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.
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.
- 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.