Monday, March 30, 2015

Duel of the Death Cults

(Author’s Note: I’m trying to integrate more of my sense of humor into the blog, so this essay may sound more like James Howard Kunstler than John Michael Greer.)

ISIS (or “ISIL” or “The So-Called Islamic State” or “The Pseudo-Islamic Terrorist Jamboree”) is the answer to the Military-Industrial Complex’s prayers. They even come with their own scary name that makes them sound like an evil organization bent on world domination in the James Bond-iverse. (Maybe they got the idea from Archer.) 

How could anyone be opposed to bombing a group that beheads aid workers and indiscriminately slaughters women and children? They’re clearly beyond reason. Diplomacy loses the little viability the U.S. government is still willing to give it, leaving the military option as the only one left on the table. When you have the world’s biggest hammer, how could you pass up a nail as big and juicy as this one?

By now, it should come as no surprise that each new U.S. military intervention in the Middle East spawns an even more diabolical, fiendish, Hitler-y group than the last. Since at least World War 2, we’ve provided extremely generous support for their cartoonishly evil dictators and, when those get overthrown or disobedient, military interventions that have an irritating habit of killing millions of the people we’re supposed to be liberating. When the only options you give Arabs are tyranny or death, is it any wonder they keep producing death cults? 

And it’s not like we’ve been setting a great example for these “barbaric,” “backwards” people who are supposed to be stuck in the 12th century. Our foreign policy has hardly been a paragon of virtue where they’re concerned. Despite our best intentions, we keep killing a lot of the people we’re trying to save. Of course, we’re using military means to achieve peace and justice, an approach with a terrible track record. You’d think that, if we really wanted to bestow our gifts of Democracy and Capitalism on this poor, benighted region, we’d try something else.

It’s almost like we don’t care about these people. It’s almost like we just wanna get their oil and use it to keep ruling the world. But that can’t be true! We’ve all heard our leaders explain their desire for freedom for all of God’s creatures. Maybe a few million people have gotten hurt by our attempts to help them, but that’s to be expected when our enemies are cowardly enough to disguise themselves as civilians. When the other side won’t fight fair, what choice do we have? 

If our leaders bothered to crack a history book from outside the approved canon, they might discover that American violence has the same properties as most other brands of violence. That is, it has the tendency to beget more violence. The military is only suited to reproduce itself, like some geopolitical Easter Bunny, sowing the seeds of terrorism with each bomb, airstrike and boot on the ground. They crave enemies and need to keep creating progressively more monstrous “terrorists” to justify their titanic (connotation intended) budget and the continuing support of the American public.

They also need this domestic support for intervention because their Middle Eastern clients aren’t as enthused about U.S. “assistance” as they used to be. The Gulf States’ wealth has freed them from American dependence, and now they’ve taken the wheel. But, instead of abandoning the U.S.-approved path of oppression, they’ve put the pedal to the metal and are taking that road all the way to medieval times (and I’m not talkin’ about the theme restaurant!). The “Arab street” isn’t that crazy about returning to the 12th century, but the elite seem to have a fetish for it.

There’s an abundance of like-minded rulers in the region for the Pentagon to work with, plenty o’ potentates who can’t wait to unleash holy hell on the other side’s devils. Ironically, the mounting failures of our campaign in the Middle East are encouraging the continuation of this moronic, militaristic policy. It makes me wonder how many Americans remember what happened yesterday, much less anything from those heady early days of The Global War on Terror, lo, these 13 years ago. 

As long as we remain in a state of geopolitical amnesia, the Powers That Be in the USA will keep dragging us back into the Middle East’s Vortex of Death. The fact that they’ve done the most to create it has been downplayed by the MSM (Mainstream Media). But now the status and composition of our alliances can only be determined through the interpretation of tea leaves. The absurdity of our foreign policy is becoming undeniable, even in the credulous corridors of corporate news. 

We may be approaching a moment when sunshine will burst through the fog of propaganda and reveal even more truth than that which flooded the streets of New Orleans and Ferguson. Of course, the elite will work quickly to cobble the fa├žade of normalcy back together. But, with preparation and organization, we could squeeze some significant changes into the status quo before they slap it back together.

"The Archdruid Report" Study Group

I set up a group on Meetup for people in the Twin Cities metro area. The first meeting is this Easter Sunday, April 5th at 3pm in Bob's Java Hut, which is located in Uptown Minneapolis at 2651 Lyndale Ave S. Hope to see ya there!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Twin Cities Archdruid Report Study Group

If anyone in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul is interested, I'd like to start a weekly "Archdruid Report" study group. I've been reading the blog religiously for years, so I figure I might as well get together with some like-minded folks and talk about it. Having JMG respond to my comments every now and then is all well and good, but it'd be nice to discuss the themes face-to-face in real time with people on the physical plane of existence.

I frequent the coffee shops of Uptown, so that would be my first choice of meeting location. Sunday afternoon is my preferred meeting time, but that's also flexible. If yer keen, comment on this post.

Thanx,
Mick

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Dustbin of History


"History is more or less bunk. It's tradition. We don't want tradition. We want to live in the present, and the only history that is worth a tinker's damn is the history that we make today." –Henry Ford, 1916 


Aldous Huxley mocked the quote above in Brave New World, and it has come in for a fair amount of ridicule in many quarters. But, in the century since Ford made his pronouncement, our culture has largely agreed with him. We think our situation is unprecedented and that the future will be even more unprecedented. According to the myth of Progress, Technology has freed us from the earthly concerns that complicated and, usually, immiserated our ancestors’ lives. We have, in effect, slipped the surly bonds of History and are on our way to touch the face of God. 

This may be why history is possibly the most neglected subject in our schools, which is saying something, given their overall piss-poor state. But this historical blindness also serves the interests of Empire. We don’t want our children to know how we really came by all this wealth and power. In most cases, we don’t even want to know ourselves. Such inconsequential matters are best left in the Dustbin of History. We’d rather believe that our good fortune is the result of our predecessors’ heroism.

But, as the Empire declines, the level of self-delusion and ignorance required to preserve this fiction grows. For instance, during the Cold War, the U.S. was able to control the Middle East’s oil through client regimes: the Shah in Iran, Egypt’s military dictatorship and the Saudi royal family. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, we’ve needed direct military intervention to keep a firm grip on the region, with rapidly diminishing returns and growing blowback. It’s more difficult to maintain the facade of imperial benevolence at home when Americans are killing and dying abroad in conflicts that have an increasingly tenuous connection to national security.

Another factor is the continuing impoverishment of the American middle and working classes. Our loyalty to the imperial project has essentially been bought with its proceeds, but now more of that wealth is being diverted to the rich. As our share in the imperial bonanza shrinks, we’re less willing to go along with the program and more willing to see the evil in it. We, the “internal proletariat,” see our own circumstances reflected in the plight of the “external proletariat,” those who have been exploited for our enrichment. Throughout history, these groups have made common cause to topple empires and will likely do so again to bring down the U.S. version. 

But good luck finding anyone in power aware of this probability. The Memory Hole is now so big in elite American circles that it threatens to swallow our past whole. Each day’s newspaper is printed on a blank canvas, nearly free of context, as if the world were born yesterday. The media strip our world of its historical baggage, erasing imperial crimes and restoring the Empire to a state of Edenic grace. There is some history, but it has been refreshed, revised and edited to fit the current imperial agenda. The fall of the Soviet Union may have saved us from the overt social control of Orwell’s 1984, but it didn’t kill the propaganda machine that still shapes our reality and, thus, our behavior. 

The interests of Empire and Progress thereby dovetail. They both need us to ignore the past. “Don’t look over your shoulder,” they warn. “Something may be gaining on you.” For Progress, the shadows stalking our steps are Death, Decay and Decline. Progress tries to ease our fear of mortality by promising that our legacies will be carried on forever through the immortality of our society. History is the enemy of this faith, littered as it is with the ruins of civilizations that asserted their own invincibility with similarly unshakable certainty.

For Empire, the chimera nipping at our heels is the ghost of our victims: the Native Americans we steamrolled in fulfilling our Manifest Destiny, the Southeast Asians we carpet-bombed to defeat the Domino Theory, the Middle Easterners we assassinate via drone in the oxymoronic (and officially abandoned) Global War on Terror. Our imperial guilt must be continually repressed by assurances of our good intentions. This requires a thorough whitewashing of history, a process that is renewed each day in the mainstream media and chased with a flood of mind-numbing entertainment to drown any lingering doubts.

The Empire’s days are already numbered when it’s forced to shift from diplomacy to military action as its primary means of retaining power. This renders its propaganda transparent, inducing a crisis of faith among the imperial citizens and convincing many of them to withdraw their moral support from the imperial project. Very few will remove their material support, due to their dependence on the imperial system, but their moral objections are enough to create a “brain drain.” Having become disillusioned with the Empire, many of its most gifted citizens will therefore avoid careers in politics or civil service, leaving the ship of state to be steered by people whose loyalty outstrips their intellect. (Insert your own George W. Bush joke here.)

Luckily, the elite are chockfull of people with little interest in or knowledge of History. It’s a subject that seems to have no effect on their lives. Like the Too-Big-To-Fail banks, they’ve been protected from the consequences of their actions by the transfer of those costs onto the rest of society. They prefer the official imperial history, the sanitized version that glorifies their greed and flatters their vanity. The truth is considered rude conversation in polite society and is gratefully forgotten or swept under the rug.

Thus the Empire descends into anti-intellectualism. Leadership becomes a matter of following your “gut instincts” and ignoring the cowardly, four-eyed naysayers. The mainstream no longer has anything but contempt for “eggheads” who question the wisdom of its leaders with facts. Special scorn is reserved for those who suggest that the Empire is treading a well-worn path of self-destruction. History, showing as it does the folly of the elite, must be wrong. At this point, only the obedient and dim-witted are allowed into the inner sanctum to sing the Empire’s praises.

By losing any patience with dissent, the Empire and Progress seal their fate. To understand how the process plays out with Progress, all that is needed is to change “political elite” to “scientific elite” and change “four-eyed” and “egghead” to “wild-eyed” and “loose cannon.” The open debate that once ensured a rigorous formulation of policy (or theory) is replaced with an echo chamber in which the mistakes of the past are repeated and reinforced in a positive feedback loop. Proving George Santayana right yet again, the elite are doomed by their ignorance of History to take their place in its Dustbin.