Christ’s first miracle occurred at Qana. He turned water into wine.
Modern civilization uses the miracles of modern technology to turn the wine of our achievements into children’s blood. A stunning example of this anti-miracle occurred last week at Qana when Israeli missiles slaughtered 37 sleeping, sheltering Lebanese children.
Without his “press corps” of twelve disciples, Christ’s miracles would have gone unrecorded and Western civilization would have taken a vastly different course. Without the modern media to zoom pictures of anti-miracles around the world, the response and resistance to that “civilization” would be much diluted and probably fail.
In their attempt to destroy the “infrastructure” of Hezbollah, Israeli generals are “fighting the last war” -- the 1967 blitzkrieg-successful Six-Day War against Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Jordan, and the extended stalemated war against Hezbollah of 1982-2000. They are employing the “shock and awe,” rapid invasions and targeted assassination tactics which they have used to effect against Palestinians for decades. But these wars and these tactics precede Al Jazeera and other Arab news outlets. They precede the Internet. They are, if you will, the tactics of “Old Israel,” “Old Britain” and “Old America,” in which Empire employed “full-spectrum dominance” over the media’s images and texts. These tactics will now fail.
Israel’s war against infrastructure comes at a particularly poignant time in the history of Empire and Western Civilization. While the tentacles of Empire thrash out to destroy infrastructure elsewhere, the beak of our own infrastructure is about to break upon indigestible stone. The Resistance has an ally Empire never counted on. That ally is Nature.
When some Bush-league official told reporter Ron Suskind that he and his ilk were “reality-based,” but Neocons were “history’s players” creating “facts on the ground” (Ariel Sharon and Menachem Begin’s terminology) that official offered another glittering insight into why “we” (let’s say the Bush-Blair-Olmert triumvirate) are now losing the War of Civilizations. Notice what’s missing from the official’s formulation? That’s right -- Mother. Mother is missing. Mother Nature. The Neocon formulation has more testosterone than Floyd Landis at the Tour de France. The formulation is whistling in the dark past the graveyard and creating more graveyards as it whistles.
At about the same time our generals were announcing kaput to our efforts to bring our brand of “freedom” to the poor, suffering “ragheads” (army parlance) of Iraq, some 200 Americans were sweltering to death. More Americans, from California to New York, died of a heat wave in a couple of weeks than died in Iraq in the last four months. And what did Dianne Sawyer tell us from her anchor perch at CBS evening news? She told us there was a silver lining: Americans were going to the malls to cool off, and while they were there, they were shopping! (Never underestimate the power of a great idea -- ask Tammy Faye Baker.)
Of course, no one bothered to inform Ms. Sawyer that while Americans were driving their air-conditioned SUVs to air-conditioned malls to buy their stylish jogging outfits to show off in air-conditioned sports salons, they were willy-nilly sending more hydrofluorocarbons into the greenhouse stew for themselves and the rest of us to choke to death on.
No one bothered to inform Ms. Sawyer’s audience that our deregulated utility grid is as vulnerable to failure as New Orleans’ levees. Not hundreds, but thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions are at risk. (Question for Bush: How many angels can dance on a pinhead?)
Can we at least be good Scouts? Can we be prepared?
Know yourself, know your enemy, one hundred battles, one hundred victories. So Sun Tzu said. Know yourself, but not your enemy, one hundred battles, fifty victories. Know your enemy, but not yourself, one hundred battles, fifty victories. Sun Tzu did not bother to mention a people who know neither themselves nor their enemies. He probably did not imagine such a people would have the chutzpah to go to war!
Forty months after launching the Invasion of Iraq, Generals Pace and Abizaid, with a rainbow-splash of military ribbons emblazoning their chests, appeared before Congress last week to eat humble pie and declare Iraq on the brink of Civil War. Flanking Neocon Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, neither general would utter the peremptory words, “Civil War.” Better to keep the legerdemain going a little longer -- at least till the mid-term elections. The phrase du jour is “sectarian violence.” Call it what you will, 100 Iraqis have been dying each day for the past two months. Proportionate to the US population, it amounts to twelve September 11s in the U.S. each month. Given that, “sectarian violence” is as meaningless a phrase as “Weapons of Mass Destruction.” A phrase to circumscribe thinking, not expand it. The appropriate words are, rather: devastation, catastrophe, deceptions, duplicity, treachery and failure.
The fact that we are losing our ability to navigate the shoals and rapids of semantics, that we have dulled the precision instrument of language, is one of the reasons “we” are losing the War of Civilizations. I put “we” in parentheses because, frankly, I’m not sure which side I’m on. I don’t favor Empire and I don’t favor terrorism. But even this is facile. If I oppose terrorism, I must oppose State terrorism just as vigorously. If I abhor the tactics of the weak, I must abhor equally the similar tactics of the strong. All ethical systems depend upon balancing the scales in favor of the poor, the weak, the widow, the orphan. The proverbs of Solomon, the parables of Christ, the poems of Kabir build fortresses for the least among us. Without a core of ethical values, our religions are old wives’ tales, superstitions and some rather strange stories about creation.
Soon after 9/11, Bush informed the world, “You’re either with us, or you’re with the terrorists.” Thus did the President of the “Free World” declare war on Complexity, Gray Areas, Nuances (blame the French -- it’s their word!) and the freedom to challenge his and others’ glaring misconstructions. In the early stages of Empire, such “dead or alive,” Texas sheriff-strutting formulations may work -- it’s us or the Redskins, Rome or Carthage! But, over time, the “natives,” Empire’s opponents, probe our weaknesses.
War is spying and probing, Sun Tzu taught us; “they” discover our vulnerabilities. One of our chief vulnerabilities: we no longer have a language to keep the troops in the field. What are they fighting for? Freedom? Freedom to rape, pillage, destroy?
Orwell and Benjamin Lee Whorf warned us about the danger of degrading our language, but why sweat the details when sloganeering moves “product”? (We can’t “up-armor” our vehicles, as Rummy was informed; how can we be expected to up-armor our language?) After 9/11, we looked to our leaders, and they told us to go shopping. Diebold machines may short-circuit our freedom to vote, but let no act of terrorism disarray our freedom to shop!
So, let’s review: fighting the wrong war; ignorance about Nature; the degradation of our language, culture, our arts and thought; denial of science (What, me worry? Global Warming? Rapture will save me!); ignorance about ourselves and our opponents ... Add something else to account for why we are losing the War of Civilizations.
Si monumentuum requiris, circumspice! (If you seek the monuments, look around you.) Look around and observe: Americans too obese to take a good X-ray; couch potatoes gorging on fried chicken and re-fried news, eager to believe the latest blandishment from their HDTV magic boxes. (BBC news flash: large plasma-screen TV’s use as much power -- and generate as much pollution -- as large refrigerators!) Do we suppose our team can destroy infrastructure in Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan and Lebanon -- having subjected Iraqis to 120-degree summers for three years now -- and their team will not strike back in kind. In this War of Civilizations, it is not the most powerful that wins; it is the one best able to endure suffering.
We are losing the War of Civilizations by engaging in a War of Civilizations. Wasn’t the long struggle of the Cold War supposed to eventuate in the triumph of Peace, Freedom, Democracy? Wasn’t World War I the “War to End All Wars”? Wasn’t World War II, the War against Fascism? So, what does our “Civilization” offer us? Wars morphing into other wars, one kind of terror replaced by another ad aeternum? Civilization’s root is civis, or citizen. Is this how citizens of the world are supposed to live?
The ends do not justify the means; means determine the ends. We shall never gain any kind of desirable, “sustainable” peace through the use of our barbarous weapons. War is not the continuation of diplomacy through other means. War is the failure of diplomacy, and those who fail at this crucial business must be censured. Misprision is the greatest crime.
Misprision: as in our failure to abide by the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty which requires us to reduce our arsenal of nuclear weapons. Hypocrisy: we can hardly expect Iran to abide by the treaty when it is surrounded by hornets’ nests of hatred.
Empire depends on disconnectedness; but if we lose our essential humanity, our ability to feel empathy and compassion -- even for our “enemies” -- then we have lost the vision of the prophets and saints and poets and we had better call “time out,” “cease-fire,” and re-appraise our understanding, our leaders’ integrity and wisdom.
We’d better go about the reappraisal business soon. False prophets are everywhere, shouting alarums. Here’s one: “The division of America is the greatest threat to our ability to prevail in the War on Terror and the Left knows this and is incited by it.”
So pronounces David Horowitz, herding-master extraordinaire. He’d like us all to goose-step to his rhythm, without question, singing tunes of glory. (BTW, Is the “Left” “incited” by the “division” or “excited” by it? If it’s “incited,” then who is doing the “inciting”? Wouldn’t the inciters be the culprits? And who is this “Left,” anyway? Is it Justin Raimondo the “paleoconservative” at AntiWar.com who long ago doubted the wisdom of a war on Iraq, or is it Cindy Sheehan, a grieving, peace-loving mother? Or, perhaps it’s the 55% of the American public that now wants us out of Iraq! And, BTW: In view of the fact that the “War on Terror” has seen the U.S. kill, traumatize and radicalize millions of Muslims worldwide, and Israel has just made refugees of a million Lebanese, might we not consider changing the preposition “on” to “of”?)
Wisdom is the principal thing, Solomon tells us in the Proverbs. “Therefore, get wisdom … with all thy getting, get understanding.”
Gary Corseri has taught in public schools and prisons in the U.S., and at US and Japanese universities. His work has appeared at CommonDreams, Dissident Voice, Palestine Chronicle, TeleSurtv.net, CounterPunch, The New York Times, Village Voice, Uruknet, City Lights Review, Atlanta-PBS, WorldProutAssembly and 200 other websites and publications. His books include: Manifestations (edited); Holy Grail, Holy Grail; and Random Descent. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other Articles and Poems by Gary Corseri