Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Big Guns

When Walt Kelly’s "Pogo Possum" announced to his friends that "we have met the enemy and they is us," he was providing the essence of what we need to know about the nature of state power. His lesson has been echoed so many times in so many places throughout America as men and women have been clubbed, gassed, tear-gassed, caged, and even shot, for daring to openly dissent from the policies of the political establishment. Lest anyone fail to get the message that the well-being of the state depends upon the most arbitrary exercise of its violent capacities, the performance of its "national defense" agencies in foreign lands should awaken them. If the homes of Iraqis can be bombed and forcibly entered with blazing guns; if critics of such practices can be rounded up and shipped off to various foreign lands to be tortured and held without trial; if small children can be blown apart by soldiers employed by political leaders who like to pretend that they are "pro-life;" what message is left for those of us to consume in the safety of our living rooms?

When Randolph Bourne told us that "war is the health of the state," he was fully cognizant of the fact that the war mentality is essential to the creation and enforcement of the collective mindset upon which state power rests. It is what war does to the rest of us, not just to those upon whom the bombs fall, that gives the state its authority. This is why large nation-states (e.g., the United States, Great Britain, Soviet Union, Germany, etc.) require an ongoing war system, and why smaller nations (e.g., Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Iceland, Ireland, etc.) manage to get along quite profitably and peacefully without resorting to wars.
Full essay.