Friday, January 2, 2009

The Kommissar is Us

“Dreh dich nicht um, schau, schau,
der Kommissar geht um!
Dreh dich nicht um, schau, schau,
der Kommissar ist uns"
It was reported today that a family of U.S.-born Muslims, including a physician, a lawyer and several children, who were waiting to board a flight, were detained for investigation by agents of the Homeland Security Service. They had been overheard discussing their seating assignments and commenting on the fact that the seats adjacent to the wings were probably the safest. They were turned in by their fellow passengers.

Don't turn around, uh uh,

The detainees were eventually released and allowed to continue on their intended journey, but employees of the airline refused to let them board, on the grounds that the suspects had not been "cleared". Most of the news reports focused on this aspect of corporate obtuseness; none focused on the more critical fact that,

The Kommissar is us.

A little over seven years ago, Woodchip Gazette foretold the inevitable denouement of Bush's trumpetted "War on Terror".

"In all events, this war against terrorism on which we embark today, like the war on drugs on which we embarked years ago, cannot be won. ... And who is the enemy? ... What the Government will have to presume is that everyone is at least a potential terrorist. In the most fundamental sense that is a presumption that is entirely antithetical to the concept of civil friendship, i.e., societas." (The Devil's Bill)

Earlier in 2008, the Gazette's Dark Time Diary took note of a report that Homeland Security Service was training its agents to spot Western terrorist recruits, who were "capable of blending into American society and attacking domestic targets." We pointed out that was this training presupposed was none other than that all of us were presumptively "potential suspects." (Blendables)

And so the bill is being paid... without a murmur, even eagerly, plus with tips. Americans who are by and large dense to everything under the sun, are alert to anything suspicious... in fact to anything potentially suspicious... in fact suspicious to anything at all, because anything could potentially be a bad thing which, for the sake of safety, needs to be reported to our Guardians.

It does little good to play the "politically seasoned" and to slough off the incident as a regrettable but essentially minor case of The Swarthies -- Anglo-America's ongoing distrust of anything less creamy than buttermilk. The reason the excuse does not work is that what is at play here is not a form of racism but a generalized state of fear. The Muslim detainees had been speaking English and had said nothing patently untoward. Suppose they had been Hispanics speaking Spanish? Or maybe even Sephardic Israelis speaking Hebrew...or is that Arabic? The problem with generalized fear is that it needs something to grab onto precisely because it is "generalized" and therefore will grab onto anything in order to give itself a reason.

But a society that is suspicious of itself, is a society that has lost its fundamental coherence. In medical terms, the body politic has lost its health; it's biological processes become inverted and begin to work against the body rather than for it.

Aristotle pointed out millenia ago, that society is a form of friendship and is predicated on mutual trust. If we gathered together in a cave or a clearing it was because we trusted one another in the collective enterprise being undertaken. The gathering together could not have happened otherwise. Our subsequent living and working together and even our commerce become elemental forms of friendship that presume a basic level of good-intention and good-will.

To say, then, that we are each "potential suspects" to one another despite our "common appearance" is to put axe to the very root of society. We cease to be social and become inimicable. A society that is inimicable with itself is a mere husk, like a body wasted by a metastasizing disease.

The United States has always had strong collective, anti-social tendencies. Lacking a unifying culture above the habits of material consumption, the country fostered a culture of hucksterism that hid behind ersatz realism, empty bravado and self-adulation. Hud. This of course is the malignant core of neo-liberalism which sees society as a "beast" to be destroyed and ruthless Ego as the only good. The reductionist illogic of that ideology is precisely that it necessitates a fear of the equally ruthless other and when this fear is shared collectively, it becomes not simply fear of the foreign other but, turning inward, fear of self. At that point the body politic self-consumes.

©WCG, 2008

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