May 21, 2006

The Human Equation

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Soldier (1998) is a not so good movie thatís main claim to fame is that it is a sequel to Blade Runner. Kurt Russell is a great choice for the lead, famous for his role as Snake Plisskan in the Escape franchise, the 1981 Escape From New York, and the 1996 follow up Escape from LA. In Soldier, Russell plays Sergeant Todd, the last generation of human soldiers. The early scenes in which Todd is, in Socialist fashion, cherry picked from other boys for his innate aggression and athleticism and is psychologically indoctrinated by means of cruel primary spectacle of blood sport are the best. Young conscripts are forced to watch wild animals fighting to the death. The movie is clearly designed as criticism of the US Militaryís post-WWII, post-atom bomb, projection of itself as an inhuman technological force. The same trap has befallen all previous military empires. In order to convey their superiority they are forced to portray themselves for all outward appearances as a ruthless killing machine. Whether we are talking about the Romans, the British Imperialism we had to fight in order to liberate ourselves as a country, or the Nazi blitzkrieg, the same image of a mechanized, hyper-rationalized military is necessary. And, always, the same problem is revealed, as it is in our latest military conflict in Iraq: our supposed technological superiority is incapable of dealing with the human equation. All the charts and graphs in the world cannot deal with chaos. Soldier pursues military logic to its obvious extreme. The military mindset is to mechanize death. Paul Virilio has made some of the most profound contributions to a discussion of the technological rationalization of modern warfare. The 1977 publication of Speed and Politics is maybe one of the most damming exposes of our drive towards mechanized killing. Virilio is most interested in the automation of the surveillance of the killing fields. John Fordís recon duties during WWII make for an interesting argument about how the landscape is viewed thereafter. Virilio argues that the way Ford filmed Monument Valley in movies like The Searchers (1956) is indebted to military technology. He is mostly concerned with the way the military mindset affects the way we culturally see the world. Fordís strongly Democratic leanings in the face of McCarthyism are not so important. John Wayneís politics arenít so easy to overlook. Wayne was, on the other hand, by all accounts a disturbing figure during the Witch Hunts, which makes his symbolic conscription by the Ronald Reagan regime even more ominous. Soldier simply follows the military mindset of the total mechanization of warfare to its logical conclusion: Sergeant Todd is replaced by a robot. In some essential ways it is the same difficulty the US faces with the appointment of the four star general Michael V. Hayden to the CIA. Our militaryís insistence on hyper-rational strategies of victory in any conflict, The War on Terror especially, has proved anathema to dealing with larger Democratic reality of the human equation. In Soldier the mechanized forces are revealed as purely ideological. Much like the present administration their insistence on their ideological righteousness blinds them to the needs of the human beings they are supposed to, at all costs, uphold, and their technological regime is ultimately exposed as anathema to the public. It is not a terrifying irony that has escaped most commentators of the post-911 US war effort to bring Democracy to other cultures that the war-machine, defined exclusively in our era by its acumen as an inhuman killing machine, has been placed in such an impossible role. Soldier is all about how the militaryís ideal of violence and destruction makes it uniquely ill-equipped to deal with the situation. In the end Sergeant Todd must intervene with a sense of humanity in order to stop the mindless, automated destruction of a war machine that cannot tell friend from foe. We are clearly living in an age when our computer enhanced technological ability to undermine our Fourth Amendment rights as citizens is outreaching the legal stop-gaps we have in place to oversee such violations of our freedoms. Until now we have always had the confidence that our government officials were, at the very least, subject to some kind of checks and balances. It is increasingly clear that our Constitution does not protect us from a predatory cabal, such as we have with the Bushevic regime, that does not have our interests in mind. US citizens must now deal with the fact that those in power have placed global corporate interests well above national priorities and are increasingly attempting to conscribe the inhumanity of the war machine to carry out their policy against the American people. Even the writers of a crappy movie like Soldier are capable of predicting the inevitable outcome of a policy that criminalizes average citizens. If the Rightwing honestly believes that it can win a war against its own people, maybe there is room for some hope. Domestic spying is not an issue that will go away as easily as most talking heads seem to espouse. We all know what criminals have now infiltrated our government, we are all aware of the crimes they have committed, and continue to commit, against our nation, and yet we are confident that there are heroes out there like Sergeant Todd who fully appreciates the anti-patriotic sentiment of police-rule in a fragile Republic such as our own. Todd is originally ostracized from the human community because he is perceived as an extension of an attitude of an implacable institution that vilifies the common man. Only after he proves his humanity in face of the inhumanity of the military machine is he finally embraced by his own people. In Blade Runner the main concern is about a world in which the interests of humans were no longer a priority, a world in which mechanical consciousness takes superiority. It was science fiction, a cautionary tale in which technological rationalism would ultimately supersede all that we had up to that point held sacred. It was a brand of science fiction that existed in the future-present. In other words it was not so much a forecast of what might happen in some possible future world as a cold-eyed assessment of what was already going on. Why is it that no single authority figure has pointed out that the suppression of our rights as US citizens is the victory of nothing other than the terrorists. Every infringement of our rights is a victory of the enemy. When will it become obvious that the Bushevics have never really been on our side.

Posted by dmb at 09:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack