13 January 2011

A Sizable Down-Payment on Dictatorship

Tucson, AZ - Yes, I know that in every society, in every age, there have always been folks who are maladjusted, morbidly depressed, violently deranged, psychotic, even psychopathic. What I'm not so sure of is whether the majority of them have always acted upon their torments in quite this modern manner - in these formulaic, imitative, repetitive ways. Though I will tell you what impresses me most about our recent US innovations on the age-old theme of violent madness: It's the degree of planning and organization that goes into it all - days, months, in a few cases perhaps even years. And think of the choreography involved, the flair for showmanship, the penchant for self-dramatization. Clearly these are no ordinary, village-idiot-style lunatics who've been clamoring for society's attention in recent decades. And what's with the Rambo impersonations, the increasingly weird sense of calling and mission, the enacted fantasies of being some sort of avenging (or delivering) angel? Whatever happened to old-fashioned, get-it-out-of-your-system running amok? And then having no clear recollection of the time in between?

And speaking of time, why on earth is all this organized carnage happening now, of all the world's Great Ages? or here, of all great places? It's as if rampage killers had some sort of nasty, grossly unfair prejudice against late-20th- and early 21st-century America. Really, I shouldn't be surprised if it was all part of some jealous, decadent European conspiracy. Why else, in these Two Most Glorious and Enlightened Decades in All of Human History, and in this Most Christian of All Possible Countries, would so many unhappy people choose not just to explode but to arrange a pre-timed detonation? Not just to vent but to militarize their madness, their pain and rage - and all so deliberately, systematically, mass-murderously? And why, with such a growing wealth of clinical experience in these matters to draw on, do our ways of managing mental disorders - all rooted, mind you, in the World's Very Best Health-Care System - seem so unprepared, so makeshift and disjointed, and the cracks and gaps wider than ever?

"You know something? Do yourself a favor. Yourself and everyone else who has to listen to your rot. Deal with it. Crawl out from whatever rock it is you live under and just DEAL WITH IT. Or better yet, go to Sweden, or wherever it is losers like you go to in order to hide from real life. Because in case it's escaped your attention, Robinson Crusoe, this isn't some Scandinavian-style kindergarten economy you're dealing with. This is adult-version REAL LIFE: full of risk and uncertainty and insecurity. And as far as escalating, random, indiscriminate violence is concerned, you'd better get used that too, buddy. Because it's the price we pay - yes, the price genuine Americans are proud to pay - for real freedom, real dynamism, real innovativeness."

Yes, maybe. But cannot even the freest, most innovative societies reach such levels of violence that it ceases to be merely a price paid for present freedoms, and becomes something more like a down-payment on future dictatorship? Are we quite sure history has nothing to teach us on these matters - the history, say, of pre-Napoleonic France, or pre-Hitler Germany? Peer closely into those dynamic times and places. When the ensuing dictators in each case took the reins, didn't there arise an audible sigh of relief from precisely those whom today we regard as freedom's most stalwart defenders: the wealthy and powerful - yes, even the privately rich and powerful?

And that reminds me. What do you suppose is the real point of this (to the best of my knowledge) unprecedented civilianization of military-scale weaponry? Or at least of its celebration, in our media, journalism, and political imaginations? Here we are, immersed in a whole entertainment culture that - what shall we say, romanticizes? - civilian access to some pretty impressive firepower: the sort of arsenals I imagine might still be the envy of a few rebel militias round the globe. So tell me: When Antichrist does come, will that be enough to make us ready with our rebel militia? Will it all be as simple as grabbing our high-powered weapons, jumping into our rugged-terrain vehicles (all the while linked by our real-time, up-to-the-minute-dispatch communication technologies), and heading for the hills? Mind you, from where I stand, we do appear to be on the threshold of a new era: the age of a radically new, defiant-of-history, beholden-to-no-one-and-nothing American civilization. Assuming we're not already a decade or two well into it. But who could have predicted, at the height of the Cold War, that this glorious post-Cold War peace would also prove to be such a, well, militarization? And not just of time and telephones - but of women, and religion, and even retail ("I'm on my way to the PX - er, Costco") . . .

"Since you obviously have difficulty comprehending what you read, I'LL SPELL IT OUT FOR YOU: "When you see the Abomination that makes desolate standing in the holy place, let those who are in Judaea flee to the hills . . . "

Yes, but note that our Lord speaks of Judaea. Can we be equally sure He was also referring to Boise, Idaho? And certainly nothing from the context of these passages suggests a backdrop of paramiltaries or private militias, or even of the beating of humble plowshares into swords. In any case, is all this stockpiling of weapons - whether of the real or the wished-and-hoped-for kind - really going to prevent the emergence of an American police state? Or rather, is our paramilitary hysteria merely working to ensure that, when dictatorship finally does come, it will not only be unprecedentedly brutal and thorough, but seem both inevitable and overwhelmingly justified?

No comments:

Post a Comment