Identification with the Leaders Is the Main Origin of Human Happiness in Impossible Circumstances

Happy Soldier

Identification of Soldiers With War lords

Deadly tired soldiers are sleeping or semi-sleeping, between glorious military actions, on the stones. These people take life as it is – they are completely adapted to the vain war between rivaling war lords. They take war as a norm. They take deadly risk as a supreme value. They will accept everything – they will go through hell to put their master on a bigger throne than his competitors and enemies have. At any moment they are prepared to jump up from the ground into the battlefield and be ready to kill and be killed. Only really happy people can unconditionally agree to live as we see them in these shots – to belong to the circumstances and not to expect a minimum of stability and comfort in their life. Why are these poor and self-sacrificial people so happy?

First of all, they are happy because they identify with the shining glory of their feudal lord. To identify with someone means for our unconscious not just to feel similar to the one we identify with, but to be him. The less developed our conscious self is – the less educated and self- and world-reflective we are, the more we are prone emotionally to feel our identity with the object of our identification as over-important and real (the more we are under the power of identificatory illusion). For the poor and uneducated people identification with master or leader is more of a reality than their factual existence. Their feeling of happiness is feeding on this identification. Correspondingly, the social contrast between being over-powerful and over-rich on the one hand and poor and helpless on the other always stimulates the passionately self-sacrificial feelings in the people on the bottom of the social pyramid. Inequality in power/wealth is the shortest way to militarism (psychologically based on identification of soldiers with higher ranks). Glorious are always admired by glory-less, the aggrandized are always masters of the humiliated, for whom identification with stronger is the only way to feel themselves strong. When soldiers identify with the commanders they start to feel that they are the war lords. The scattered on the ground soldiers we see here semi-dead/semi-alive are happy although their happiness is not a real one (they are happy by imitating their Commander-in-Chief, they are happy by his, not their own, happiness).

The stills reveal that the borrowed happiness of the soldiers is supported by two kinds of magic objects that further stimulate their feeling of well being in an impossible situation. These objects are their weapons and their flags. Let’s start with magic ability of weapon to make people feel great. Even during peaceful times despite the statistical data suggesting that the possession of weapons puts a person in additional risk, the more and more Americans piously buy weapons for private use (some own up to ten and more items of firearms). The magic (imaginary) power of weapon makes its owner happy – you feel that you can kill, that you are strong: stronger than life! In reality the fact that you can kill makes you the target of another killers. You will kill, no doubt, but then the probability that you will be killed also grows. The flag, on the other hand, mediates between you and those who are part of the same group. The flag makes you feel you’re larger than yourself, united with the power of the group, belonging to a collective will, to a bigger power than your individual organism. It is very reassuring and pleasant to be yourself and at the same time stronger than yourself. This reassurance is addictive and enhances happiness (without flags militaristic spirit will be much less intense).

Weapon for a soldier or for weapon owner is what crown is for a king. The flag for a soldier is what scepter is for the king. Crown and scepter makes a real king, a double king. And this is a soldier with weapon and flag.

The role of the messenger is magic too – it is like an injection of a belligerent inspiration into the soul of the soldiers. Kurosawa centralizes this figure not so much because of denotative needs of the plot – the messenger can carry an important order from the war lord which will make the soldiers instantly jump from stone-sleep to stone-battle. Psychologically symbolic function of the messenger is extremely important for our understanding of the human soul of war. The messenger is the psychological connection between the soldiers and the war leaders. The messenger is the impersonation of the very identification of soldiers with their commanders, the common emotional denominator of the leaders of war and soldiers as war carriers. In their hearts every soldier feels himself the messenger of his war lord.

Looking at the shots we see that the soldiers are as if buried under the stone wall (buried while still alive) – they don’t have any visual perspective. It’s the role of their masters to see from the hills the vast landscapes – to look for the targets or notice the approaching enemy. The eyes of the soldiers are the orders handed down to them from their superiors. Soldiers don’t need to see for themselves. They have internalized the vision of their leaders. It is in this readiness to sacrifice their own perception and mind and completely rely on the commands of the superiors we find the deepest roots of soldiers’ happiness along the trajectories of identification with majestic war lords.

But look at the spurs – these broken beams of the sun. The sun of war is shattered – fragmented. Lances are the chaotically sparse sun beams. The messenger is as quick as sand on the wings of the wind. War, like death, is not without its poetry.