Work vs The War Psyche

The Context: The purpose of the article is to delve deep into the war-driven psyche of the human race. The article examines and explores the different kinds of wars and how they impact the socio-ecological balance in varied perspectives. The article moves on to identify and exemplify some of the everyday workplace expressions that fit the ‘war-vocab’ and reflect the ‘barrack’ mentality of the speakers using the war lingo.

War Psyche – The Thought Process

Our history has been besieged with war. War is inevitably the restorer of social order and a pioneer of a new status quo.  All the mighty wars ever fought have spelled order and justice throughout the great course of our natural human evolution. War is inevitable. It is a ‘natural’ and ‘instinctive’ phenomenon —so claim the votaries of psychology and philosophy (Freud, Nietzsche, et al).

Microcosmically, every wave is a result of friction. Within our body, our own cells fight any of the foreign invading viruses- this is called an immune -response. Macrocosmically, the brightest of stars end up as black holes and the spiraling galaxies recede into quiescence. The universe that we know is about 13.7 billion years, but it cannot last for more than another 5 billion years. Why? The universe too is in the constant expansion mode and would eventually wear itself out of its need to conquest – Another warlike equation.

 Different Kind of Wars and its Ecological Impact

Wikipedia quotes the four major ongoing wars as the Afghan, Yemeni, Syrian civil wars, and the Mexican drug war.

Howsoever ingrained the war-psyche may be in our mindsets, the stock market does take a tumble every time there is a possibility of war. Even trade wars! A 2019 report from Bloomberg Economics estimated that the trade war would cost the U.S. economy $316 billion by the end of 2020, while more recent research from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and Columbia University found that U.S. companies lost at least $1.7 trillion in the price of their stocks as a result of tariffs imposed on imports from China. Wikipedia quotes the four major ongoing wars as the Afghan, Yemeni, Syrian civil wars, and the Mexican drug war. Cumulatively they have had more than 10,000 human deaths in the past and the present year. The Great Depression (1929), the Economic Crisis of 1970 (post-Vietnamese war), the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo (1999), the Syrian Refugee Crisis (2017 to date), the Ukrainian fighting (2014 to date) can all be largely attributed to the inherent and insatiable human appetite for war.

Scorched earth techniques include the destruction of agricultural infrastructures like canals, wells, and pumps and the burning of crops.

We suffer incalculably staggering war-costs as a life species: High-intensity conflicts require and consume enormous amounts of fuel, leading to uncontrollable CO2 emissions and irreversible climate change. Mass armored column movement leads to widespread physical damage to sensitive landscapes and geodiversity. Scorched earth techniques include the destruction of agricultural infrastructures like canals, wells, and pumps and the burning of crops. Tactics like these threaten food security and livelihoods, increasing the vulnerability of rural communities. For Instance, after the Gulf War, the absorption of air pollutants increased by a whopping 705% in Baghdad, which is 887% more than the WHO recommended limit! In 1991, Landsat (earth observing US satellite mission) captured the devastating environmental consequences of war. When Iraqi forces withdrew from Kuwait, they set fire to over 650 oil wells and damaged almost 75 more, which then spewed crude oil across the desert and into the Persian Gulf. Fires raged on for 10 months with around 5 million barrels (790,000 m3) of oil conflagrated each day!

Saturation or Carpet bombing too has its roots in the scorched-earth warfare. Historically, this deadly combat was practiced by the ancient. Romans, Medieval Indians amongst others. The Geneva Convention noted that approximately 250,000 bombs were dropped during the Gulf war by the US air force on Iraq.

The war events depicted above are a mere tip of the iceberg. A lean and cursory reference at best. Have ‘we-the-people’ gained anything from these political, trade, and racial wars? Any spectacular war booty or social value that could be flaunted or beheld by us the custodians of democracy and culture? Are the great national entities like the US, Russia, China, Ukraine, Iraq, Syria merely getting pawned and dwarfed to the status of war/trade war machines compelled by their geopolitical and political considerations?


Refreshingly and thankfully, our everyday life in its manifold perspectives wants to adopt an alternative course. ‘We-the-people’ wish to deviate from the trodden and worn-out warpath. This is so because life’s reactions and cannot be controlled by crude strategy alone. We can at best control the life-sciences through planning.

Can one imagine health care management systems, institutional charitable works, trade and Industry seminars, technological innovations, scientific planning and agronomy, academic progress, investment banking operating alongside the combat trenches dugout on the battlefield?

The war psychology hasn’t spared our crisis-ridden health care management maneuvers either. We claim to manage the COVID-19 pandemic on a “war-footing” yet have comprehensively failed to contain the spread that catches on like the Australian wildfires – the wildfires have claimed more than 16 million acres as of January 2020.

Work is Work (Not War)

We carry the excessive war baggage in our everyday work-language too. Having second thoughts?  Let’s consider a few of these expressions that revel in the war-psyche alongside their neutral versions:

War Vocabulary ExpressionsNeutral/Happier  Expressions
Shoot the mailSend the mail
Meeting is in the War roomMeeting is in the conference room
You nailed it, mission accomplishedYou got it right, objective met.
He has been axed/fired/sackedHe was asked to leave/asked to opt-out/asked to go
She was inducted into the teamShe joined the team
This is an SOSThis is an emergency/red alert situation
Let’s see who bites the bulletLet’s see who has the guts/courage
This is a blitz campaign (derived from Blitzkrieg)This is an intensive/focused/concerted campaign
Execute this immediatelyCarry/Implement this out quick
Breach of contractViolation of contract


The list above is non-exhaustive. There are countless war-centric words that you and I speak subconsciously in our official work interactions. It just goes on to prove how deeply has the war psyche driven- ‘barrack mentality’ permeated into our everyday expression.

Newton’s third law states that: Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Although inadvertently, we do mostly speak the war-vocabulary while at work. So how does it matter?

Our war vocabulary subconsciously charges the workplace environment with negativity and violence. Negativity leads to aggression, confrontation, anger, and toxic work-behavior at the workplace.

Accuracy needn’t be expressed as the ‘bulls-eye’ when the idiom ‘spot-on’ is more effective and less violent. Why be in a catch-22 when a dilemma is a more effective substitute. Finally, here is the deciding question:

Which expression would you rather choose to speak?

Option A– Did it hammer some sense into you?

Option B– Did it hit the nail on the head?

Option C– Do you share my views on the War-psyche?

If your answer is Option C, then, you are spot-on! Take care of yourself.


Rajat Kapoor
Rajat Kapoor
His name is Rajat Kapoor. A former FM radio show presenter in English for 5 years (2000-2004) around the national capital region of Delhi, India. In 2005, he transitioned his career path to communication/soft skills coaching that notably and remarkably lasted till April 2020. Rajat shares distinct views on a range of topics viz. environment protection, climate change, human evolution, disruptive innovation, spirituality, holacracy, change management, assertive behavior, and more. Has an innate penchant for poetry. He celebrates the miracle of the cosmos, human existence, and the mystic message that springs from the everyday common and not so common occurrences. Rajat thinks of the green hat solution-based industry approach. Aspires for resilience and an inclusive model of work-culture that respects diversity and personal freedom. A new management style that nullifies hierarchy/bureaucracy. Contributes to the creation and networking of self-empowered and free global communities. Desires an ecologically stable and resplendent Earth that gets enriched by giving it's bounties to Man and not be plundered the way it does presently. Cheers!

DO YOU HAVE THE "WRITE" STUFF? If you’re ready to share your wisdom of experience, we’re ready to share it with our massive global audience – by giving you the opportunity to become a published Contributor on our award-winning Site with (your own byline). And who knows? – it may be your first step in discovering your “hidden Hemmingway”. LEARN MORE HERE


  1. All-out warfare, fighting the enemy, being in the trenches: the use of war images to spur action and resistance is very common in corporate language, but the level of attention has grown in these two months of “call to arms and to sacrifice ”by governments to stem an unknown enemy, the Coronavirus. Sociologists and linguists invite us to become aware of the pros and cons of the use of martial metaphors in the political, social, health and, by extension, business fields. There is a strong risk of oversimplification of the problem, of loss of meaning and of detachment from the world of collaboration and sustainability towards which the economy is moving.
    Essential for the development of language, cognition and culture, metaphors play an important role in the way we think and speak for example about health, disease and medicine, but also corporate, social and political culture, shaping our way of act, individually and collectively.
    The attraction to martial language is understandable, since it affects the attention and motivates, but it is short-lived because it can have non-functional implications for effective problem solving.

    • The vortex of spoken language can serve many purposes. As very aptly pointed out by you, Aldo, war- specific metaphors have been used for strategizing against COVID -19.

      War strategies are extreme in nature. Health pandemics mitigation requires a more persistent and less agressive tone. War invokes patriotic and racial prejudices. While the COVID mitigation (not the War/battle on it) would require consistent health awareness, economic empowerment of all despite their origin or race, and immediate cessation of global warming (strict adherence to Kyoto protocol) and so on..

      I do not fathom any congruence b/w war on COVID vs. Planned mitigation of COVID. The war psyche blurs our perception of the issues at hand.

      I am glad that you highlighted that such blatant propaganda at best breathes in short-lived motivation yet no effective solutions.

  2. Psychomachy is the Anglicized version of the Latinate version of the often fractious (Athens & Sparta) Greek sense that ‘war restores social order to usher in a new state of grace’.. (SF NF FWFS ALLEL’OURAH @Carol Anderson for elevating this perspective: now, SEMPER ULTRA).. An even more ancient adage that ‘new gods come in at borders’ evokes an unspeakable challenge, which the poet laureate Robert Frost elevated from New England folklore: ‘good fences make for good neighbors’.. Why unspeakable? Because all fences or walls constantly need mending. The shifting wear-and-tear of natural seasons (biosphere) and natural law (zoosphere) call out caretaking and caregiving. Altogether, in this give and take of the order of things, caring for our ecospheres builds character, invokes ongoing lovingkindness. As such vocational living becomes a perennial call of the wild, a joyous beckoning from a renewable, a profoundly gracious creative intelligence..

    • @Dr. Stewart, do accept my sincere apologies for a delayed response.

      The concerns raised in my article have been most commendably remarked upon by you. That war is internalized as a primal instinct is amply clear by the allegories that you have given in your comments.

      ‘..caring for our eco-sphere builds character, invokes ongoing lovingkindness’ is a phrase that is mellowed with humane wisdom. An example that I cite to the effect is Greta Thunberg- a 17 year old Swedish environmental activist who thinks with the luminescence bestowed by the ‘profoundly gracious and creative intelligence’.

      I happened to watch one of her videos (the link has been shared below). This video came out in Apr 22, 2020 (Earth Day) as an expression of protest against massive methane and CO2 emissions. What she stated relentlessly wasn’t heeded to or heard well at Davos. And the result is for all to see- Californian Coniferous Woods (and 10 other US states along the west coast are burning), Amazonian rainforests and Australian wilds have been decimated to ash.

      Wars have been fought in trenches with ammunition. Yet it seems that the massive and irreversible climate change would lead us to our eventual extinction as a race.

  3. This is an interesting piece, Rajat. I have been thinking a lot about this, in light of what it happening in the world today. Musings….war seems inevitable – we are too divided….there is a very fundamental, human need to fight….

    I was a US Marine, as was my husband (with two Vietnam tours) as is my son, who teaches warfighting to USMC officers. Both my son’s grandfathers were Marines. So….I muse….could there ever be a time or place where (I will use the term) fighting doesn’t happen? I guess before we answer that question, we have to address the question of whether or not there are just plain bad people in the world who will do things for selfish reasons and hurt others. Are there people in the world who, because of their nature even if good people, believe very differently than others and are willing to fight for their position?

    I like your words, “War is inevitably the restorer of social order and a pioneer of a new status quo.” That resonates with me. It reduces humanity to what is truly important, and cleanses the trivial.

    Do I want or agree with war? I would not say that I do. But I can say that I would find the world very difficult to abide if everyone thought the same, believed the same. I find that different opinions are interesting, some even exhilarating. It is the difference within humanity that, from my perspective, propels us to grow, to learn and to question. It would be great if we could disagree calmly and politely. But I think so long as humanity comes to the table with different beliefs, fights (e.g., perhaps war) will happen.

    It is interesting that within my circle of influence, even with the strong ties to the military, I don’t see those same terms you mention on the left, above, used as frequently as you do. That said, words and powerful and I certainly agree that using words that are not laced with anger, vehemence and conflict is always a better way to go.

    I think you have raised a good point, and a perspective that we would do well to consider as we choose our words.

    • I deeply appreciate the sincerity and honesty with which you penned your thoughts on this article, Carol.

      Wars happen. As detailed at the begining of the article, I at no point contest that. Our minds are conditioned to fight historically. Amygdala wires our brains to either have a fight or flight response. (Ref. Dr. Daniel Goleman). Disease happens too. Disease is bad but that doesn’t imply that doctors are not required! They certainly are. And so are Mariners, Corps, the Army and the Airforce. You are there for a cause.

      To NOT fight for a just cause isn’t the intent behind the content of this article. At the outset, I contextualized that the article delves deep into the war psyche. Questions like: What propels war? How it impacts us? And the planet that we live on.

      My assumption to challenge the War Psyche – What remarkable difference do we as a human species boast off in Circa 2020?

      As cave dwellers we hunted and predated- then we formed settlements and became agragrian- once we settled in tribes, we still never got over our instinct to conquer and conquest- then with the discovery of iron and bronze – we forged empires – fought a 100 years war- then came steam based inventions – and later, the Wight brothers invented the flying plane. Einstein’s discovery of Controlled Nuclear Fission was later developed into an atomic bomb during the 1st world war -much against his wishes. Today we are miles ahead in technology then 1945. We have stealth, chemical, biological weaponry, and trade wars.

      In all this, the march of humanity hasn’t moved forward… it is where it is. It begins with a conflict and ends in war -It is this primal war instinct and the trend that I sought to raise awarenes about.

      Human race, which is at the top of the biological chart, has the ability to think- I endeavored to shape a new thinking pattern that reduces the scale and intensity of war and finally makes it redundant (today, it sounds as a Utopia).

      Our present and future deserves an age that should be qualitatively superior than events such as trade wars, CO2 emissions, wildfires, political confilicts and stock market crashes – The question is HOW?

      If you have suggestion which you feel could dent the war-psyche, please feel free to share them with me, Carol. I am keen to know!

      One of my suggestion was to rid our everyday civil and office work culture of the war-vocabulary- to which you conceded.

    • I don’t think I intended to disagree with your premise about changing up our words to change up our psyche about conflict and fighting. I agree with you and believe that we can be re-oriented to think differently. I think I may be on a different plane that you are in this topic, as I’ve thought a lot about the propensity of humans to march into war, but my internal musing have actually been more about the differences in masculine vs feminine orientation, probably given my early orientation to the very male-oriented Marine Corps.

      As I look at what is happening today, we are in constant battle – maybe not physically, but with an overwhelming need to tell our own story. It will take more than a reorientation of words; it will take an intentional effort to look beyond our own needs to focus on the collective. That’s when I get a little depressed about our chances, because history seems to show that we need some sort of cataclysmic event to shock us out of “me” into “us.” If planes flying into building doesn’t do that, I just don’t know what will.

      I do think that there is a masculine/feminine element to what you describe as the war psyche and I think that we are doing a better job of exploring those avenues today than we have in the past. But exploration takes willingness to open up.

      Didn’t meant to take this in a direction you didn’t intend to go. But this is where my mind goes with the topic of war psyche. Thanks for the dialogue.

    • On second thoughts, I seemed to have misconstrued your message earlier.
      It is heartening indeed to have you opine:
      That ‘ we can be re-oriented to think differently.’
      That ‘we need some sort of cataclysmic event to shock us out of “me” into us.’
      That ‘it will take an intentional effort to look beyond our own needs to focus on the collective. ‘

      It now dawns on me that both of us have been on the same page! – War has caused incalculable loss to humanity since time immemorial.

      You have also raised the aspect of ‘ the differences in masculine vs feminine orientation’. It would be culture dimensioned. We still have masculine orientation at work at strategic pivots of policy making and international body-politik in majority.

      If we rechristen the Feminine Orientation to more gender-neutral a noun, for instance, call it ‘Lucid Orientation’, the renaming could make it more acceptable to the patriarchal male oriented line of thinkers. Personally, I do not find it necessary or in good taste.

      Real change does not require precedents. It requires the will.
      Let us hope it doesn’t take an apopcalypse to change the way we all think.

    • Thanks for alerting me to your response. The masculine orientation at work and in government has been a source of frustration for me and also a conundrum. I relate more to the masculine than the feminine ethos; it’s always been hard for me to relate to women as a group. I spent 40+ years as a senior leader in the Marine Corps and business and, honestly, I knew how to relate to the guys, and failed miserably with women in leadership roles. That said, there is a fairly small cadre of men that I cannot relate to – I shiver every time I pass a golf course because it became a symbol for me of those men in power who have no intention of opening their minds to the thoughts or ways of others (or letting those of us who didn’t golf be involved in critical business decisions). It feels to me like, for the first time, their pedestal is shaking.

      That said, I worry that if that pedestal falls, we have a very shaky infrastructure in place to replace it. I am a student of organizational dynamics and thus recognize that we will always have conflict. There will always be something that other want and will be willing to go to war over. I don’t know if you saw my latest ( but I love the way the speaker reinforces the need for structure – but wise structure.

      Yes, I think we are on the same page. THanks again for letting me know you responded.

  4. Hi Rajat,
    Welcome again and great share.
    Here I have one more to add to your list regarding Bizcatalyst 360:

    War Vocabulary Expressions Neutral/Happier Expressions
    Left more on the Mother-ship Left more comments for you on the Bizcatalyst site

    Someday soon, we will be ready for take off
    Best wishes, Ineke

    • Hey Ineke,

      So glad that you found the list interesting.

      I would surely check out the list you are referring to on the Bizcatalyst site.

      And take off we would..

      Till next time…

    • Your words have a ring of truth. Conflict and war would always be there. I also viewed Mr. Harari’s powerful warning to the democratic comity of the world. A most relevant message . Many thanks for sharing.

      One must try to minimize the scale
      and intensity of war. Few of the forgotten yet very relevant ideas that could spur disruptive governance and replace the present socially predominant masculine orientation with a sustained and visionary way of life are:

      Global Dénucléarisation/Disarmament – Deterrence is uneasy peace not amity. I am not going to kill you doesn’t mean I would let you live. (Today, around 13,400 nuclear weapons remain. Countries possessing such weapons have well-funded, long-term plans to modernize their nuclear arsenals. In addition, no nuclear disarmament negotiations are currently underway).

      – The Paris Agreement to be made just and fair to all the countries of the world- (USA, China and India should work out a strategy to substantially reduce their CO2 emissions. Seeking clemencies and pulling out of the pact is no remedy).

      -Armies across the world to transition to peace keeping brigades (Mother Teresa, Aung Sang, Nelson Mandela, the Arab Spring and the Tinnanmen Square- are the personalities, places and events expose the hollow claims of armed tyrrany over people)

      -Adoption of proactive automated public grievance redressal systems. (Food ATM/Sanitisation Kiosks in the COVID era are the initial steps in the right direction. )

      – Creation of a civil, non political, and people participative global citizenry that firmly believes and maintains certain liberties/ values across the world. (Common European Economic Zone is the first step in this direction where nation’s gave up their national currencies for Euro)

      – The citizenry to have no politics or leaders. Every living human on earth to have a stake as a member in the global citizenry. ( the Geneva convention (1949) was one such event that attempted to adopt a universal rights based approach to war/PoW )

      Remember Plato’s philosopher king? The difference I propose is that the future rule ought to be that of philosophys without the human intervention and the 3 fold class system as was advocated by Plato.

      We as humans have an insatiable craving for power and that eventually leads to war. Perhaps, such a day might never arrive..yet one shouldn’t stop hoping for miracles.

      “The best way to grow is to break the time-warp, as all history is regrettable, only some of it is worth the recall” – Rajat Kapoor

      I cannot but thank you enough for the lucidity of the discussions that we have had on the war-psyche.