Stumbling into the ‘Sacrifice Trap’

By Ann Frisch

Our headlines: “Defiant Zelensky reveals his location in Kyiv… asks for no-fly zone”, “Russia threatens Europe’s gas supplies,” “Biden threatens to cut off Russian oil.”

The world prays that this will not be their last moment on Planet Earth when nuclear missiles begin to fly to support the egos and identities of world leaders. 

Kenneth Boulding, professor, philosopher, poet, economist and peace researcher, is looking  on, almost 30 years after his death. Leaders of the Russian Federation, Ukraine, and US are locked into what Boulding called the ‘sacrifice trap’: their identities and images of who they are leave aside the realities of the real cost of war.  

President Zelensky could not bring himself to say “We can withdraw our application to join NATO.” President Biden could not acknowledge “We can recognize Russia’s worry about their security.” President Putin could not say “We’ll wait and talk until you actually hear our concerns.” Heroes stand their ground at all costs.

World leaders are caught up in their own identities and heroic self-images, national and personal. We are also caught up in these self-images, unwilling even to say “Stop!”

Boulding said: 

“sacrifice often reinforces this identity, simply because it is very hard for us to admit that past sacrifices have been in vain. To admit that the sacrifices that we have undergone in the name of either a personal or a national identity were actually in vain would be too great a threat to that identity itself.” 

The war profiteers are not into the sacrifice trap at all: economic profits equate for them with rationality. Their fantasy is that they will be around to spend it.

Nuclear war would have no heroes.

Dr. Ann Frisch, Professor Emerita University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, Senior Adviser and Unarmed Civilian Protector (Guatemala 2007), Nonviolent Peaceforce and Chair, Rotary Action Group for Peace and Nuclear Weapons Education.

Leave a Reply