Tuesday, August 12, 2008

ILLUSIONS VICTORIOUS

Allons, allons, enfants de la patrie! Marchons, marchons, citoyens! We march under the flapping banner of the Illusions Victorious!

Over on Tom Dispatch, the acute and balanced retired Colonel and now-professor, Andrew Bacevich, examines the key ‘illusions’ through infatuation to which We proceeded to Iraq as confidently as Custer advanced down into the Little Bighorn that nice June afternoon. “Illusions of Victory”, (http://www.tomdispatch.com/). Also on Truthout: http://www.truthout.org/article/illusions-victory.

Illusions … in this age of ‘Narratives’, when ‘stories’ trump facts and spin trumps analysis, when ‘stories’ make history and the fact-dependent can simply stand by and watch, well … a couple-three things occur to me.

First, it’s no wonder that this country has been having a hard time distinguishing facts from reality. Human nature has always been subject to illusions, emanating from others around one or from deep within oneself. That, alas, is a fact. (Yes, I am – and I do now admit and confess – dependent.) But for most of human history that weakness was known and acknowledged; thus informed, the wily soul-captain could keep a watchful eye out for the ship’s tendency to ‘illuse’ and avoid or even compensate for it, thereby avoiding avoidable distractions and disasters.

But with the Identities’ (and the Dems’) embrace of that all-corrosive ‘deconstruction’, ‘stories’ replaced ‘facts’ as the decisive fuel for policy and – oy gevalt – civil and criminal law. We are now indeed a storybook culture, but in a far more dark and ominous sense than Louis B. Mayer ever dreamed of. Though the Warners on their better days kind of sensed.

It was the ‘Narrative’ of a benevolent and necessarily all-encompassing ‘revolution’ that propelled Marxism and Leninism even unto the darkest ends of Stalinism’s total-security, total-information earth. It was the storied promise of Germany’s re-emergence as a great power and the necessary revenge upon her humiliators – coupled with a promise of economic security – that lubricated Hitler’s last-minute rise to Ultimate Unitary Executive Authority.

Stories are marvelous things, drawing as they do on the human spirit’s unquenchable capacity for desire and vision. But they are like aircraft; they have to be flown – they don’t ‘stay up’ naturally. If you wish to take a ‘Narrative’ into your life, commit to a personal or societal or national ‘story’, then you’d a) better make sure it’s sturdy enough and b) you’d better plan to keep a close eye on it. Visions, like the proverbial horse, can sometimes run away with the meat wagon.

And while children and youth famously dream dreams, it takes a mensch – no genderism intended – to operate a vision. It takes maturity and a steady and strong mind to harness and manage the horse called vision. And this is all the more so if you’ve embraced a life-encompassing Narrative, and – by accepting that the Narrative has a basis and thus an authority above and beyond Space and Time – if you’ve embraced the Clydesdale called Vision. This is no country for young folk. Not without mature folk to give them a start first. Dude, how dated ammmmm I?

That being said, it stuns how un-mature Our national leadership – Our elites (so-called) have become. From national politicians to high-level government bosses to high-ranking military officers to ‘journalists’ and pundits formerly known – and with appropriate constitutional appreciation – as ‘the free press’.

But of course, the nice thing about democracy is that you get the government you deserve, as somebody once said who is even older than Rumsfeld. Our government is such a zoo of unripe chimps and chimpesses because – well – because We are so unripe. And because We think that being unripe is kind of a … ummmm … virtue. Maybe even an achievement. Which is very much akin to a child figuring that having produced his/her first steaming pile, then the pinnacle of development had been reached, and – impressively – rather early-on, doncha think? Oy. And We are sitting on top of nukular weppins? Ach!

How anybody imagined that We could “maintain global pre-eminence” and remain The Big Enchilada without sufficient maturity to grasp the operational differences between facts and stories, without the sufficient interior chops to manage Our visions and Our Vision (to the extent that there’s one left) … inquiring minds will want to know at the post-mortem. ‘Succumbed to 3rd-rate-ness after its People declined to un-ripeness’, the Final Report might read in that basement morgue of the Castle called ‘History’, still very much in business despite previous assertions of its demise or non-existence.

Second, Bacevich points out what nobody of his status and achievement has ever dared to point out, certainly not in the past sixty years: our military is not invincible. It is no secret, although not widely realized here in God’s Country, that the Greatest Generation would have had a lot more dubious time of it there on the Western Front after Normandy, if they had had to face a reasonably intact Wehrmacht, undistracted and undrained by the stupendous war on their Eastern Front against the unparalleled Red Army.

American males – despite feministical assertions to the contrary – are not really adept maniacal killers. Ferocity does not come easily to them, and sustained ferocity is simply not in the American panoplium at all. Those gimlet-eyed half-children of the Civil War – now they might have had somewhat of the ability, tossed into that inferno without benefit of decent medicine or battery-operated consolations, fortified by the short sharpness of this life and the assurance of Another. But modern Americans as a rule do not ferocitize in militarily reliable terms.

Which is why there is a highly dubious and so spiritually and emotionally dangerous interest in ‘special forces’ and ‘mercenaries’, elite but small units that can indeed inhabit their Inner Chimp, their Inner Baboon even, for long periods. Bless their hearts for trying, but the whole idea is simply a more person-oriented version of the German idea that when you’re outnumbered and fighting enemies all around you and can’t afford to let large-scale operations drag on, then preventive terror is the best way to keep your subject populations docile and save your combat troops for the big stuff.

How much Our leadership elites have come to represent those of the late Duce and the late Fuhrer: strutting, unripe, kinda hairless and pasty-faced and doughy, cocky about the ability of ‘their’ glorious forces (but not their own well-fed selves) to go and obliterate all resistance. Nor have the females among them on the bandstand done much to improve matters, contrary to what We were assured some decades ago.

And just how debauched have We become? So debauched that – in a quietly stupendous observation – Bacevich opines that Tom Brady and not Pat Tillman is a more accurate incarnation of the current national conception of what a genuine ‘patriot’ is. He is spot-on correct – and the fact is, or should be, repulsive to Us. In some older cultures, sackcloth and ashes would be the immediate order of the day, and a Day of Prayer proclaimed. But ‘order’ and ‘prayer’ aren’t around anymore, and that can hardly be a coincidence. Nor are We spackled up by the dense resistances of this mortal coil, nor burnished by mastering ourselves so as to meet its challenges, nor raised up by the promise of Another life.

Thus We have sunk, pasty and dough-souled, into the flat, fleshy folds of this one.

For the moment texting and shopping and a thousand and two multi-tasks keep Us moving, and no doubt the challenging project of tracking Tom’s or Giselle’s stats. But We are reverting backwards to a state similar to Frankenstein’s artifact: electrically alive with twitching muscles, but without brain or soul. If this keeps up, having a Unitary Executive to manage Our lives might seem like a good, even necessary, idea. Perhaps some ‘elite’ thinker will assert that We even have a ‘right’ to be ruled-over. Which, if memory serves, is where the Israelites first went wrong.

So it seems that some serious Hearkening is in order. The alarm bells are going off all over America, and they ain’t just new ideas for ring-tones.

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