the plug and escape the ravages of modern media into the illusory pages of a good book. To tilt at windmills or venture down the rabbit hole again.

Like Don Quijote and Alice in Wonderland.

Bruce Joffe is publisher and creative director of Portugal Living Magazine.

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