Friday, March 21, 2008

McCain: Dumber, Not Tougher

Here's a good clip with Bill Maher on Hardball. I was talking earlier about the the anti-Idiot talk; and I really don't like calling people dumb. But there is a 'culture' in the US that revels in and respects a certain brand of idiocy and ignorance. Bush is the epitome of this; and why Bush as punk rock is so stupid (I'm referring to the Right Brothers, and my half-assed, sloppy critique.) And maybe that guy with the anti-idiot bumpersticker, and people like my idol Bill Hicks, and his entertaining rip-off Lewis Black, are just responding to the anti-intellectual climate of the US. It is reactionary, and bars and cable comedy is rarely subtle. It is a necessary reaction, like my reaction to call people fascists. Anyhow, Bill Maher's point about McCain being dumber, not tougher is what has become evident. Of course, all along, being tough has seemed to many of us as just a form of being dumb.

An uncharacteristically crystalline thought formed in my foggy brain today. I thought the fundamental problem with The War on Terror is that there is a fundamental block to understanding the world that cannot be trespassed in normative discourse. I generally feel I cannot discuss it unless I am among close friends, or those who I know who are generally politically sympathetic. The thought was, well, why did 9/11 happen? Well, it's because we are in a War. People die in wars. What do you expect? Was 9/11 the START of the war? I don't know. Some say it is an age-old clash of civilizations; I guess another way to look at it would be to say it is a clash of East and West. The chickens coming home to roost? Well, these views are merely interpretations. What thought came to me, which I believed the morning of 9/11 up to the present--only I was not able to articulate it--was that there is a PROBLEM. That is why 9/11 occured, it was a message telling the US that there is a problem. We chose to interpret this as an act of WAR. So, what do you do in a WAR, you send the military somewhere. Or, that's what tough guys do. This particular war was not initiated by a nation-state. It was initiated by suicide bombers associated with an underground worldwide movement. In the framework of the idea of war, there are multiples sides. We decided that there were two sides, the terrorists and US. In a war with two sides, both have power and advantages, and they both utilize them to effect a defeat on the other. But how would a defeat of a non-Nation actualize? Can a non-nation sign a treaty? Like the IRA, can Al-qaeda agree to turn in all their weapons? Well, it's more complicated than that. Al-qaeda is a large, amorphous political and militant movement with a number of goals. How does it operate? It's fed by young desperate men from a pool of countries, mostly Arabic. Who do we bomb? How do we win this war? Now I'm coming to my specific thought: This is a war of two sides, but one has clear advantages over the other. The US has the advantage. Nobody would argue with that point. So, can I say to a war-supporter: Do you agree with me that the US has the upperhand, overall, in the War Against Terror, that is, the war against so called Islamic Radicals? That would tell me that if we were smart, we could neutralize the "threat" to US "interests." But ostensibly, if our goal is to remove the threat of violence against the US and US-allied nations, we could utilize our problem-solving skills, use basic critical thinking, to objectively examine the situation, find root causes and see how we can manage the situation. And "manage" it we could, if we indeed have greater power than the "terrorists." Finding a humane solution to the problem of undue carnage caused by discontented people on this planet would attest to our nation's greatness. If we have to resort to brutality in order to contain the threat, then it should be considered a disaster; it would show us to be people with low esteem for the value for human life, as well as a people with little imagination. This is all hypothetical. This is what I imagine what people who value the intellect, the inherent worth of human life, those who believe in the great capacities of our fellow human beings, despite appearances of ignorance, stupidity, or menace, would believe. I believe that the term "idealist" is destructively reductionist, but this idea of mine is an ideal. And one I would like to bring up to a war supporter. It seems so clear to me now; it took me 7 years to articulate this idea. But the main point is that even now that I can articulate it, it seems like something that I could not bring up in a conversation with a war supporter. I fear I would be called naive and idealist. Not serious, in parlance of the Washington pundit. But it seems stupid not to bring it up, so I will try the next time I have an opportunity.

One last thing. I had mentioned to a friend about this idea of Idealism. I have believed since my teens that so-called "realists" are as much idealists as so-called "idealists." What else is Bush but a foggy-brained idealist? McCain would be branded an absolute realist by his supporters. But so-called "realism" is an "idealist" philosophy because it has this ideal of the "real;" in other words, a self-described realist would say that this or that "ideal" is not achievable in the "real" world. But what exactly this "real" world is is never described by self-described realists; if it is, it is in only essentialist terms of men and war and power: The Way Things Work. This view is exactly an ideal of how the world works. It is merely a framework of viewing the world: of WHAT can be achieved; what is possible. That's exactly what an idealist is, a person who has a view about WHAT can be achieved; what is possible. We will bring Democracy to Iraq. We won't stop the war until we have achieved (WHAT) in Iraq. So if you're going to knock me about being an "idealist," I would like to knock you back down. My idealism is my outfit and bearing that I wear to the party of ideas. Everybody wants to be cool at the party. Everybody wants slink in the room sly and cool. But something that is out of style will be marked. A party of self-described "realists" calls something out of style an idealist. But we idealists have to come in strutting our stuff. Eventually we will be the new cool.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The argument that ANY real war is about culture shows a lack of critical thinking at best and is a tool of fascism at worst. ALL wars are about power, territory and (the distribution of) resources. I just read a great piece by Subcommandante Marcos of Zapista/EZLN fame called "The Seven Pieces of the Global Jigsaw Puzzle." It was written around 1997 and gives you all the pieces to understand why we are now in a 'War on Terrorism.' It's all about advanced capitalism baby.

--thod and Mama X