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SHOW OF THE WEEK

September 29, 1985|HOWARD ROSENBERG

"WAR: A COMMENTARY BY GWYNNE DYER," Tuesday, 8 p.m. (50); 9 p.m. (28) (15); 10 p.m. (24)--It's somewhat ironic that there is now a TV series instructing us on a topic that most of the world has already learned about, either directly or indirectly. That's something like lecturing Londoners who lived through the Blitz about what it was like to live through the Blitz.

Yet this PBS series of eight hourlong weekly episodes is far less a retrospective of man's violence against man than an examination of the elements that have led us to the brink of nuclear catastrophe. It studies war as a human phenomenon and aberration rather than merely as a series of historical footnotes.

The series is hosted by Canadian military historian Gwynne Dyer, whose companion volume on war is being released in conjunction with the debut of the series. Seven of the episodes--beginning with the premiere hour on the major social, economic and technological forces behind modern warfare--were produced by the National Film Board of Canada. The concluding hour, focusing on deterrents and NATO strategy, is from KCTS in Seattle.

Dwyer sees war not as an outlet for natural aggression but as an illogical and outdated institution invented to settle disputes among nations. He contends that nations have caused wars by preparing for wars. He explains why we fight, how we fight and why we shouldn't fight.

The further irony, of course, is that even as we learn about war from Dwyer, we see variations on the real thing--from Afghanistan to El Salvador--each night on the evening news. And we become desensitized to the bloodshed and the warnings.

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