Sunday, November 27, 2011

Too Much

I've been meaning to post something along these lines for a while. In his Salon entry entitled "The Fruits of Liberation" Glenn Greenwald writes about the murder of seven Afghans, including six children, by a NATO airstrike in Southern Afghanistan and how he almost didn't mention it because the killing of Afghan civilians isn't anything new:

I read about the death of these children yesterday and had decided not to write about it because I don’t have anything particularly new to say about it, but then all day, that decision irritated me because it just seems wrong to allow this to go unobserved (and in Southern Afghanistan, “NATO” Linkin the vast majority of cases means: “American”). Whichever version is correct, the U.S. devastated these families forever and ended these children’s lives in a region where even U.S. officials say that there is a grand total of two Al Qaeda leaders and the group is “operationally ineffective.”

What’s particularly notable, I realized, is how we’re trained simply to accept these incidents as though they carry no meaning: we’re just supposed to chalk them up to regrettable accidents (oops), agree that they don’t compel a cessation to the war, and then get back to the glorious fighting. Every time that happens, this just becomes more normalized, less worthy of notice. It’s just like background noise: two families of children wiped out by an American missile (yawn: at least we don’t target them on purpose like those evil Terrorists: we just keep killing them year after year after year without meaning to). It’s acceptable to make arguments that American wars should end because they’re costing too much money or American lives or otherwise harming American strategic interests, but piles of corpses of innocent children are something only the shrill, shallow and unSerious — pacifists! — point to as though they have any meaning in terms of what should be done.

I've been meaning to put a post together about how we should be up in arms when our governments carelessly or deliberately kill or torture just one individual. But here we are blithely accepting that we kill or torture thousands of individuals and we allow it to continue.

I thought about telling a story about how a family member of mine was killed by a speeding transport truck but there was no justice because the truck driver said he was in a hurry to deliver a very important cargo, the trucking company was big and rich and hired a high-priced lawyer who swayed a judge who finally allowed himself to be bought-off, and that was that. In my story I would peacefully protest outside the courthouse or the trucking company's head-quarters and would be tolerated so long as I didn't put any names of the guilty on my signs, in which case the signs would be destroyed and I would be beaten with impunity. Occasionally people who knew my story would give me a sincere, but practically meaningless "thumbs up" and I would end the story by asking if we want a country where lives are so cheap and justice so clearly the preserve of the rich. I'd also point out that our personal tragedies are really quite inconsequential to most people and that after a while we'd realize that the world keeps turning for everybody regardless of our individual pain and suffering.

But I didn't have the time to blow that up into a genuine parable.

Then I thought of asking my readers to imagine a country somewhere, ... a small, not very rich or powerful country, but bigger and more powerful than its neighbouring country nonetheless. The thing was that this country would invade its neighbour every few years or so and enslave and kill people at random. But when they weren't doing that, they'd make commercials asking wealthy international tourists to come and enjoy their sandy beaches and their friendly hospitality. They'd also take great pains to inform the rest of the world of their rich and varied national culture.

I wonder if there was such a country how many people would overlook their occasional sadistic killing sprees and actually consider the country to be a possible vacation spot.

I suspect that most people would recoil at the idea of treating this country as a full member of the international community.

But here we go. The United States of America has invaded two countries and has probably caused the deaths of two-million Iraqis and Afghans, and the displacement of millions upon millions more. MILLIONS of people. MILLIONS of lives. MILLIONS.

And yes, a minority of about twenty-thirty percent of the population is so deluded, racist and fucked-up that they actively support these abominations, while a larger minority was actively opposed to them but having marched peacefully in the streets once in a while and having elected a Democratic president, to no effect, they're all out of ideas. But there's a big mass of US-Americans in the middle who have their own problems and they're barely even aware that their country has killed millions of people and ruined the lives of millions more. They were all lined up outside department stores a few days ago for the big "Black Friday" shopping extravaganza, occasionally pepper-spraying one another to get at the great deals. I get that some people were opposed to mass murder but couldn't stop it. But I can't allow myself to smile at revolting commercials encouraging people to turn into robotic consuming monsters. And I can't find anything other than disgust for the actual people pressing against the doors of their local Wal-Mart trying to get ahead of everyone else to save 40% on some useless piece of shit that they don't need. Killing millions of people should at least get you a "tsk-tsk" now and again, surely?

Here in Canada, we are acquiescing to a prime minister who did not respect the majority opinion of the last parliament but he expects us to respect the majority now that it favours him. We are acquiescing to a government that has caused the torture of dozens of innocent Afghan peasants. We are acquiescing to a government that is lying, bulling, stealing, and killing all the while treating Parliament itself as a bothersome fly.

We are far too comfortable about the blood that is being spilled by weapons and policies paid for with our tax dollars. We are becoming too nonchalant about the torture and other war crimes being done in our names. We are too blase about the lives being ruined by Canadian governments.


Beijing York said...

Great post, thwap. But dayum, so depressing. I think I have to back away from the news and alternative commentary for my own well-being. I can't live my life perpetually angry.

thwap said...

I understand totally.