Tuesday, March 27, 2007

PROTEST YOUTH

Tom Engelhardt reports on his experience at the recent anti-war march (“Demobilizing America: Outsourcing Action in an Imperial World”, (www.truthout.org/docs_2006/032607H.shtml.) and on his site TomDispatch.com.

He mentions the curious fact that of all the blabbering pundits still around who a couple-three years ago told us that war in ze East would be a righteous slam-dunk, almost all of them are still around demanding to be taken seriously, still outshouting the couple of commenters who turned out to have been right then and (presumably) now (he mentions Jonathan Schell and James Carroll).

It is odd. It reminds me: guess who constituted one of the earliest and most vehemently barred groups of Americans who tried to volunteer for service with the military at the outset of Da Good War?

No, not them. Nope, not them either. It was “anti-fascists”. Yes, you read right. If you had gone to Spain a few years before and fought Hitler and Mussolini there then – sorry, pal – the Army didn’t want you in 1940 or 1941. G’wan home, the whole a’yez!

And why? The official reason was – wait for it – “premature antifascism”. And – No, that’s not a sexual or psychosexual disorder. If you had seen that Hitler was a lethal whackjob too early, and had the get-up-and-go to go do something about it, then you weren’t what the US military was looking for.

In other words, if you were independently-minded enough to see a vicious whackjob for what he really was while Henry Ford and a number of Congressmen and senior officers were still impressed with his production figures and his vote-getting and his uniforms, and if you then also had the independence of will to actually change your life by crossing the sea to fight on foreign soil against him and his flunkies … waaaaal, then you probably weren’t soldier-material.

And ya know – I think the Army was maybe mostly right. Too much independence is not what they want at ze front.

Youth … now that’s one of those curious phenomena: seems independent, but really it’s not. Independence isn’t something that comes with youth; being truly ‘free’ and being able to appreciate ‘liberty’ is not something that is very easy for the young to do. It’s not their fault – it’s just that it takes a long time to mature the soul, the spirit, the psyche, the self to the point where ‘otium’ can become ‘schole’, where time-to-burn becomes constructive ‘leisure’. So they don’t call it the ‘infanterie’ for nothing: you want young soldiers because they really haven’t got a handle on how to embody or to live-out their ‘freedom’. Or you want ‘older’ soldiers who never really grew up or who had their hopes dashed out of them and are equally open to becoming pieces of military sculpture.

And yes – you can ‘fight for’ freedom without knowing what it really is or without being able – as they say in the military – to ‘platform’ it. And that’s even before the stress and the awfulness degrades whatever platforming-capacity you brought with you in the first place. You may come back having ‘earned’ your place in society without actually being able to sustain a societal life.

We have evolved or devolved into a curiously skewed society that is simultaneously too old and too young. It doesn't value the gifts of maturity - those same gifts upon which solid democratic praxis is built and by which it is sustained; consequently far too many adults see themselves only as ex-children, and miss it. As if we were nothing but a nation of ex-child stars. We are youth-defined and youth-obsessed (sorta a lot like what is found to be so repulsive in the sex-offenders).

Meanwhile, we are also sorta crazed in the intensity of our seeking to provide them (as if we were the gods) with 'perfect' and 'total' security and perfect childhoods. Perhaps this is an attempt to compensate for the actual God (or gods) recently deconstructed in the service of the assorted revolutions. Perhaps this is a symptom of the Flatness of the modern American 'world', where nothing lasts and nothing exists beyond surfaces and appearances, and so Meaning-hungry folks try to cram that Flat monodimension with as much 'stuff' and 'activity' as they can.

And all the while long lines of the children 'raised' in this foggy, foreshortened, Flattened, gadget-stuffed 'world' are heading off into the brutal clarity of the classroom presided over by Ares Ferox et Atrox.

So that’s why We most certainly now have Our work cut out for us in the matter of returning vets: they’ve seen way too much, done way too much, in this monstrous cauldron of 4th Generation Warfare and a long, losing campaign. They’re coming back much the worse for the wear and it’s on Us because it was Our word – spoken through the reptile lips of the Unitarium – that sent them over into that lethal mess.

Of all the debts We have incurred in the past few years – and their name is Legion – the debt We owe to Our returnees is one of the most significant. Did we think credit cards and mortgages were the only form of debt? Not hardly.

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