Power Outtage

Posted: April 5, 2013 in Corporatism, Culture, Economics, Politics
Tags: , ,

The news is about a lot of things, not least of which is constructing a passably coherent narrative of modern life out of so many disjunct and disparate bits and pieces. But news is probably foremost about two things: business (money) and death (destruction). When the two are combined in, say, war profiteering, the preoccupation of Western oligarchs for some decades now, well, even better. The news media has/have been called out for their conjuring of fantasies continuously since Eisenhower introduced the term military-industrial complex in 1961, but no matter. The proper outrage of the masses has been bought off by commodities and entertainments — bread and circuses, if you will. This is especially true with handheld electronics, which are a bit of both and the equivalent of information IVs (always jacked in, constant drip). The so-called Information Superhighway (a term no one uses anymore) is superior to drugs, though we have plenty of them, too, because information is virtual, inviting us to conjure our own fantasies if they’re not already whipped up for us by marketers and entertainers. It’s basically a version of Huxley’s soma, which we consume willingly by never looking away.

In the past few weeks, news media buzzed then fell suspiciously silent then buzzed again and are now again mostly silent about events in Cyprus relating to its banking and government crises. That the two are so intertwined is an indication how the military-industrial complex, especially in countries without standing militaries or much industry, has now added -corporate, -finance, or -banking to the mix. Take your pick; they all amount to the same thing. I don’t especially consider it a watershed event that the Cypriot (gawd, how everyone loves that previously unknown modifier!) government decided to confiscate bank deposits, partial though that confiscation may be, to prop itself up, since baby steps toward that eventuality have been piling up throughout the international finance sector for more than a decade., This latest activity is perhaps more honest brazen, but it’s not without precedent. To the public, however, only slightly less flummoxed by the labyrinthine elaborations of government, finance, and media sectors, the idea may have actually crystallized that deposits are no longer safe. Those who have blithely ignored the world stumbling inexorably toward financial collapse may be surprised by this change of sea or canary in the coal mine (metaphors abound — again, take your pick), but anyone wizened and brave enough to recognize truth staring him or her in the face may observe with some equanimity the desperation of dying regimes, even those the size of Mediterranean islands. Ultimately, we’re all riding this ship down together, though there will be a few unrefusable offers made of the “you first” variety.

In other news, the North Korean government is lining up to attack the United States and/or South Korea, surely a suicidal act or suicide pact, doesn’t matter which. It’s difficult to imagine the motivation or what positive outcome could possibly result from N. Koreans throwing themselves at us, which I find tantamount to throwing themselves on their own swords, since they likely have no bullets and possession of WMDs isn’t altogether clear. Reminds me that more than one regime throughout history has willingly wasted its men in pointless battle. It also calls to mind an extended battle scene in the final film of the Matrix trilogy, where the machines swarm into Zion only to be cut down en masse by overweening firepower yet continue to swarm until eventually overwhelming all defenses. It’s an instructive bit, though I doubt the filmmakers intended it as such. For entertainment purposes, it was just more-is-more idiocy, “more” in this case being CGI effects — the easy, virtual equivalent of more power. But the scene didn’t offer visual richness or narrative depth, just meaningless, forceful overkill. It did depict the willingness of both the characters in the film and the filmmakers to waste themselves on false glory. Sometimes, there is no winning in winning.

And that may well be the crux of it: the nihilistic application of more and more power (lies, money, arms, lives, etc.) in a futile attempt to mask the fact that we’re really suffering a power outtage, an inability to rein ourselves in or halt the trends our decisions have delivered as a final trajectory. That trajectory may rise for some while longer, like a plane approaching stall, but we surely end in a deadspin. So we can no longer pretend that deposited money will stay there anymore (shades of the NDAA, which asserts that, in a pinch, your financial and material assets can be seized by the government, just like Cyprus), that geopolitical stresses are even remotely manageable (when the players, us no less than them, have gone suicidally or genocidally insane), and that life at twilight can offer much hope or meaning when instead so many catastrophes and cascade power failures stand poised to manifest. Indeed, since world events demonstrate that we’re reacting quite literally to a new sort of survival pressure, those with and without power will undoubtedly spend the last of what they’ve got to eke out a few more graceless breaths.

Should an attack from N. Korea actually occur, despite the awful deprivations its population suffers, a fair bit of damage can probably be done before we, in turn and with characteristic imbalance, destroy them utterly. Their destruction, if it’s responsive on our part, as opposed to preemptive, will likely be without hesitation, without remorse, without compunction, without conscience, and without pity or compassion, and it will be gloriously celebrated as a demonstration of our superior power and righteousness when in actuality it will be our complete lack of introspection or power to transcend our own base nature. There is something pathetic, really, when the proverbial 90-lb weakling lands a lucky albeit fateful blow and the big, dumb, schoolyard bully can only respond by pummeling the weakling relentlessly into the dirt. Everyone knows there is an early crossover point when the bully becomes something worse, something monstrous, like a boxer who kills his opponent in the ring. Sometimes, there is no winning in winning.

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