A Christmas card from one of the in-laws was unintentionally soaked in irony. I’ll skip the rant about celebrating Christ and mass, the two components of Christ’s mass (i.e., Christmas) in which I don’t believe, much less celebrate. And, too, I”ll forgo the equally tempting rant about a religious holiday that promotes conspicuous consumption in an empire founded on secular ideals.
On to that card: It was filled with proud stories of the kids in the U.S. Army, and it closed with, “We pray for peace.” I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.
Never mind that the writer almost certainly is fooling herself. If her prayers are answered, that’ll put the battle-ready kids out of their jobs. And, since war comprises the foundation for our entire industrial economy, the empire almost surely would sink to the bottom of the already stinking swamp within weeks of an outbreak of peace. Praying for peace makes as much sense as supporting the troops, and both cases of wishful thinking are clothed in lies.
I can only imagine how many people I’ll offend with this essay. And yet, I can’t seem to stop myself. Any decent social critic points out the lunacy of societal taboos. I’m not suggesting I’m a decent social critic. But I can no longer ignore this most annoying of taboos.
Support the troops. It’s the rallying cry of an entire nation. It’s the slogan pasted on half the bumpers in the country.
Supporting the troops is pledging your support for the empire. Supporting the troops supports the occupation of sovereign nations because might makes right. Supporting the troops supports wanton murder of women and children throughout the world. And men, too. Supporting the troops supports obedience at home and oppression abroad. Supporting the troops throws away every ideal on which this country allegedly is founded. Supporting the troops supports the ongoing destruction of the living planet in the name of economic growth. Supporting the troops therefore hastens our extinction in exchange for a few dollars. Supporting the troops means caving in to Woodrow Wilson’s neo-liberal agenda, albeit cloaked as contemporary neo-conservatism (cf. hope and change). Supporting the troops trumpets power as freedom and fascism as democracy.
Perhaps most importantly, supporting the troops means giving up on resistance. Resistance is all we have, and all we’ve ever had. We say we’re mad as hell and we claim we’re not going to take it any more. But, sadly, we gave up on resistance of any kind years ago. After all, we might get in trouble. We might be incarcerated for protesting without a permit.
When jets from the nearby military base scream over the university campus, conversation stops, indoors or out. We pause awkwardly, stopped in mid-conversation. After the jets pass, in formation, an excuse often is articulated by the person with whom I’m visiting: “It’s the sound of freedom.”
My response never varies: “Sounds like oppression to me.”
The ensuing silence is more awkward than the scream of the jet engines.
It’s as if America’s cultural revolution never happened. It’s as if we never questioned the dominant paradigm in an empire run amok, as if we never experienced Woodstock and the Summer of Love, bra-burning hippies and war-torn teenagers, Rosa Parks and the Cuyahoga River. We’re right back in the 1950s, swimming in culture’s main stream instead of questioning, resisting, and protesting.
In a Tucson coffee shop last week I saw a woman, apparently in her early twenties, dressed in a short skirt, an apron, and high heels. Had she been behind the counter, she would have been the perfect symbol of the 1950s, a refugee from two generations gone by. We’ve moved from the unquestioning automatons of Aldous Huxley and George Orwell to the firebrands of a radical counter-cultural worldview and back again. A generational sea change swept us from post-war “liberators” drunk on early 1950s propaganda to revolutionaries willing to take risks in defense of late 1960s ideals. The revolution gained steam through the 1970s, but lost its way when the U.S. industrial economy hit the speed bump of domestic peak oil. The Carter Doctrine — the world’s oil belongs to us — coupled with Ronald Reagan’s soothing pack of lies, was the perfect match to our middle-aged comfort, so we abandoned the noble ideals of earlier days for another dose of palliative propaganda. Three decades later, we’ve swallowed so much Soma we
wouldn’t couldn’t find a hint of revolution in Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto.
In short, the pillars of social justice and environmental protection rose from the cesspool of ignorance to become shining lights for an entire generation. And then we let them fall back into the swamp. The very notion that others matter — much less that those others are worth fighting for — has been relegated to the dustbin of history.
The problem with being a martyr: You have to die for the cause. And along the way, you’ll probably be jailed and tortured. But there’s a fate far worse than being a martyr, in the minds of America’s youth. There’s the thought you’ll be viewed as an anti-American freak, out of touch with Lady Gaga and Dancing With The Stars. A fate worse than death: Your Facebook page will be removed, thus “disappearing” you.
A line from Eugene Debs, five-time candidate of the Socialist party for U.S. president, comes to mind: “While there is a lower class I am in it, while there is a criminal element I am of it; while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.” He was serious. So am I. That I am not taken seriously in these most serious of days pulverizes my ego. That Debs is not taken seriously these days shatters my heart.
When I visit with college-age people these days, they have no idea what I mean, and they believe Debs and I are misguided jokers. Completely immersed in a culture of make believe, mind-fucked from birth by the corporations running the media, the thought of resistance is, quite simply, beyond the pale. Resistance? Against what? And why? Isn’t resistance a form of terrorism?
Every revolution has failed. And if that’s not sufficient reason to launch a revolution, I don’t know what is. The revolution is dead: Viva la revolution!
If any one of those troops we claim to support attempts to bring transparency and reform to this country, we instantly turn on him and support his torture by — you guessed it — the troops. And who’s the commander in chief of these troops? That’s right, the man who promised transparency and reform, but who now seeks to crush the very people trying to bring it to us.
If obliterating transparency means criminalizing journalism, we can live with that. Those journalists are probably terrorists anyway. Or worse, liberals. The First Amendment was shredded by Obama’s predecessor, and how it’s being turned to ash. The U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights are bobbing along the same waves as social justice and environmental protection, sold down the river by a nation addicted to growth for the sake of growth (the ideology of a cancer cell).
It seems very little matters to the typical American beyond economic growth. And for that, most importantly, we need an uninterrupted supply of crude oil. All wars are resource wars, and even our involvement in the last “Good War” was about oil, notwithstanding revisionist history about our compassion regarding Hitler’s final solution. Crude oil’s near-term annual decline rate of 10% means many troops will be needed to secure the lifeblood of the industrial economy. After all, world demand hasn’t peaked yet, although world supply has. If we’re to continue
running ruining the world, we’ll need plenty of troops. And they’ll need your support.
You keep supporting the troops, and trying to convince yourself you’re fighting terrorism in the process. If doubt creeps in, turn on the television. Listen to the news anchors and the politicians, the characters and the commercials. Immerse yourself in the ultimate hallucination. Keep lapping up the self-censored “news,” confident the future will bring even more self-indulgent hedonism than the recent past.
And if somebody tries to tell you the hegemony of the U.S. dollar is threatened, thereby causing the price of oil to skyrocket, you just ignore the uncomfortable news, just as the mainstream media have ignored it. That kind of thing can’t happen here. It’s never happened, so it can’t happen (Francis Bacon’s Idol of the Den). If some misinformed fool attempts to point out the consequences of consumerism, shrug him off as a terrorist. And if somebody tries to confuse your happy holidays by telling you the good news about economic collapse, you tell him you’ll be praying for peace. That’ll make it all okay.