"...it's not the training to be mean but the training to be kind that is used to keep us leashed best." ~ Black Dog Red

"In case you haven't recognized the trend: it proceeds action, dissent, speech." ~ davidly, on how wars get done

"...What sort of meager, unerotic existence must a man live to find himself moved to such ecstatic heights by the mundane sniping of a congressional budget fight. The fate of human existence does not hang in the balance. The gods are not arrayed on either side. Poseiden, earth-shaker, has regrettably set his sights on the poor fishermen of northern Japan and not on Washington, D.C. where his ire might do some good--I can think of no better spot for a little wetland reclamation project, if you know what I mean. The fight is neither revolution nor apocalypse; it is hardly even a fight. A lot of apparatchiks are moving a lot of phony numbers with more zeros than a century of soccer scores around, weaving a brittle chrysalis around a gross worm that, some time hence, will emerge, untransformed, still a worm." ~ IOZ

Jan 12, 2012

Sacred Monsters

Ours is a peculiar age.

Judging from the mediated outrage attendant upon the revelation that American soldiers lack the proper respect for their recently corpsified prey humans, there seems to be a notion, prevalent at least in the commentariat and corporate media, that soldiers don't behave that way.

I don't know what herbs the outraged have been smoking, or how deep their cynicism actually runs, but I think perhaps that what they are, in the end, is victims of their own propaganda.

We live during a period of history in which populations and their gatekeepers are so medicated with symbolic anodynes that it's quite possible those selling their outrage feel some semblance of it, and genuinely.

But, ours is a peculiar age.

If history can be trusted - and some measure of it reflects old truths, despite the visible hand of the victors in writing it - there are a few constants to civilization:

1. Large populations are ruled through religion, law and force of arms.

2. Usually, the religion and the law are imposed by force of arms, until such time as subsequent generations learn to adhere to the beliefs and attitudes of their masters, and the long sleep of self-policing takes hold upon the somnolent body politic. For any polity or civilization durable enough to last beyond its own founding epoch, an internal enemy is required. This enemy is the social whipping boy. This enemy symbolizes the failures which follow from disobedience, faithlessness or an incomplete absorption of the prevailing moral norm: licentiousness, wanton sexuality, illicit esoteric acts, the stealing or corrupting of youth and perhaps most egregious of all, the formation over time of defensive sodalities. See, Jews in Christendom. Women, in Greece. The capite censi and Phrygian mystery cults, in Rome. Palestinians, in Israel. Et cetera ad nauseam ad infinitum.

In the US of A, the whipping boy has historically been black people. They endure the physical and moral nightmares of the long sleep of peace; they are the receivers of its transference and the scapegoats for the frictions and problems which tend to arise and accumulate in memory, whenever humans pretend that living together in large hive like structures is somehow native to the hominid condition.

And, to do unto whipping boys, a society will need to produce people who want to wield the whip.

3. Whenever a polity, society, region or civilization enters a period of flux, doubt or insurrection, it produces not only discontent, but those who try re-established lost faith by attacking the visible symbols of its decline.

4. This insecure type is already drawn towards enforcement, even during eras of relative quiet. In fact, soldiery and policing depend upon the twin attractions of sanctioned violence and permissible punishment. Whether during flux, when all discontent tends to be folded into the category of internal enemy and scribbled over with the attributes of the whipping boy, or during the decades of peace which punctuate the more common human tendency towards irascibility, those willing to do violence against doubt are made sacred by the uniform. The uniform hides. The uniform reveals. But most importantly of all, the uniform permits.

5. Not surprisingly at some point a population usually develops a healthy and rational disregard for cops and soldiers. Men with permission to do violence and a reward at the end of it will act violently. They are already temperamentally suited to it by a disposition towards acting out their insecurity on the heads and bodies of weaker persons. And they are paid to stay insecure while wrapped in moral and physical armor.

The soldier, like the cop, has not been well received for much of recorded human history. The soldier means death. The soldier, like the cop, is a reminder that this life is lived for the enjoyment of those people who can afford to pay the soldier. The soldier is an ill omen. If you can see him on the streets, somebody in power is feeling dicey. Throughout much of history, the soldier was set apart in barracks and special colonies, for his own good. Quarter the soldier with the people, and the people will eventually cultivate a taste for killing him.

But, ours is a peculiar age. We wouldn't dare...

Because, we are reminded daily, "we" love our soldiers. They are the best of us. The brightest. The backbone of the nation. A soldier is God's special angel with a backpack and a rifle. "We" invent and repeat whole cloth fictions about how the disobedient routinely mistreat soldiers, spitting on them and refusing to celebrate their glorious return, at airports. The soldier, like the cop, is a well armed victim. He is surrounded by lesser men, jealous enemies who would degrade his spiritual orgone and unman his virtues with negative vacuum vices.

It's a liturgy in its own right, this Mass of the universal golden soldier.

It's also background. So look at the foreground. Look at what the be-rifled soldier does. Examine this cult of the noble warrior not for its conceits or its maudlin sales pitch for jingo tchotchkes. Take a long hard gaze at what the showmen are working hard to conceal.

Which is everything that soldiers exists to do.

But, we are a peculiar people living in a peculiar age.

So, instead of taking comfort in the reminder that soldiers are by and large the sacred monsters of this final Americanist age, we get sophomoric sentiment instead. And are expected to mumble it into our own cups, as well. We are told, all over the print, the display and the telly screen, that our soldiers are and ought to be better. That we have to need them to be better.

We are instructed in image and text to need them to be elevated. To perform their wars and occupations as if they were less and more than the human, and anything but the sort of men drawn to blood sport and sanctioned degradation.

The real worry, though, would be angelic soldiers. What we who are ruled should fear perhaps most of all is an age of war and occupation where soldiers did not act like soldiers, in which there is no corpse mutilation, cruelty, disrespect for the dearly departed, cultural ignorance, anomie, adrenaline thrill murder and the disregard for the feelings of the natives sufficient to provide for the dehumanizing distractions warriors and soldiers are wont to seek when in need of provisional entertainment.

I know there's a whole lot of shocked sentiment or bored cynicism about the subject, but truthfully if our lords and masters ever manage to breed and train up a perfectly behaved, respectful, culturally sensitive and gentlemanly species or type of solider, we are well and truly fucked.

Our governing caste of powerful families serves a ruling class armed with imperfect instruments. If they ever manage to produce a well behaved and moral soldier, we can kiss dislodging them from power and from their colonial redoubts within history and memory, for a very, very long time to come...


h/ts to:

Rob Payne
Al Schumann


Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

In the U.S., there's still a broad perception of the citizen soldier, the Cinncinatus who beats his sword into a plowshare and returns to his civilian life. That has a lot to do with our sentimentalization.

Jack Crow said...

Same as it never was, BBBB.

Lisa Simeone said...

Beautifully written. And way more poetic than I could do.

The most I've managed is trying to convince people that well-educated thugs are no better than lowly educated ones. This is apropos of people's clamoring for "trained" TSA agents. Abuse is still abuse, I say, whether you have a Ph.D. or an 8th grade education. In fact, the former is probably more dangerous, cause it just means you've learned to act charming and smile sweetly while twisting the knife. AND to convince your victim the abuse is for his own good (hell, that's already going on).

So far, I've had little luck. At this point I just do it for my own satisfaction, not because I think I'll sway anybody.

Jack Crow said...


Gratis. And I feel much the same about persuasion as do you.

All in all, it's still amusing, in the way that a bat swooping for insects amuses unless you identify with the bugs, to read the outrage over soldiers acting like people who volunteer kill, break things, occupy, invade, degrade and conquer.

What do they expect?

I know the liberals want civilized civilizers, and the conservatives want to give Caligula a run for his buried denarii, but seriously...what do they expect?

Here's to hoping that they never figure out how to satisfy their expectations.

The Market Artist said...

At the outset of the Iraqi invasion, my middle-school aged son was treated to an assembly in which a couple of examples of "our soldiers" were paraded for the education of the kids. They were praised, held up as heroes, lauded. My son came home and told me about this, and well-aware of my views on the war, asked me what I thought. I told him that I could not consider a person who is paid to kill people a "hero". Courageous rescuers, Doctors Without Borders, whistle-blowers and community activists, yes. Soldiers, no.

He was puzzled. "Aren't they brave?" he asked. I thought about it. "I suppose in the sense that they are willing to die," I responded. "But to me, if they're willing to die without even understanding why, that just makes them stupid."

Needless to say, I will never be invited to speak at school assemblies. But at least my son didn't grow up to be an idiot.

Jack Crow said...


My own have run in to occasional trouble for expressing opinions learned at mom and dad's knees - not the least of recently, where our oldest told the JROTC recruiter to copulate with his own face and stop trying to sell organized murder as a career path to middle class existence.