“This Fucking War”

Posted on 14/07/2011 by

2


A few days ago I was having coffee with a friend, and she told me about one of her friends who just lost a son in Afghanistan. “This fucking war… I don’t know why we’re even there,” she said sotto voce. “It’s not like we’re going to change their culture,” she added.

It’s not like we’re going to change their culture…

When I heard that phrase, I was floored by the pure honesty of her sentiment. That was a little microcosm of what she actually believed the US was trying to do in Afghanistan. To her, the United States was actually trying to bring about an improvement in the culture of the Afghanis. It’s very rare to hear someone, anyone, in the US be that honest in their opinions of the ongoing Endless Victories in Afghanistan. Typically the only thing one hears is either silence, “Rah rah Umurica!” sort of things which drive me to glassy-eyed distraction, or “End This War!”.

This concept was, honestly, something new to me, and it very much got my wheels spinning. I’ve never really given much consideration to what less activist-minded — or mindlessly pro-war — members of the United States population think of the Endless Victories in Afghanistan. My reason is relatively simple: what they think doesn’t matter. They don’t craft policy, they just cast these things we call ‘votes’ and try to keep a happy face when yet another corporatist flunky gets ‘elected’.

Or, to turn that on its head, I think about what the corporatist flunkies think about the latest series of Endless Victories. They are the ones who craft policy, on behalf of the real voters of the United States: the rich and powerful, otherwise known as corporations. This article from Al Jazeera, about a proposed pipeline and why the US won’t leave Afghanistan, is more in keeping with what occupies my mental activity.

The outright candidness of this remark left me dumbstruck. What does one say to a person who sees and understands the horrors which are ongoing in Afghanistan, perpetrated by the United States and its rather dimwitted stool-pidgeon allies; sees, and yet at the end of the day sees nothing but the happy face?

Part of the problem, I would assume at first, is the national psychosis which grips the United States. I write “psychosis”, because as best as I can see, that is exactly what is underlying the mental scenery of the vast majority. It is a psychosis in the manner which the people of Oceania in Nineteen Eighty-Four were psychotic: they had to hold two contradictory things at the forefront of their consciousness and hold both as being equally true, and indeed complimentary.

In the US, the two truths are as follows, to the best of my understanding. On one hand, we have “USA is and supports democracy”; on the other, we have “USA will stoop to nothing to get its way”. I should think the combination — USA is a democracy and will stoop to nothing to get its way in support of democracy — is obviously fallacious. Hence, psychosis: you have to believe, when appropriate, that two plus two equals five.

Unlike in Nineteen Eighty-Four, US citizens needn’t be tortured en masse in order to think this way. This is how Orwell got it wrong, and how Huxley in Brave New World was more accurate: the people, by and large, take up the psychosis willingly, for whatever reason. Perhaps it’s because submission to the status quo brings shiny gizmos and pretty young things to bed (best case scenario, that is).

Largely, however, I do think this collective psychosis arises, simply because it is collective. Human beings are collectivist, social animals, despite the masturbatory fantasies of Rousseau, whose ‘noble savage’ said more about his sexual desires than human development. The US population is psychotic, because it appears that largely everyone is that way; it’s a situation which developed in a cultural context. It’s the firmware, if you will, of the entire society.

Again, this is what Huxley got right: the psychosis wouldn’t be imposed a la the torture of Winston in Nineteen Eighty-Four. It would be simply ‘the way things are’, the very foundation of how reality is meant to be. “Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia”, is not so different from ‘the feelies’… but what does one get when the two are commingled?

Brave New World showed a horrible future where everyone was innocent of the horror; it was, indeed, perfectly normal. Nineteen Eighty-Four had a world of people who were conscious of the falsehood of their reality but were unconscious of that knowledge. The contemporary United States has a population which is conscious of there being horror somewhere, but so sublimely unconscious of its immediacy so as to be breathtakingly, chillingly innocent.

So, when I think of “It’s not like we’re going to change their culture”, I can only think of the Savage from Brave New World, vainly trying to be principled in a culture which accepts only total debauchery as normal. He, for the life of him, couldn’t put into words the horror of manufacturing a human being to fit a specific task (ie the Alphas, the Betas, et cetera), but knew it was a horror nonetheless. The people, for their part, couldn’t begin to see what the Savage was on about.

Returning this to Afghanistan, I truely believe that she truely believes the US is in Afghanistan to change the culture there. The innocence of this still staggers me. The Taliban, for all its ills, contented itself with stoning people, and blowing up priceless works of art, within its own borders. Why this country should have become one of the two — perhaps going on three or four — Vietnams of this epoch does not hold water in this regard. The Taliban did no worse than our redoubtable allies in Saudi Arabia, or Israel, for example.

Indeed, if one wants to talk about changing cultures, one should not look at places like Afghanistan, nor indeed to Israel or Saudi Arabia. One should look at the United States. The US is not merely content to imprison the largest number of people in the entire world [read this one, too!], nor have amongst the largest police force in the entire world. It cannot seem to be sufficiently entertained with brutalising, or even shooting, its citizens when the fancy strikes its soldiers and police officers.

It ships this horror, with a banally casual air, across the entire world. Those countries which it doesn’t invade outright, it at least sells weaponry to; the strife is fought by proxy, but the weapons are mostly the same.

The United States, I should think, has no foot to stand on regarding the idea of changing a culture for the better, by military occupation. Leaving aside the immorality of thinking one culture is inherently superior than another, and therefore has justification to imposing the better by military force upon the inferior, what, exactly, is the United States imposing? Is it imposing ideas of Jefferson et al., or is it imposing McDonalds et al.? There are, I believe, far more McDonalds in Afghanistan than there are schools teaching Jeffersonian democracy.

“It’s not like we’re going to change their culture” shouldn’t be the question one US citizen asks another. It should be what one Afghanistan or Iraqi citizen asks another, as they occupy the former US and attempt to civilise it. “This fucking war” might be voiced, but it shouldn’t be by a US citizen; it should be by a Palestinian, trying to show members of a psychotic society that they are truly sick, and need help.

If the world had any sense at all, it would gather itself together and invade. In that situation, at least, talk of changing cultures of racism, misogyny, violence, and terrorism would be far more legitimate. For it is the US which has military bases strung across the world, lusting after a chimera it calls “Full Spectrum Dominance”; the rest of the world does not have bases in the United States.

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Posted in: Analysis