Satan: Iraqi War Dead
And The Collateral Damage
To America's Soul
By Phil Rockstroh
26 October, 2006
(Reuters): "United States numb to Iraq troop deaths: experts"
"O Nature, and O
soul of man! how far beyond all utterance are your linked analogies!
not the smallest atom stirs or lives in matter, but has its cunning
duplicate in mind."
-Herman Melville, Moby Dick
All human beings have a talent
for the denial of the more unpalatable aspects of ourselves, but we
Americans have turned denial into a form of collective genius. There
is no need to burn books, if the public is too ignorant to know they
exist -- or too benumbed to resonate with their content.
Regarding the death of well
over half-a-million Iraqis, the majority of the citizenry of The Corporatists
States of America have experienced a comparable degree of regret and
remorse that their oligarchic overlords experience when topping-off
the tanks of their corporate jets with fuel purchased with money plundered
from their employee's retirement accounts ... Sans conscience above
-- sans conscience below.
Dante posited Limbo (that
quiet suburban community ringing Hell) was a place reserved for those
who evinced indifference to the world around them. It would seem our
corporate/consumer version of Damnation (which now includes Casual Fridays
in Hell itself) requires prescriptions for anti-depressants, urine tests,
and Reality Television competitions to enter its inner most circles.
As stated, human beings have
always possessed an immense capacity for self-deception -- but, at present,
we Americans can no longer afford stupid, naked monkey business as usual:
The stakes are too damn high. When we, as a people, cannot or will not
connect the needless deaths of well over half-a-million Iraqis with
the oversized motor vehicles in our driveways, the situation has grown
How can we go on this way?
At this point, a guilt-induced, collective nervous breakdown in the
middle of our morning commute would seem to be in order.
By existing in this degree
of denial, what have we conjured? What sort of a society do we call
forth when our lives are as isolated, benumbed, inauthentic and devoid
of conscience as they are at present? The answer is: We're living in
the midst of it -- this hideous era of pervasive flimflam and permanent
war. Call it: The Haliburtonization of everyday life. Again, as above
-- so below.
We live in a nation dominated
by salesmanship (commercial, political, religious). Accordingly, the
salesman's credo is: a facile mendacity trumps a stubborn truth -- because
an honest mode of being would cause the buyer to become wary of the
giddy lie of the pitch. Hence, complicity in its duplicity is what the
corporate/consumer state demands of us.
The salesman's counterfeit
smile is, of course, camouflage. Beneath it is hidden a face more closely
resembling that quintessential corporatist and Haliburton-allumni-in-good-standing:
Dick Cheney; his joyless, thin-lipped, psychopath's half grin is the
true countenance of our death-enamored empire.
A salesman's repertoire of
manipulative enthusiasm and sham amiability fronts the whole criminal
enterprise. Is it any coincidence that Las Vegas and prisons are the
fastest growing population centers in the United States? -- We've become
a country comprised of clip-joints and jails -- a land of suckers and
criminals -- with a cultural landscape peopled by corporate scam artists,
congressional bagmen, and war criminals (hiding in plain sight in the
highest offices of the land). It's a natural progression, due to the
fact that capitalism has always depended on a predatory class of sociopaths,
has always relied upon thievery and murder, and, therefore, needs an
endless supply of suckers and victims.
Yet, most of us Americans
are no one's victims. Any con artist worth his smarmy smile is aware
of this fact: As a rule, a mark is made the victim of his own greed.
Moreover -- by means of our complicity in allowing our identities to
be molded by a culture dominated by proliferate propaganda, empty salesmanship,
and our own lies of omission -- the fate of a hapless mark, bamboozled
by self-inflicted selfishness, is the criteria we live out daily. Apropos,
we're now condemned to shuffle through our lives as somnambulating ciphers,
dim denizens of a world made manifest by mountebanks.
We should be cautioned. History
reveals: What a nation inflicts upon the world -- its own people will,
sooner or later, inflict upon each other. There is no need to warily
scan the horizon line for its arrival, because we're already living
in the midst of the angst and emptiness we have wrought. Ergo, when
dreams mean nothing -- when words and images are rendered meaningless
-- our lives reflect these dismal states.
Words, images, and dreams
are our internal analog of the vast, manifold, and incomprehensible
sublime of the cosmos. When we dream: We are spiraling supernovas and
spindling stalks of slime mold. We are schools of silent fish and we
are the fulmination of thunder. We are uniquely ourselves; yet, we also
contain all of existence. To lose our dreams is to lose our soul.
Hence: To have the verities of our inner selves twisted and distorted
towards the selfish ends of corporate capitalism and the dishonest agendas
of mass media-driven political discourse is to become estranged from
passion, empathy, and imagination; thereby, we grow inured to phrases
such as preemptive war, collateral damage and acceptable losses -- expressions
that we should find repellent, if not, flat-out mortifying.
If not, then it should follow:
We should change the names of the civilian casualties of war, inscribed
upon their respective tombstones, to simply read "Collateral Damage."
Moreover, narratives of bereavement should sound something like this:
"You see, when the bombs of the Preemptive Warriors fell on our
home -- our child, now named, 'Collateral Damage,' was asleep in her
crib, and she became 'our little Acceptable Loss.'" Now try this:
See how the statement above sounds when you substitute the names of
your loved-ones -- or even the names of your pets.
In opposition to empathy,
the corporatist mode of being instructs us that human life, like material
objects, exists merely to be used, used-up, then discarded; nature is
to be subdued, exploited, and decimated; trees -- toppled; rivers --
dammed up; mountains -- ground down to silt; words -- degraded, attenuated,
and stripped of meaning. Finally, they will come for us.
Instead, what if we were
seized and shook by shamanic visions sent to us from an ensouled earth
that had grown enraged by our ignorance and indifference towards its
plight? What if these fantastic and terrifying narratives warned of
dire events and augured destruction, in which, oceans rose, hurricanes
churned, glaciers melted, the very young and the very old perished from
extreme heat and cold, as clouds of pestilence descended upon the land?
Are these visions crackpot
ravings -- or last summer's news and weather reports? What difference
would it make whether these dire and dreadful circumstances are wrought
by wrathful gods or Global Warming? The structure, plot, theme, and
dénouement are essentially the same: Hubris and ignorance transform
nature (human and otherwise) into a force of blind destruction, thereby
rendering arrogant folly rending tragedy. Whether engendered by gods,
or memes, or molecules -- suffering is suffering; untimely death is
untimely death, regardless of the cause.
We Americans have numbed
ourselves in order to be able to live with our complicity in the crimes
of empire. We have carpet bombed our rational minds into oblivion by
the belief in chimeras such as "smart bombs." Reason tells
us: a truly smart bomb would be able to distinguish the innocent from
the guilty. Therefore, for a smart bomb to exist, it would have to be
a Frankenstein Monster Bomb, because, in order to exterminate the truly
guilty, it would first have to kill its creators. Then it would go after
the soulless bastards who ordered its use. Accordingly, smart bombs
would be flying into Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld's front doors as thick
and fast as moths toward a glowing porch light on a warm summer night.
Only a society of numbed-out,
reality-adverse imbeciles could believe in the existence of smart bombs.
In a related matter, recent public opinion surveys have revealed close
to seventy percent of the population of the United States does not believe
in the Theory of Evolution, yet believes that a mythological character
called Satan is a literal entity.
How did this epic ignorance
come to be? How did we leave the 21st Century and blunder back to the
14th? Maybe this type of hocus-pocus, hoodoo, and religious legerdemain
is necessary to keep an increasingly angst-ridden, over-worked populace
from rising from our enclosures in Hell (also known as cubicles and
work stations) and demanding a system that offers greater depth, meaning
and resonance than the one presently afforded under corporate hegemony.
Is this how we became so
passive and benumbed -- because the life we're offered and have accepted
within the corporate/consumer paradigm is so limiting in its possibilities:
it being a system that occludes and eventually destroys the natural
world (both external and internal)? Is this the reason we have grown
so dim -- because our imaginations have been so deeply suppressed that
its imaginings now rise as a living nightmare of literalization? Perhaps,
Americans don't believe in evolution -- due to the fact we no longer
believe that meaningful change can occur. And, perhaps, we believe in
the literal existence of a soul-collecting Devil -- because we know
that we have lost our essential selves to a mysterious force that seems
beyond our control. Having been seduced by the illusions of corporate
capitalism (a false mythos that tantalizes us with promises of freedom
but instead shackles us to exploitive labor and mind-numbing consumerism)
we know we have made an ill-advised bargain with some dark force that
has robbed us of our humanity. We know (maybe ineffably) that, here
within the empire, our lives have lost an essential, soul-enhancing
It is possible we fear our
souls are imperiled by the Devil, because, on some level of awareness,
we grasp we have forsaken our ability to experience a life imbued by
meaning, depth and resonance, due to our systematic suppression of those
vital aspects of our character that are capable of imagining then creating
a future containing greater possibilities than the shriveled pickings
of the present.
We fear the licking flames
of hell, I suspect, because we realize we have sold our souls at fire
a self-described, auto-didactic, gasbag monologist, is a poet, lyricist
and philosopher bard living in New York City. He may be contacted at:
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