April 22, 2010

"It's not the sex fraud. It's never the sex fraud."

Sisters and brothers, occasionally I have to laugh at the ludicrous and surreal quality of certain behavior of the ruling class during the later stages of the Death State's life cycle. That reminds me: I imagine some people might justifiably wonder, given my damning characterization and description of the Death State: what exactly can a person do to resist its lethal operations, especially since I emphatically reject violence as any kind of "solution"? I didn't state one point explicitly in the earlier essay, for I assumed it was clear: in addition to the other reasons I briefly mentioned for my rejection of violence, if you engage in violent acts, it is certain that any number of people, very likely including you, are going to end up dead. This was impliedly part of my point about the failure of violent revolutions generally: the result is a new regime that is no better or even worse than the old one -- and a hell of a lot of people have been killed in the meantime. If it's death you're seeking, I suggest in the strongest possible terms that you do so on your own and avoid involving all others. I recognize your right to inflict what you regard as sacred violence on your own person, but certainly not on anyone else. I regard even that as a futile and very sad point of view, but if that's your choice, no one should forcibly stop you.

For some background on the question, "What can you do?," I suggest reading an essay of mine which speaks directly to this issue: "The Honor of Being Human: Why Do You Support?" I especially recommend a close consideration of the Hannah Arendt excerpt I provide in the second half of that article. So one principle involved is the withdrawal of support from a damnably evil system in all the ways you can accomplish that end. Two other very significant principles are non-violence (as already mentioned) and non-cooperation. Non-cooperation is a tactic that can be immensely powerful, and one that I've found over the years is not understood or appreciated nearly as fully as it should be. Yet episodes from history when this strategy was utilized show how effective it can be.

This is all very general and leaves many unanswered questions. And how one approaches these issues and the solutions one adopts are immensely complex issues, often depending on the specific context of a given person's life. As just one example: it can be much easier for a single person to withdraw support and decline to cooperate than for a person who has chosen to care for and protect others (usually a partner and/or children). I hope to offer many further thoughts on this subject in the near future (my queue of works in progress grows hourly at this point; I can only hope to get through at least a fraction of it all). I mention this now only to indicate that I'm obviously aware of the question, and have a lot to say by way of answer.

But let's begin our return to the source of my laughter this morning. Much of the time these days -- actually, almost all the time, now that I think about it further -- laughter is a singularly odd, even repellent, reaction to the destructions of the Death State. But that judgment assumes that we make fully real to ourselves the innocent people who are ripped apart by bullets, bombs, and drones, and that we allow the reality of lives forever altered and minds largely destroyed to enter our being.

Americans are expert at making certain that none of the agony and terror the U.S government inflicts on "them" becomes real. See "Against Annihilation of the Spirit: Let Us All Become Cowards" for much more on that:
The truth today is still worse, for we have significantly regressed. Even as our governing class remains absolute in its determination to avoid the central and most fundamental lessons from Vietnam, it has remembered and applied certain lessons very well indeed. The horrors of Iraq, including the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of entirely innocent Iraqis, never even enter the consciousness of most Americans. The dead and horrifically injured Americans are shuffled offstage without ceremony. The great majority of Americans continue in their preferred mode of existence: intellectually ignorant and lazy, spiritually fat and self-satisfied, and completely oblivious to the unimaginable suffering their government inflicts in other parts of the world.
After I wrote that in May 2007, it became necessary to increase the "hundreds of thousands" to over a million slaughtered human beings in Iraq.

And the same pattern now repeats in connection with the horrors of Afghanistan, and Pakistan, and Somalia, and additional places around the world. Then, of course, there is always Iran, but I'll deal with that separately (and soon, I hope once again).

In my article the other day, I spoke of the first and primary issue that I consider must always guide our analysis of such matters, indeed of any matters at all: the profound reverence that we must feel for the sacred value of a single human life. To begin to explain what I mean, and to help in making real the horrors the U.S. government has so unforgivably inflicted and continues to inflict on so many entirely innocent people, I will refer you, gentle reader, to a passage I wrote almost four years ago.

This appears in "The Missing Moral Center: Murdering the Innocent":
There is one final point to be made about all this -- and that has to do with the supreme value of a single human life. In our desensitized, dehumanized age, most people have almost no appreciation for what I'm talking about, and our political establishment and media only make this grievous failing worse. Each of us is unique; not one of us can be replaced. Each of us has a family, loved ones, friends and a life that is a web of caring, interdependence, and joy. When even one of us is killed or horribly injured for no justifiable reason, the damage affects countless people in addition to the primary victim. Sometimes, the survivors are irreparably damaged as well. Even the survivors' wounds can last a lifetime.

This is of the greatest significance. There is nothing more important or meaningful in the world. No moral principle legitimizes our invasion and occupation of Iraq, just as it will not justify an attack on Iran. Therefore, when the first person was killed in Iraq as the result of our actions, the immorality was complete. The crime had been committed, and no amends could ever suffice or would even be possible. That many additional tens or hundreds of thousands of people have subsequently been killed or injured does not add to the original immorality with regard to first principles. It increases its scope, which is an additional and terrible horror -- but the principle is not altered in the smallest degree.

So think of the five-year-old Iraqi girl who is no more, or think of any one of the countless other victims of this criminal war and occupation. Think of their families and friends. Think of the lives that have been altered forever, and of the wounds that will never heal. Think about all of that.

Contemplate the devastation and the horror. Make it real to yourself. And ask yourself if forgiveness is possible.
Most Americans, and certainly the members of our ruling class, expend enormous energy in making certain that none of this becomes real. From the criminal war of naked conquest against Mexico, to the horrifying occupation of the Philippines, on into World War I (a conflict which the U.S. should never have entered if basic decency and humanity figured in our government's calculations at all, and which led to a century of devastation that continues to plague the world today in significant part because of U.S. participation), on into Vietnam, numerous other interventions after World War II, into Iraq, Afghanistan, to a global empire of bases and the continuing obsessive, deadly dream of worldwide hegemony -- none of the horrors is allowed to become real.

If you add to this, as you must, the genocide of Native Americans and the importation and incomprehensible brutalization of generations of slaves, you will see that the American exceptionalist myth necessarily depends on the systematic institutionalization of denial at its foundation. Tell the truth and focus on the incontrovertible facts, and the myth vanishes as mist in the morning. A certain Barack Obama appreciates this point very well indeed, so he lies about all of it. For a further detailed discussion of these issues, see "Obama and the Triumph of the American Myth," and in particular the second, major part of that article, "Torture and the American Project." That essay might be of special value to those who insist on believing, contrary to facts that can be understood by a child of seven or eight, that torture and brutality were invented by George W. Bush and the Republicans. As I wrote in that piece:
[S]ystematized, institutional torture is as American as sickeningly rancid, fatally poisoned apple pie. If one views the American government as a brutally dysfunctional family, then, my friend, Mom and Pop are the torturers-in-chief. (This is true in a more literal manner than most people are willing to countenance. See all of my series on "On Torture" on this question -- and the last two parts in particular, here and here. Another essay also analyzes certain of the dynamics in play: "Let the Victims Speak.")
Well. Perhaps these excerpts had some of the effect I hoped for. They've caused my own earlier amusement at one particular story to dissipate for the moment. So I'll make this the first part of a two-part article, and discuss the other issues I had planned to cover later today or tomorrow. As you may gather from the title, the general subject which began this exploration concerns matters of a different kind. My title is a reference to this earlier essay, so if you care to read that, you'll have a head start. (I confess, as I have before, that that particular article gives me more pleasure than it probably should. But it's actually ... well, not bad.)

So I'll be back soon, with a discussion involving horrors that are a bit more indirect and not quite so graphic (at least, at first glance). We don't want to stare directly into the abyss too long at one sitting ... yet I felt compelled to cover these issues first. I also felt it was a compulsion to be heeded as best I can.