February 17, 2005

Back in the War Zone

Five minutes off the airplane standing in a line for U.S. Customs and I am already hearing CNN blaring about war. In Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Syria, North Korea? It's hard to keep track of who is the latest enemy. It's always war. That's what the American corporate media are about. War. Strange to come back after being in Africa at a peace conference for 10 days, away from American media. Then to re-enter and see so clearly how the American people are constantly pumped with war hysteria.

You're almost never completely away from American media these days unless you go into a fairly undeveloped part of the third world. But the European version of CNN is not so overtly corporate propaganda. It has to compete in a market where there is some diversity. It's still a nauseating corporate spin, but slightly smoothed over.

For over a week I was surrounded by people who were gathered for the purpose of trying to harness tourism as a force for peace. To then suddenly return to the war country, and immediately hear about all the wars that are breaking out all over and will necessitate more military spending and military control of the country and its foreign policy. It's tough out there, they tell us.

It really is a kind of induced insanity, the way Americans are now, so addled with brainwashing about war. Just try it. Go anywhere. And then come back and see if America isn't the most hysterically war-obsessed country out there, except maybe North Korea.

AOL's lead story tonight is "Robots will fight for us --" ! For US? Who is us? Now it's killer robots, America's latest technological advance in killing.

Americans are just so uptight. It's that Calvinistic thing, the Protestant ethic and capitalism. It's so refreshing to go to another country where people still know how to live, to enjoy life. In America's prevailing corporate culture, enjoyment is portrayed as buying 10 cases of Coors Lite and watching the Super Bowl. It's RoboCop country. The image of Super Bowl Sunday is like Schwarzenegger crushing a beer can into your face.

By the way, while I was in Zambia I plunged off the Victoria Falls Bridge, the second tallest bungee jump in the world, 111 meters. That's another story, but the crew there said that Schwarzenegger went to them as a customer, but when he got to the top of the bridge where the bungee platform was, he chickened out.

That didn't surprise me. It's like those NeoCon warriors, they play their games with other people as their chess pieces. It's no fun if they put themselves in danger.

Schwarzenegger's got a well-developed physique, indeed, but that doesn't make him courageous. Actually it's hard to deny that his physique is so extreme as to be freakish. What kind of personality works out that much?

I ran into Schwarzenegger at a California tourism event in New York. It was a shock to see him in person after seeing him in films. In person he looks nothing like the Terminator. They do that with cinema magic. In person he's a very broad, stiff man about 5'10", with a big smile and a sixteenth of an inch of face makeup plastered all over his face.

He's made up for the TV camera, of course, but in person it looks ridiculous. But it doesn't matter how it looks in person because its TV that counts.

In Zambia I spoke to a Canadian who had to change planes in New York to get from Toronto to Johannesburg. He was incensed that he had to be fingerprinted just for going through the United States on his way to Africa from Canada.

On the return flight at the end of the trip, when we finally boarded the flight that would head toward the U.S., a number of new, very stringent security regulations went into effect. Dutiful airline employees went down the aisles and pulled up every headrest, every seat cushion, presumably looking for bombs or weapons. They looked like they felt ridiculous doing it, but "security regulations require that... " After all we were flying into the world's most paranoid country.

Louis Ferdinand Celine wrote about that one moment of lucidity during travel when the customs of one country have loosened their control over you, and the customs of the new country have not yet taken hold. It's especially valuable for Americans now to travel around a bit and take a look at the world they are living in, but know little about. Americans are in an isolationist mode that is becoming increasingly freakish, and pathological. Go west, young man! Go east! Go anywhere! Just go, get out of America for a while and see how the real world lives.

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