June 2003 #3

Are we Engaged in a War? If so, What is it About?

I pose these two provocative questions as I think we need to consider the revelations both post Iraq and post Bali in a broader frame than some hazy reference to a "war on terrorism".

I want to propose two central themes and discuss them for a few moments. The first is that we are immersed in a language of war and the second is that our bodies have already been co-oped into that war.

As we move towards another weekend - designed by the masters of capital so that while we are not producing surplus capital for them, we are in fact spending our surplus capital for their profit - many of us will become engrossed with sport. In the main that particular variety of sport that has become colonised by capital and is swamped by the language of war. Our teams don't play football; they do battle on the turf. Our favourite players are not just team members, they are more importantly the warriors of our tribe. The commentators will describe the heat of the moment, the strategies employed, the dying moments of the game and victorious team will emerge as heroes having driven their opposition into the ground.

How do these fine athletes perform these quasi-militaristic feats for our recreational consumption? They use their bodies.

A short examination of the world of the mainstream media finds it permeated by the language of war. We find references to weapons and destruction and we hear about products "developed from the battlefield, adapted to the home". Washing powder is transformed from a soap to a weapon against grime. Even convenience food is marketed like armaments in the battle against time. Cosmetics "fight" aging or free your hair to be what is should be. McDonalds claims that it's research shows mothers like to take their children there because their premises "feel" safe. And we see children's toys modelled on armaments and weaponry. Video and computer games reach even lower depths as they attempt to simulate bloodletting, murder and revenge killing let alone being killed in battle.

And how do our kids and friends experience these games and products? Through their bodies.

But in a much more sublime and nefarious manner, our bodies have become caught up in the war that will end all wars. That battle is waged, not in our lounge rooms or homes. Not in the offices of the school or sporting club. Not in the media or in general public discourse but in the hearts and minds of all of us.

It's long been said that the best way to maintain control of the people is to ensure just enough to keep us hungry. Not too much so we become complacent and not too little as we have to produce. But just enough to keep us in a state of insecurity and fear. That way, we can be controlled and subdued without too much need for force. Couple that with the sham we in the West call democracy and we have the framework for the real battlefield of the 21st century.

It's long been known and is a well recognised military strategy that, from time to time, for the sake of the war, it is worth sacrificing some troops in battle simply because there is always the reserve army who can be brought forward for the next battle. As we see in the Middle East and Asia, young men and women, convinced there is nothing left for them to attain here on earth, strap on explosives and deliver their message of hope, with their bodies.

The men and women, both Balinese and Australian who were terribly injured or killed by a bombers weapon, could be viewed as "passive" soldiers sacrificed in the name of a larger battle. That battle is fought (in part) in the hope that we will not resist the new impositions that have just been forced through the Senate.

The new ASIO bill takes away our basic rights and despite the denials by Labor and their claims to have made it a better bill, these new laws have, in one fell swoop, transformed this great south land into a Quantanemo Bay like security camp.

What will be surveilled and monitored? What will be detained or imprisoned and denied basic legal rights? Our bodies.

We have been told continuously for decades that there is something to fear "out there". Security and safety have become paramount issues and, in the last two years, we have been told to watch everyone and everything if we want to remain safe.

The 80 or so lives lost in Bali, the thousands of ordinary Israeli and Palestinian folk, the millions in South American and European countries ruled by
brutal dictatorships or military regimes not to mention the millions killed in the "real wars" over the last 100 years are part of the ongoing battle waged
between the colonels of capital and the lieutenants of lucre.

Our bodies have become the battle field and our minds the disputed territory. As any military tactician will tell you, if you cant win the territory and make it safe for colonisation, its better to destroy it and make it uninhabitable for any other cause.

This battle of language rages around us and we have no choice but to join in. However, we do have an option as to which side of the battle we will join. There are only two sides and we must choose. Either it will be the side of emancipation and liberty, or the side of oppression and death.

As long as the war rages around and within us we must monitor ourselves and ask the question, which side am I on?