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Did Socrates say "Know Thyself", or was he misunderstood, as all are. Show Thyself is all we can do. The knowing is unknowable.  

I am filled with joy.  It can't be helped.  

Became a Farmer, Builder, Musician, Tank Commander, Librarian, Lawyer and Minister. I have failed at many things. And now retired.  Filled, just filled, with Joy. 

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

ENEMIES? SHOOTING THEM DOWN... ON FILM.

Soldiering seems to have drifted away from its essential slog. The Warrior cult which always looks so promising when it is dancing around the Big Fire the night before, is now in disarray.

Technology has simply outperformed the levee en masse, and the Army has become a thing of the Previous Technology, no longer able to dress smartly, much less solve, the "problems" as they arise. Of course, there is still an Op4 that needs to be eliminated. In the Blog of War, there is always a new front opening up which is little understood. The Pentagon is not just fighting the last war – the one with armies in uniforms, blowing up things – it has joined the Other Side. It conducts fire fights that burn everyone.

The Entertainment Industry understands the red weapon-shift. It does not even bother with "big war movies" anymore, except of course, by way of exception. Who cares about “million man armies” anymore? The films now are all personal combat – Miami Vice (Colin Farrell), Collateral (Cruise), Rambo type ambuscades, Bowling for Columbine (Moore), and Hero-es of various ilks going mano a mano with small arms. But this is not just a passing phase; historically the emphasis is always on the Warrior, although often he is hidden, and never more so than now.

The Entertainment Medium is the latest weapon of choice. It is penetrating, lethal, and yet does not expose your troops to dysentery. It does not wildly warm the planet or smoke entire cities. Do not be confused by its focus on action and its impact on fashion, or by its incidental "product placements" -- our "leading men" who turn out to be merely actors.

Do not be misled by the use of actual weapons in films – it is not the “weaponry” per se which is penetrating the defenses of The Enemy. For example, nobody seems to know or care that in his combat roles, Tom Cruise typically wields a .45 cal. Heckler & Koch USP fed with a 12-round clip. (That clip still throws me). The particular suit and tie, or the pair of loafers, which is out on a rampage with a sidearm, is not the “point”. The audience is swooning over the room-clearing house-pacifying impact of the Mossberg 12gauge shotgun.

All of the elements of the “scene” are replaceable – especially the movie stars themselves, and their toys, all of which are frankly over-priced. Understand that the “action” is the draw – the actors using their toys, whether they are climbing on the outside of their Adam A500 planes, or riding their Ferrari F430 Spiders or jumping out of Donzi speedboats, glancing at their IWC watches while shooting titanium SVI Infinity automatics. The “point” is not whether a man, or a machine that can put a 55-grain hollow-point slug at 2,700 feet per second into a man, is better. Both the drawing star and the drawn weapon together draw the crowd. A good pistol is designed to leap into the palm of the hand, and a hot weapon makes an actor look cool. When a Colin Farrell's Sonny Crockett delivers strategic impact with a Sig Sauer 552 Commando assault rifle, or a Jamie Foxx's Tubbs pulls the latter, and a snub-nosed Smith & Wesson, and then unloads a Benelli M4 shotgun, and gets away a Heckler & Koch 69 grenade launcher, you know you are in “action” heaven.

Compare our wars and our films. What is the vector? What impact does the mass appeal of filmed violence have on the massing of troops? Are we headed toward a better world of Technology? Or are we marching toward Death – the opposite of “action”? What is the learning of the burning, the “attacks” all over the world, the wielding of guns and rockets?

The real vector is the Medium, and the Medium is not what is being shot, but what is doing the shooting. The “real” action is behind, not in front of, the camera. Surely it is no surprise that the First Adopters of each civilization meeting another -- at any time or place in history, whether East/West, Cowboy/Indian, Arab/Persian -- are usually at the Weapon systems.

Well, do not be fooled. The modern weapon of choice is not actually the Cruise Missile or, on the ground, the always and overtly politically-self-correcting Barrett .50-caliber M107 semiautomatic sniper rifle. The real weapon of the true warrior is not an RPG, and certainly not the IED or the suicide vest. True warriors never target the weak and defenseless. The real weapon in today’s theater is the semi-cinematic wide-screen moving field of fire FILM! Headline: We shoot bulletins! The guy with the biggest CAMERA is who wins. It is not what was hit down-range from a Gun-sight, but what got the most “hits” on a Web-site, that determines who comes out ahead. The good soldier should blog, not slog.

It is true that there is always a Great War declared by, oh, shall we say, people who have power and want too much, or by people who have little and want more. Whoever seizes power, whoever understands the vacuum of power, whether George Bush, Osama bin Laden, or any of the post-Hitler post-Stalin post-Pot post-Castro contenders. Many people are still, and will always be, obsessed by things that go Boom. They are "stuck" in there. The age of "bombers" and assassins is SO pre-WWI, so pre-dot-com. People living in caves and Pentagons are still looking for Archdukes and scapegoats. The REAL WEAPONS, and the REAL WARRIORS know this, and are working the cameras and networks. They put video on their bloggerheads.

The guns are simply props. are no longer the REAL weapons. Of course, guns are bewitching. That is Why they are in the film. And Guns continue to play a role in luring us to that dream of a quick-fix, the real curative, the device which will annihilate all enemies. Of course, the weapon which will do this is not, and cannot be, a killing device. What can you annihilate with a gun? With an atomic bomb? Guns and bombs do not "destroy" the REAL ENEMY. They change nothing in the World. What the guns provide today are “special effects”. Their contribution is to the scene, basically the noise as they unload, with some visual interest particularly at night. At best, the guns are theater, extensions of the hand and a lethal personality. The suicide vest is effective as a crowd pleaser – yes, THAT crowd.

The Technology has already advanced far beyond mere firepower. Gun-running is like "farming" compared to what is now happening on the Net today: It may occur, it may even be necessary, but it is not what young men are actually trying to unleash -- Websites, MySpace, piracy on the high seas of the many-waved Web, adventure in wealth acquisition, the annihilation of enemies.....

Oh we still revel in the detonators and the infantile eagerness to “blow the bridge”, or the shopping mall, whatever. But pull on up: It is the stratospheric FILM of the missile dropping down the chimney of Saddam Hussein’s HQ that moved us, all of us.

We still remember Dirty Harry leveling that long-barreled Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum because it was a film in which Clint Eastwood played an avenging arch-angel for our beliefs! It is the Film, not the side-arm, not the star himself, which is the most effective “weapon” against the evil-doers. Theater as extension of our Mind: Make my Play.

Why doesn’t the Pentagon understand this? Why aren’t they subsidizing the use of new technology to introduce theatrical arts – compositions of music, of creativity, new ways to digitalize creation and destruction instead of actually destroying. Or...maybe they do. Maybe their combat teams are secretly billeting with film crews. Maybe the “talent” is secretly subsidized.

The tribes who have declared themselves our enemies, the Iranians and Arabs, and in various ways the Chinese and Russians. These are great peoples, with great civilizations. They long ago sent their finest to America, where these people gathered with the Indians and the Vikings, the Celts, and the kings of Ethiopia and Judea, and somehow all of them figured out how to depict their dreams on the stages of the world, on the sets they built out of historical scratch they found in their pockets, and come to digitalize it, and then to spin it on reels, and in 3-D DVD diskettes, in living room theaters everywhere, to play it, to dream it, again and again!

As violent, as funny and tragic as we get, what we are doing is sharing ... our dreams. We still have enemies, but they are personal, not tribal. Our tribal enemies can only weep. Because “we” – from every tribe of the world – have won. And now, they have no choice, to surrender and celebrate their victory.

We will blow them up. We will blow ourselves up. Again and again. Because it is a movie. It is our virtual destiny. It is not real. We can only weep and laugh. And play it again: Make my Play-Station.

COMMENTS:

Credits to Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist sportsman Dan Neil for “identifying what the fashionable young man is killing people with this season” in the film industry. He has a quick eye for spotting, and indulging the pleasure of, the technological extensions we wear. My thanks to his article “Trigger Happy”, West Magazine (“magazine”!) August 27, 2006, page 45.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Myth as a Source...of What?

Now in this flowering node of time and space, at the Zwischenstufe or "between-ness" which all spans of consciousness inhabit, we continue to enjoy the story-telling of our elders, the scheming tales of our sachems, the comprehensive collections of the Brothers Grimm, the recent soupcon of the late Campbell on Heroes, and the "new" myths of Mohammed, Huehuemoxtezuma, Dante, Smith, and Mao woven into values, with appreciation for the breadth of our breathless chronicles, the invoked pastiche, the onion that flavors both the boil and the cooling broth of our bodies over which Odin's ravens -- memory and thought -- constantly circle, invisible, flying, emanating as they do, from a brain which is buried alive. Ultimately, of course, what we discover in Myth is not wisdom, but the cruelty and gratification of the hunting story. And the hunt continues....

The leitmotif of all myth is predation. The hunt is for a future. We hunt for our future, and we are greatly relieved to see that it resembles the past. But as we kill it, and our sustenance always involves death, we necessarily soak it in myth to disguise the act, to quiet the keening of the dying, the loss. Myth is our great In-source of Evil, the occupied land we are destined to call our hunting ground.

When we feed, we kill. To live, we must destroy something. We worry it to ground. For this, not for the task but for the consequences, we must find a redeemer. Redemption only comes from “feeling better” after our stomach is full. Redeemers rarely hunt, never bring wood or prey to our fire, but they eat our food, and then offer to make us "feel better" about what we had to do. It works. Because all the effective Redeemers – all our “authorities”– those we worship, respect, adore, and follow toward the promised Golden Age which is our perpetual myth – offer vengence, and revenge is the secret key to our relief. Consider this, that the hunt is about Taking life, and it is blaming or re-directing blame, which enables us to digest and keeps us alive. Vengence is the counterpoise. It is our only relief from the “sense” of justice which cries out. It muffles the screams, makes the killing humdrum. Vengence is normalcy restored.

We are trapped in Evil – on both sides of the coin, a bicameral guilt: We kill, and then we find redemption by calling the death revenge. We are deeply enamored of Evil. We are grateful to Evil. It buries our dead. The victim is always blameworthy, or worthy of killing, in an Evil homeland. Our Nibelungen hand-wringing cycle is met with a song. Myth is the marinade in which we soak our meat. Myth is our Memory working with its ravenous twin, Imagination, so that we can forget enough to successfully hunt again.

This is the badly-kept secret of all "homelands", hierarchies, “cultures”, and egos.

And now that Science has enabled as to utterly annihilate our prey, and has brought us Death on a platter, on a planetary scale, and we ourselves are hunted by "suicide bombers" with no appreciation for irony but only for Myth, for Evil, we can now clearly see what we die for. Now we arrive at the point were we require more of our Redeemers than we have in the past. We can no longer be content with vengence.

Monday, August 14, 2006

A moment of reflection:

EXPERIMENTAL REFLECTIONS: August 14, 2006

1. DIGITAL LIBRARIES. Over publishers’ protests, Google is digitalizing large library collections: Harvard, Stanford, Oxford, the NY Public Library....

2. IMPERIAL JAPANESE MILITARY. Mindful of atrocities committed in the 1930's, and while sending armed troops to Iraq, Japan continues to surprise the world, almost as if it was not a part of the rest of the world....still no actual funded reparations or “apology” for Nanking, for stockpiles of WMD poison and gas weapons abandoned in China, for “comfort women”, for Bataan. For exterminating most of the whales, strip mining the Pacific. No apology? Is it because they suffered the worst civilian bombing, and the dropping of not one but two atomic weapons, and were lined up to receive 8 more, basically treated like insects by MacArthur? Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution still prohibits its use of armed forces except for defense? Should not ALL Constitutional countries insert such a Clause? Is there a sovereign “right” to invade others?

3. WHOSE RUNNING THE WEB? In the late 1990s, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) run by the US Department of Commerce was supposed to begin turning control of the servers underlying the Internet over to...well, no one ever figured out who.

4. ARAFAT’S SUCCESSOR. In 2005, Mahmoud Abbas took over after Arafat. We still do not know how Arafat became a billionaire several times over, where his fortune ended up, how Abbas got his wealth and built a 4-story mansion on land intended as a public park. Is corruption not clearly evident? In history, has any gang other than the “leaders” of the Palestinians ever taken larger sums of money – 100's of billions from the Saudis alone – with less to “show” for it?

5. THE MISRAHI JEWS. Millions of Jews have been forced to leave all of the “Arab” lands. Many more Israelis are “refugees” than Arabs, even if you count the Arabs who are fleeing Arab countries (countries other than Israel) for any reason. If you count the Christian Arabs – the maronites, the chaldeans – and if you count the Shiites and Sunnis who have been fleeing from each other – all of these exceed the number of Palestinians who “fled” – or voluntarily left, or some combination – from Israel during a time of war.

6. ARABS. The Arabs have always been important and have long been numerous. They are like Germans – gifted, brave, and quick to resort to tribal yearnings for a glorious past that never was. More fearful than Jews of the horrors of “humiliation”. Does the world really owe any people a dignity which they seem to gain only in conquest? Can’t we just be humble together? Do we have to worry about your failures, or worse, your conquests?

7. NO MENTION OF “JERUSALEM” IN THE KORAN. The Koran is now digitized and entirely searchable. No “truth” about it is more evident than that it is not what it is claimed to be by its adherents. Most of it contains very unclear Suras, proclamations which were at one time important, and even reformist; but which are now not ‘relevent’. In spite of the name of the “religion”, there are no suras about how to make Peace happen. None. Nor does it justify race-hatred against any People. Nor does it claim Palestine; not even Jerusalem, for Arabs. Nor does it tell women and men to cover themselves completely so that everyone looks like a sack. The name – Koran -- is used for ulterior motives by ignorant and cruel men.

8. THE GOSPELS. Such Good News here: bad advice--"love everyone"-- with a good example, but, worse for wear, and entirely ignored as to its finer points. Jesus, the Zionist, hell-bent to liberate Israel from the peace of the Romans, driven to try even the most extreme weapon of all: Love. They laughed this movement off the stage – there is no record of Jesus in contemporary archeological remains. However, human “story” often has an odd “twist”, and there is no better example in the history of religion: Jesus clearly, clearly, did not claim to be divine – “why callest me Good Master? None is good, save one, that is, God”. [Luke 18.19]. Jesus admonished all, but especially the rulers, to live a life of humility and indigency: “Sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor...and follow me” [Jesus was living without any possessions]. [Luke 18.22.] Just before crucifiction, three instructions. You can count the “Christians” doing even one of these things today, on one hand.

9. THE KURDS / KURDISTAN. Why is it so inconceivable that the Kurds should have their own country? What threat would a Kurdistan be to Turkey, as a buffer state between Iran.

10. KARELIA? DARFUR? HURONIA? Is it too late to remediate the abuse of all minority people by building among them separate “nations”?

11. FIGHTING TERRORISTS. Keeping in mind that over 180 “lords” and noblemen lost their lives to anarchist or communist “bombers” and shooters in the year just before WWI, when Archduke Ferdinand and his dear wife were assassinated by a small revolver. I do not see much difference in the technology between the roadside or hidden bombs and small arms used today in Iraq. It also appears more sensible to fight dispersed terror networks with roving counter-networks armed with neighborhood lists of names and a “full-employment” program for young men, rather than aerial bombardment and meaningless but endless traffic inspection stops. We should painstakingly work with defectors.

12. SHIFTING BLAME. Man is a political animal. What does this mean? The largest single practical outcome of this reality is that BLAME must be assigned; it must be re-directed; blame others for what You have done. Then seize the credit for what They were doing. Ah, how many Great Men were in fact good at nothing so much as sitting on the laurels gathered by others.

13. HOMELAND SECURITY. A Trillion dollars, give or take a few billion, has been “spent” on security in the United States alone. The highest echelon of the Party talks constantly about it. Yet one of my Republican friends was recently, in response to my inquiry, unable to name one thing that has been done since 9/11 that makes me feel more secure. Richard Clarke was in charge of security under George W Bush (former Bush) and Clinton and wrote a book: “Against All Enemies: Inside America’s War on Terror”. He is very critical of George Bush and the policies now in place. For example, firearms policy is dictated by the NRA, the new Energy Act gives priority to building fossil and nuclear facilities, immigration is designed to provide low-wage domestic workers, and health care of the elderly requires so many choices you have to be a full-time lawyer to be old and sick.

14. LEGACY OF KATRINA. Al Gore, still ahead of his time, now leading a fine charge against the destruction of our blue boat home. But he is still not approaching the problem “politically”. I am not sure why a small handful of boys (Bush, Rowe, Cheney) with the social maturity of 11 year olds are such a problem to adult contenders.