The war has been going on now for just over a week. Many people have died on both sides, though of course primarily on the Iraqi side. […] The initial euphoria has worn off, the talk of “shock and awe,” and now the self-magnifying chatter of the media has turned to concerns about overreaching […] It will now be a long, bloody, messy war, we are told, in which we could be stuck for months. Meanwhile the protests, too, have cooled off […] History is being written with guns and missiles, with the blood and sweat of young soldiers, and we are in the very first weeks of a new “Anglo-American alliance” which appears set to dominate the world stage for the next century, if it can. As far as I can tell, so far the American people seem to be responding to the costs of conflict with a sort of stoic pride: we are not really as soft or as scared of “body count” as all the pundits assumed. But there is also concern that things are not going as smoothly as we were initially led to believe […]
What makes us so passive, I want to know? What makes us so certain that history is written by others, scripted by Hollywood perhaps […] Perhaps we have been conditioned to this passivity? Perhaps it is a product of the media sphere in which we live, in which targeted marketing has replaced tradition, thoughtfully providing us with models for our every move […] Those people are professionals, and with their focus groups and demographic profiles, they know us better than we know ourselves. The smart thing to do is simply to go along with it, settle in and enjoy the ride.
Yet if one thing has remained constant in the last fifty years, it is that consumerism is still the social cancer it has always been. It cannot replace tradition because tradition develops the whole person, although perhaps in ways that are now obsolete, while the consumer mentality treats the person in material terms only, as if we were nothing but a set of conditioned reflexes susceptible to tweaking. Even though the visible, physical prosperity of our society is treated as a good in itself, indeed as something worth exporting to the entire world, it can never replace the confrontation each individual must make within herself […] what is needed is for rebellion and questing to be directed into more “productive” channels, meaning the purchase of new toys. If you are young and full of excess spirit, take up snowboarding.
It is this video-game view of reality that is now commonplace. And the media sphere conspires to keep us ensnared in it by providing us with endless variations on the themes of money, sex and power. As a result we find ourselves where we are now, in the midst of a war that is a bit more real than we’d intended.
The Iraqis, not having been raised in the media sphere, don’t know how to play. Rather than giving up quickly so we may shower them with merchandise, they are taking things literally and putting up a fight. Will someone please tell them this is not in the script?
Did you meet mathissee?