I've been traveling, and a bit out of touch in general for the past few weeks. But reality has come crashing back in, hard, stinking and unannounced. While bunking with Luke in portland I took in more television than I usually do in a month of Brooklyn dwelling, and in reading small-town newspapers and observing the world on parade before me I've been exposed to a much broader spectrum of the American experience than I usually have access to. My observations have been more than a little disquieting.
I've become fond lately of likening popular entertainment to a sewer, but I'm quite uncomfortable with finding out my denunciations are dead on rather than alarmist and ahead of their time. Lies and vugarity abound. The millitary is everywhere in popular culture, and insiduously so as well. I notice few outright recruitment ads -- fewer, anyway, than I remember as a youth -- but millitary personnel and themes are pervasive, working their way into the mainstream consciousness. Beyond that, crass commercialism and manipulative exploitation are more naked and open than I ever remember. Surely this is partly due to my own emerging consciousness, but I also believe it to be change in the environment as well; a trend, if you will. Have you ever seen so many goddamn ads for diamonds in your life?
The other night, my friend David showed me the videogame SOCOM, an online Navy Seal vs. Terrorists combat simulation for the Playstation 2. Thousands of people around the world were online and playing when we fired it up at 11pm PST. It's grand fun, chasing down people from the central timezone. You wear a little headset and can talk to your team-mates, and I realize that this -is- the future of entertainment. The addictive pull is strong for me after only a few minutes of play. I want to improve, develop tactics, gun down my distant real-live opponents. I am the cream of the target audience, and they've scored a direct hit.
I realize the Pentagon must have a huge hard-on just thinking about the confused pot-head teens who will grow up playing this game and others like it. Perhaps 80% will be too out of shape to make muster as combat troops, but many will surely qualify as remote drone operators. Even though the vast majority are unlikely to ever be sucessfully recruited, they will have become accustomed to the millitary paradigm. A great public ready for endless war.
At the same time, 9 out of 10 Americans already believe that conflict with Iraq is inevitable and 60% support the use of nuclear weapons in response to biological or chemical attacks. How did atomic bombs become equated with nerve gas I'd like to know? They're both horrible, but certainly not symmetrical in their destructive prowess or apocalyptic after-effects. It looks like a long, slow slide into battle is what's being planned. Take our time, do it right, make sure the Marines are still on the march when the election rolls around. As I type this I wonder if I'm becoming paranoid, but it's the only logical conclusion I can draw from the available evidence. It's no longer believable that the whole administration is frightened and confused and acting rashly to protect the American homeland. What is going on now is deliberate and calculated and at best misguided if not outright evil.
And the American left is nowhere. The anti-war resistance will continue to rally in large numbers, but with the continued ignorance/hostility of the mass media, and the inevitable internal power-struggles and enmity that all disorganized large groups breed, I don't see the coalitions that have been built as yet having even a faint hope of stopping the People In Charge from doing what they want. I'm rather pessimistic of our chances of success given the current situation and prevailing tactics. That doesn't mean I won't be there with bells on, but the personal cost for me to do so is quite low. Were this a war rather than a civil debate I would desert. We lack leadership, we lack vision, we lack a plan or a prayer for victory. We may be right -- and in the long run that is our (only?) ace in the hole -- but the right people have been vanquished many times in history.
All around me I see the profound failure of imagination and virtue. I see greed, hoarding, avarice and lies from all the aproved sources. Thankfully my family and friends are strong, and from them I draw no small amount of solidarity and comfort, but I cannot escape the sensation of mental persecution, the feeling of living in a hostile environment. Allowing myself to follow this well-worn line of thought, I begin to teeter between wanting to work to improve that environment and simply wanting to escape to a better place. It's a long-standing debate I have with myself, and I doubt it will be resolved any time soon. Currently I lean towards staying and trying to make a difference, cultural problems have cultural solutions, but the more I try the more fursterating it is. I begin to think that maybe the way to make a difference is to vacate the current environment and take enough people with me that it causes a stir. I'm not talking about cults or expatriation or mass-suicide, but a kind of cutural line in the sand, a way of saying "Enough. We will not do this anymore." What this really is I do not know, but I can feel -- we all can feel -- something slouching towards us to be born.