Thursday, December 13, 2007

Vadim felt joy at the thought of Armageddon. Post apocalyptic stories always held his attention. When he saw people scrambling around in the grocery store to load up on provisions he is happy. Mobilizing Soviet armies, American warships under fire, alert sirens, pilots scrambling, missiles flying hallelujah.

He used to scan the sky for missiles, or planes. He thought of ways to cripple infrastructure. Oil refineries, dams, powers plants, bridges, highways. He wondered if this was a product of conditioning. A mind constantly preparing for war is a mind that cannot conceptualize anything but war. An entire culture directing itself toward such an end… how can any other outcome be possible?

Perhaps this is why it is so much easier to be a soldier. He held out as long as he could. The books on Marx, the peace marches, Chomsky, Kant, Foucault, theory. Theories about how to prevent the inevitable. But theory is theory and human nature is shit. As Col. Killian used to say, the two biggest kids on the block, sooner or later they gotta fight. Or one day the bully opens the door to his Camaro and...boom.

So all our achievements as a civilization, the art, the science, the beauty, it all boils down to this.

In Iran they used human waves. Screaming boys charging the Iraqi machine gun positions, plunging headlong to their glorious death for the Shia Allah. The Iraqis that mowed them down bringing glory to the Sunni Allah. He envied those boys for a while, they got their day. Running and screaming, abandoning all thoughts but their cause, single minded devotion, charging to their death. Divine wind behind them, bullets and blood in front. They say Muslims that die in combat go to paradise, Martyrs have the eternal company of seventy virgins, he wouldn’t have card about that, death on the battlefield is enough.

He studied reincarnation for a while. But he knows better now. He came from a religious ulture.

(need transition to first person)

We worship Mars and Aries and Thor and weapons. Combat is our church, death is our religion and victory is nice but not all that important. Teach us edged weapons and hand to hand combat, small arms weapons and small unit tactics, strategic deployment and psychological warfare, the way they think and the way we should think. We drill and polish our boots, hone our skills and watch our enemies, watch them multiply and grow stronger and still we do nothing.

War is religion. Like all religions it requires unswerving and unthinking devotion. Devotion to principles and ideas, codes and credos. But above all there must be heroes, martyrs and gods to worship. Lenin and Trotsky, Hiro Hito and the Ayatollah, Washington and Jefferson, Stalin and Hitler, Mussolini and Franco, Bush and Cheney, Saddam and … well Saddam.

Thumbing your nose at the biggest power on earth and living to tell about it is always a good start. Or taking on the biggest army and winning. Castro and Ho Chi Minh, Che and Mao, Gandhi and Vaclav Havel, Nasser and Kim Jong Il.

War fighting is the brilliant amalgamation of the two spheres on the human mind: the logical and technical side, all blue prints and strategic theory, troop movements and supply lines; and the religious and fanatical side, red flags and heart pounding victory, ideology, conquest, domination of your fellow man, tearing out the jugular of your enemy with your teeth.

(Musil) 931 : …in every head, alongside the process of logical thought, with its austere and simple orderliness reflecting the conditions of our external world, there is an affective world, whose logic, insofar as it can be spoken of at all, corresponds to feelings, passions, moods. The laws governing these two bear roughly the same relation to each other as those of a lumberyard, where chunks of wood are hewn into rectangular shapes and stacked ready for transport, bear to the dark tangled laws of the forest, with its mysterious working and rustlings.

This brilliant juxtaposition of two seemingly contradictory parts of human consciousness creates a force so strong that logic is powerless against it. A man who rains bombs on women and children and incinerates civilians is given a medal and a military pension for life while an agitator who scrawls graffiti on the side of a missile is sent to prison for 20 years.

Death and destruction is celebrated, held in the warm embrace of family through endless parades, graduations, holidays and media events. A baby with its innards spilled into the street still clinging to the incinerated breast of its dead mother is labeled as collateral damage and chalked up as a necessary inconvenience in a valiant struggle toward a bright and prosperous future.

And once the population’s logical faculties have been anesthetized by an endless stream of death images, the governments and corporations of the world begin waging war on their own populations and workers. Standards of living are decimated for the lions share, wealth is concentrated in the hands of fewer and fewer and those who question the logic of this are marginalized, imprisoned or killed.

But precious few question the logic of this system. The logical faculties of the mind having been brutalized and repressed for so long that they are unlikely to stir even when the jack boots are crunching through broken glass in the very living room of the rabbit himself.

Solzhenitsyn coined this term: rabbit. Used to refer to the hapless victim of state terrorism who when seized by the strong hands of the security apparatus could muster only the impotent bleat “me, what for”? And as Alexander points out, in the history of all the arbitrary arrests of subjects by their governments that question has never been answered.

As the mystical side of our mind is awakened and then left to languish unfulfilled we find ways to appease it. Patriotism for some, religion for others, often the same people find comfort in an unhealthy mix of both.

(p. 948) Then the Archbishop’s carriage drove by, a gently rocking heavy carriage, whose dark interior showed red and purple. It had to be the Archbishop’s carriage, for this horse-drawn vehicle that Ulrich followed with his eyes had a wholly ecclesiastical air, and two policemen sprang to attention and saluted this follower of Christ without thinking of their predecessors who had run a lance into his predecessors side.

States are deified, loyalty to the state is held up as a virtue, children are referred to as future soldiers, educated to respond to a ringing bell by moving to another room, where they will sit for another useless hour learning only to unquestioningly obey whomever has been appointed their master for that hour.

Institutional learning facilities such as schools, colleges, universities and professional schools reinforce one simple principle in perpetuity: if you follow you will be rewarded. With the exception of the few dullards who are actually incapable of grasping the basic tenets of the subject being taught the grading curve is a measure of loyalty more than anything else. Did you attend class and pay attention as asked? Did you allow the leader to remain unchallenged throughout the indoctrination period? Did you perform your lessons at home as asked? Did you regurgitate the material on the exam in the manner expected? Yes, yes, yes, yes = A+.

Law school was very traumatic for some. The absolute subjectivity of the grading system coupled with a strictly enforced curve brought to light the painful truth that we were not the geniuses we had been led to believe we were by all our education up to that point. Someone had to be better, someone best, someone worst. Creativity, if discouraged mildly by our education up to that point, was strictly forbidden there.

It makes perfect sense that top law school graduates are well paid and given access to the highest levels of privilege in corporations and government. Over the course of three years these select few have demonstrated their willingness to pour countless hours of reading, writing, rhetorical exercise, debate, analysis and meticulous regurgitation of massive amounts of information from memory for no actual purpose. They have demonstrated that they can toe the line of, lick the boot of, amorally reason for, and/or defend and uphold any one who stands in front of them and says “I am your master”.

Their professional oath requires amorality above all else. If a secret is told to them in the capacity of an attorney-client relationship they may not divulge it for any reason. “Hi will you be my attorney, here is a $10,000 retainer?” “Yes? Great. I am responsible for the death of 20,000 people and I have illegally confiscated all their property. I need a way to reap the benefit of this theft and murder and maintain my reputation as pillar of the community, and I need you to make it happen, fast, thanks”.

“Yes, sir, as you can see by the diploma on my wall behind me I can be trusted with this type of information so you need not fear anything from my conscience because that was surgically removed as part of my legal training”.

Perhaps the slavish devotion to amorality is another way of fulfilling the needs of the mystical side of consciousness. There must be an anchor, a basic idea, a founding principle. The client is your God, when he stops paying you find another, while he pays you are free to devote all your intellectual capacity toward protecting his interests without fear of moral reproach.

((Musil) 831 : Ulrich began by speaking of the mischief of interpreting the kind of experiences they were talking about not as if what was going on in them was merely a peculiar change in thinking, but as if superhuman thinking was taking the place of the ordinary kind. Whether one called it divine illumination or, in the modern fashion, merely intuition, he considered it the main hindrance to real understanding. In his opinion, nothing was to be gained by yielding to notions that would not stand up under careful investigation. That would only be like Icarus’s wax wings, which melted with the altitude, he exclaimed. If one wished to fly other than in dreams, one must master it on metal wings.

He paused for a moment, them went on, pointing to his books: “Here you have testimony, Christian, Judaic, Indian, Chinese, some separated by more than a thousand years. Yet one recognizes in all of them the same uniform structure of inner movement, divergent from the ordinary. Almost the only way they differ from each other comes from the various didactic superstructures of theology and cosmic wisdom under whose protective roof they have taken shelter. We therefore may assume the existence of a certain alternative and uncommon condition of great importance, which man is capable of achieving and which has deeper origins than religions.

“On the other hand,” he added, qualifying what he had said, “the churches, that is, civilized communities of religious people, have always treated this condition with the kind of mistrust a bureaucrat feels for the spirit of free enterprise. They’ve never accepted this riotous experience without reservations; on the contrary, they’ve directed great and apparently justified efforts toward replacing it with a properly regulated and intelligible morality. So the history of this alternative condition resembles a progressive denial and dilution, something like the draining of a swamp.

(943) “A puddle” he now thought, “has often made a stronger impression of depth than the ocean, for the simple reason that we have more occasion to experience puddles than oceans”. It seemed to him that it was the same with feelings, which was the only reason commonplace feelings are regarded as the deepest. Putting the ability to feel above the feeling itself—the characteristic of all sensitive people—like the wanting to make others feel and be made to feel that is the common impulse behind all our arrangements concerning the emotional life, amounts to downgrading the importance of nature of the feelings compared with their fleeting presence as a subjective state, and so leads to that shallowness, stunted development, and utter irrelevance for which there are innumerable examples. “Of course,” Ulrich added mentally, “this view will repel all those people who feel as cozy in their feelings as a rooster in his feathers and who preen themselves on the idea that eternity starts all over again with every separate ‘personality’!” He has a clear mental image of an immense perversity of a scope involving all mankind, but could not find a way to express it that would satisfy him, probably because its ramifications were too intricate.

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