Saturday, May 15, 2010

Conversation with a Soldier

"Therefore in governing the people, the sage empties their minds but fills their bellies, weakens their wills but strengthens their bones. He always keeps them innocent of knowledge and free from desire, and ensures that the clever never dare to act."

- Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, III, 9.

The following is a modified short conversation I had with a soldier while waiting for a bus on Friday, February 27, 2004. The quotes are his, the questions are all mine.

"You have to serve twenty years in order to retire," he said to me, "twenty years in the regular army, you can retire when you're forty years old, I'm trying to get back into it again, I'm trying to find my way back."

How many people do you have to kill in order to deaden the responsibility of "serving one's country", I wonder? How many deaths before that illusion is worn away? How many people wake up in the middle of the night and feel the country around them, feel themselves caught in the web of nation, God, people, family, responsibility? Does that "security" lull them back to sleep, or are they choked by its oppressive weight? Either, or? How many people can "serve their country" without feeling like they are being taken advantage of, or being lied to? How many people can kill innocently? How many people can swallow The Lie and not feel it stick in their throats on the way down? How many people roll over and fall off the bed, splashing down into the dark of The Lie itself, that other world, that undead reality of Belief, Faith, of Principles? How many people are there left who can believe wholeheartedly in anything, who see anything free of the taint of suspicion? I wonder.

How many become professional killers (their first victim seems to be their conscience) because they are afraid of becoming a casualty of Life? How easy it is to kill when one is assured one is protecting the Family, the Nation, the Race, the Way of Being! How easy it is to repress the conscience when it becomes "necessary" to do so in order to conform to an insane conscience-less ethos, and become just a part in a mass machine that has collectively done away with its own sense of guilt! How strange is it that the one hundred individual consciences added together does not equal a conscience a hundred times as powerful or as critical, but the absence of a conscience? How interesting it is that when a Nation or State needs something done that requires a conscience-less man of action a body is sent that has had its conscience removed by a diffusion of responsibility (the mass machine) or a completely-indoctrinated tool of the State who has removed his conscience in favor of the "assumed" and absorbed blank conscience of the State (the sociopath "super soldier" or assassin)? At a time or in a location where the duties of the individual who is acting calls for a quiescence of conscience, a sort of "deadening" of guilt and individual responsibility (when the Official Conscience of the majority or the State, which is to say: no conscience at all, intrudes and inserts itself into the individual like a parasite) how quickly the individual is subsumed beneath the Will of the Mass, which exists both inside and outside the actor, the man, and ties him to all of the other actors in the Mass Body, while it removes him from the moral responsibilities, customs, and priorities that located him within the greater society that he is supposedly protecting.

How ironic is it that to protect a State of certain Society one has to become almost the "opposite" of a member of that same society? How ironic is it that these "wolves" are given the duty of protecting the "sheep", not just so that the sheep are not killed or used, but so that the sheep do not have to become wolves themselves. Who is it that uses the wolves to protect the "innocent"? Do the protectors do it of their own accord because they appreciate and treasure innocence "for its own sake", because of its own intrinsic value, or are the supposed innocent the real "users" in this instance, because they maintain the killers outside of society in a position that allows them great moral flexibility in order to keep a more rigid moral law in existence at the center of the State? Who uses whom? Who is "really" innocent? What does it mean to be innocent?

"It doesn't matter to me...what they ask me to do. If they say do this or do that and I don't really believe in it, it doesn't matter. I'll do it, you know, because I'm a soldier. It's my job. I'll do it because that's what soldiers are supposed to do."

How easy it would be, eh? To believe, to see all of the Great Lies as Truths. Nation, God, Love, Duty, Honesty, and above all: Selflessness. To believe that the womb-truths create that invisible architecture that ties one to a place, a land, a people, a greater family, a greater good. To be able to believe in anything! How beautiful life must seem, how safe, how secure! Is this security worth...killing for? Dying for? Why is this security seen as being so valuable? Is it not oppressive to some, pleasurable to others?

"I'm trying to find my way back."

Why have we been taught to see lies as being so beautiful? Can beauty only exist in illusions, or does it exist in all things?

As the mainstream press has been asking somewhat facetiously for the last two years, how much "freedom" will citizens of the United States give up in order to feel safe again after the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington? My questions are, among others: how much "freedom" do we really have? Is this freedom just an illusion? How can one give up one's freedom, as if it was a commodity, a material item to be measured, bought or sold? Was this abstraction of freedom grafted onto the identity of the American people so that it could be "taken away" later, when in reality it never existed? Is this psychological shell game ("Your freedom is here, or is it here?") just a distraction, a means of manipulating society as a whole, or certain classes of it, or certain members? How "safe" were Americans in the first place? Safe from what? From enemies on the outside or inside? Are the real threats to the bodies of Americans, or to their minds, their spirits, their abilities to think? Are the institutions, beliefs, powers, and structures that supposedly "remove" these outside threats just dangers of another kind? Is it better to be suffocated in an illusory safety or to face the reality of the world outside of the American gestalt? In the long term, what type of worldview will be more productive and healthy (mentally, psychologically, physically) for Americans? Is the expansion of the security apparatus and the idea of a "safety-conscious" populace the way that Americans want to face the future?

Is it better to be safe and dead or endangered and alive?

Is mere existence, a living death, preferable to living in a world where random elements are not completely controlled? Is life itself so precious that we negate (killing softly) our ability to enjoy full, healthy, exciting, challenging lives in order to make sure the greatest number of citizens are delivered intact to old age with the least amount of "mishaps"? Is life itself, outside of our rigid attempts to control it, so bestial, so wild and unpredictable, that we have to destroy it before we can digest it? Are we only comfortable among dead things?

"I'll do it, you know, because I'm a soldier. It's my job. I'll do it because that's what soldiers are supposed to do."

A translation (one among many): "I'd rather kill someone else than face an existence where my identity is not a given value. If I am not a soldier, what am I? The emptiness that rushes in to fill the bodies of the ones I kill is taken from inside myself, it flows out of my eyes, the darkness bleeds out of me and the corpses imbibe it directly from what I was - I am a soldier, a killer, I create myself by killing, a new identity flows into me to replace the nothingness that was there before."

What if it is another soldier he kills, another empty man? Another cipher? How are existence and nothingness transferred?

Nothingness can not be created or destroyed, no, it flows from the cipher of the solder-to-be, out of his weapon, into the corpses he creates...but are those corpses then nothing? The existence, supposed, of the people he kills flows back into him and establishes his identity as they expire. Are they symbols? How pleasurable to swoon, faint, and give in internally to an ethos that is so seductive, that negates the conscience while erasing the personal and replacing it with a symbol, an automaton! I kill, therefore I am? Or even: I create that which is not, therefore I am.

U. Amtey
27 February 2004
20:35 CST