Monday, January 11, 2010
HOPE SLEEPS WITH THE FISHES
Practically no one shouted "Long live France!" but everyone called out "Long live de Gaulle!" In moments of great distress or great joy, the crowd has a natural tendency to turn to one man and make him the symbol of their need to admire or be protected.
--Alistair Horne, A Savage War of Peace/Algeria 1954-1962
The culture of illusion, the Empire of Illusion, is failing to recognize the inevitable decline. It's not just that we can't pay for the lifestyles that we are maintaining internally, we can't pay for empire. [...] And if you look in the twilight period of any empire [...] people fall into this collective state of self-delusion, where they are utterly unable to see the walls literally collapsing around them. [...]They don't call it asymmetric war for nothing. On one side you have the most stupendous empire of the modern era, fit out with GPS electronics, satellite, video and laser-guided munitions, remote-controlled assassin drones, cluster bomblets that look like brightly-colored Christmas ornaments, pimped-out helicopters, tanks, fighter jets, killer mercenaries and CIA/Special Ops who answer to no one, boosted by torturers, buggerers, wiretappers, secret police and media whores.
Things are so grim that there becomes this retreat into illusion. And what is illusion? It's really a state of eternal childishness. It's a kind of infantilizing of a society. But the danger is that, as that gap or chasm opens up between the illusion and reality--eventually it becomes impossible--when you're being foreclosed from your home, when your unemployment insurance runs out, when you are bankrupt because of medical bills.
It becomes impossible to ignore the reality. But if you're not prepared for it, then you react as children, which is to look for a savior or a demagogue, to save you from these inexplicable forces that you have not been prepared for, emotionally, intellectually, or psychologically. And that's the danger.
--Chris Hedges, from a lecture at The New School in New York.
And against this, what? A Nigerian kid who straps explosives to his nutsack.
Too many Americans avoid the crucial question,--how did this happen? And I don't mean how the kid got on an international flight to Detroit. Although that, too, is a good question. How did we, as a nation, get ourselves into an absurd military adventure that is guaranteed to bankrupt our government? Why is the president pressing ahead with a policy that will drive the country off a cliff? Every American who flies will now get a pat-down, in the region of the crotch, per the new security directive. Before long, boarding an aircraft will involve a rectal exam. I wonder if we will be able to cross the borders, then?
The Algerian War was a grave test of the survival of French democracy; their public was confronted with the reality of torture, used by French descendants in Algeria, Pieds-Noirs, who applied state sponsored violence against insurgent violence, to put down political struggle and armed movement for Algerian independence, that many in the Arab population were fighting for, or strongly supported. There was an attempted military coup, led by French generals in Algeria, to overthrow the government in France, and depose Charles de Gaulle. French people finally understood that justifying any means to put down the revolution in Algeria, abandoning any moral constraint, just to keep Algeria, was far too high a price to pay.
But President Obama doesn't seem troubled by the price, however high, of maintaining our culture of illusion. Obama's war is an endlessly proliferating war, and increasingly, a war against civilians, even a war against the stability of societies. And Obama is giving up his base, and has disillusioned even the progressives who once argued on his behalf, the people who saw in his candidacy a glimmer of hope, that this nation might get out of its militarism under his leadership, might cease to occupy countries and kill children.
But Obama is just another hollow president with his hollow words proclaiming what a great people we are.
And the unsuccessful Christmas Day bomber, Umar, with his charbroiled balls, becomes the subject of pious magazine articles; articles which do not mull over our vicious foreign policy, but instead speculate about "the mind of a terrorist". Meanwhile, somewhere on an Air Force base in the American West, a pilot is guiding a Reaper drone to the kill zone. He is sitting on the other side of the world as he pulls the trigger on his victims. He watches the video and moves the joystick, like some kid would, in an arcade. He sees a little puff of smoke where the house was. And on the other side of the earth, somewhere in the mountains a whole family perishes: father, mother, children. They are burned to death, blown to pieces, crushed under tons of rubble.
Chris Hedges reveals how war ravages everyone it touches:
War's effects are what the state and the press, the handmaiden of the war makers, work hard to keep hidden. If we really saw war, what war does to young minds and bodies, it would be harder to embrace the myth of war.