April 23, 2004

Look Out, Here Comes the Y Generation!

Existentialism 101: Life During Wartime

So the machine just keeps on turning, butchering life, and no one can stop it. And the momentum is building and it is reaching a point at which it is out of anyone's control. We've seen this movie before. Small, thoughtless men like Bush start wars, set off chain reactions of violence they lack the imagination to conceive of. And they lack the compassion to care. Now the population has been compliant, like dull-witted sheep, and allowed this menace to grow and build momentum. It may be that in the end the only thing that will be powerful enough to bring it down will be itself, like the Third Reich. There is a built-in limit to power-grabbing, greedy regimes. We certainly see signs of collapse within the Bush administration's power structure. But it ain't over yet. Never underestimate the ruthlessness of the group that is in power. It will take a great deal to remove it. A great deal more than has yet manifested. But there is hope. There are tremendous signs for it.

A great deal of market research has been done on what is being called the "The Y Generation" and this is a formidable generation. They have grown up with the Internet the way the children of the '60s were the first to grow up with TV. They are hooked up with the world. They don't see national boundaries the way the ancient generation of men who are now hijacking the government do. They don't seen them as barriers. They are very focused. They are very motivated. They can think rings around an old dinosaur like Nixon administration alumni Rumsfeld and Cheney. They are reaching voting age at the same time that they are reaching draft age. The old codgers in Congress, the corporate whores, are preparing a nice little conscription machine to provide fodder for the wars of their takeover of the earth. I think the old men might be in for some surprises when they try to impose a draft upon the Y generation. I urge them to exercise caution.

One of the results of the '60s uprising and overthrowal of the Vietnam War Machine that has not yet been reversed is the lowering of the voting age. One of the major issues during the 60s was that young men were being forced to die for a questionable war when they were not yet given the right to vote. This generation is going to be hit with a draft when it is also getting the right to vote. That's a major difference that changes the landscape in a powerful way, a way that Rumsfeld can no more conceive of than he could run Photoshop.

The older generations, including the aging Baby Boomers, may have been overtaken by events and the growth in the power and sophistication of media propaganda and population control, but their 19-year-old heirs are not. They are very aware. They read the sites of the BBC, the Guardian, and and a universe. They know a great deal about what is going on. They don't take everything on trust like some of their less-alert elders. And when it starts to affect them on a life-and-death basis, they are going to become extremely focused. They will focus in on the Rumsfelds and Wolfowitzes of the world and decimate them with laser efficiency.

This confrontation is in the making. It may just stop the mad Bushmen in their tracks. And if the world is not already poisoned beyond human habitation, then humanity can make a fresh start. If we last that long. This may be the yin that backlashes out of the Bush corporate fascist yang drive for world domination.

Meanwhile, the mad automata of death continue turning, the entanglements of endless layers of cycles of violence seem to dig the peoples of the earth ever deeper into the quagmire of war. And the war industry titans that control the government just grin as the wars just make them richer and richer, rich beyond their wildest dreams, powerful beyond anyone's imagination. Certainly much more powerful than their own limited reptilian imaginations can comprehend. They are consumed with power. Obsessed is too mild a word.

As the maelstrom sucks up and chops up more and more lives, more and more people are confronted with life-and-death i.e. existential decisions. The body of literature that grew around these issues and became known as existentialism still provides us with some of the most powerful tools for dealing with a world gone mad. Existentialism came to its full flowering in France during the Nazi occupation. But the philosophical grew out of a tradition that is largely Germanic at its root, but became international, because it was an expression of attitudes that were unique because they grew from events that were unprecedented. Existentialism offers the formula for stopping machines that have gotten out of anyone's control. It involves individuals taking responsibility for their own lives and for the consequences of their own actions, and not following like dull-witted sheep. If people did that en masse, it would stop the machines of death. Without the human fuel for the machine, it will just stop.

Although the formula may sound simple, it is the most difficult thing to put into action because existential decisions are just that -- life and death. And they are no fun. Actually there is a tremendous exhilaration and empowerment associated taking full responsibility for your own thoughts and actions, but the first step is a whopper. Few are eager to risk their lives for the hope of some supposed exhilaration, if they happen to survive. Standing up for what you believe may cost you your job, which for many does almost cost them their lives. Unfortunately now, that kind of breaking free from the mechanical routines of life that constitute servitude may be the only thing that will keep you alive, if, for example, you are draft age. The machine can drag you one cog at a time toward the death row of servitude as a soldier. Every step of that motion may seem perfectly rational and proper, but when you step forward and swear yourself in as a soldier, you have signed away even the right to save your own life. Suddenly you have crossed a threshold and you are no longer in the world you grew up in. The mores and morals you learned now no longer apply. Now you are to kill on command.

The choices you confront when there is a draft are grim. When you suddenly realize you have no rights, according to the law, if the government wants to make you a soldier, it is a radicalizing experience. But as Sartre pointed out, no one has to participate in a war. There are always the ultimate kinds of choices like desertion or suicide.

This is bad enough when soldiers are forced into the service because the economic system is so structured that they have no better economic opportunities. In this case, though they have been swindled into thinking that they are going to war to "preserve democracy" and then find it isn't true, there is a sense in the volunteers that they have signed up for it, so they must face the consequences. This commitment is questionable when the pretexts for war turn out to be fraudulent. But when this sacrifice of rights is imposed upon an entire population of people who believe themselves to be a free people, be ready for an explosion that is going to set Don Rumsfeld on his shivering ass. There it is, my x-rated word for the week.

And when the Rummy warrior caste confronts the Y generation, I know whose side I'm going to be on.

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