Mercenaries have long been part of human culture. With some exceptions, people really don’t like to fight to the death meaning that wars have often relied on those willing to fight for pay. As society buys more and more into capitalism—and capitalism always means you want what someone else has—we’ve had to pay armies to become a massive part of our national existence. In the United States the military budget is the most massive drain on taxpayers’ dollars, dwarfing all other areas of government spending. Even Dwight Eisenhower, himself a military man, warned the country of the military-industrial complex. It was becoming too powerful, he believed. Knowing better, we continue to spend to curb our fears—generally unfounded.
The other day I was reading about the private military industry. I didn’t even know there was such a thing. Yes, I’ve known of mercenaries since I was a kid, but I think was got to me was the word “industry.” This has apparently now become a legitimate line of work, I suspect with tax breaks and other kickbacks. What’s more, it’s recognized by governments as a legitimate business. Perhaps I spend too much time in my own headspace—I am a Bibles editor after all—but I felt like I’d just crawled out from my scriptural rock. There’s an entire industry where your job is to be a fighting force for hire? Victory to the highest bidder? The ultimate, weaponized free agents? How does that feel? Mercenaries have often suffered in reputation. Now we recognize them as just another job. I guess that’s one way to handle unemployment.
While the Good Book is considered outmoded by many, I do think it has many things right. One of its most compelling messages is that we should be peacemakers. We should love one another, seek to help, not to harm. Nobody’s going to pay a lot for that, however. War is more profitable. Meanwhile the education industry—even it can be capitalized—suffers. We don’t want to pay for cooperative ventures where the entire human race, and other species, might benefit. That we deem too expensive. After all, there’s only so much money to go around for bombs and missiles and whatnot. How are we supposed to protect that which we’ve extorted from others if we don’t have a massive military? I suppose we could hire freelancers, but then, that costs money.