InArmy Cats, American poet Tom Sleigh takes on the topic of the 2007 Lebanese Civil War not as an excuse for wanton journalistic rubbernecking, but as a catalyst for a series of troubled meditations on the nature of “force” within contemporary culture.

Let me explain what I mean by force. To do so requires a look back at the groundbreaking work of philosopher and activist Simone Weil.

Writing in the first year of World War II, in an effort to show that Hitler’s rise to power was not the anomaly that other intellectuals claimed it to be, Weil composed one of the most famous meditations on violence ever written, “The Iliad or the Poem of Force.”

Early in the essay, Weil defines what she means by “force”:

To define force—it is that x which turns anybody who is subjected to it into a thing. Exercised...

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