There it is; a succinct description of the current stage of globalisation in which we find ourselves. The obscene rejection of all the principles of a true permaculture. Rather than build and design for peace and for the true flourishing of human and natural activity, we are subject to the perpetual drumbeat of war. The onward march of global capital and its discontents. War enters into our collective unconscious as the necessary backdrop to economic activity. Ceaselessly we are dehumanized, our souls subjected to the perpetual mocking of our consciences. David Swanson writes about the Arms Dealing as the subject of Hollywood comedy, here. Comedy, not in the tradition of the biting satire which unveils the pretentious illusions of empire and makes us more aware of our fragility, our humanity, and how our lives intersect and affect the lives of others. No, precisely not in that sense. Comedy in the sense of treating human life and meaning as trivial. Comedy that masks the fact that mass murder is big business. Swanson, writing about the movie War Dogs and the advertising surrounding it has this to say:
The cultural lesson, especially of the advertising, seems to be that joking about war profiteering is funny, cool, and edgy. Joking about cruelty to non-human animals would not be so acceptable in movie promotions. The industry of mass murder for human beings has become background noise in the era of permawar. All jokes about it will be labeled ironic, but the fact that it is an acceptable topic for joking says something very troubling about our culture.
Something very troubling indeed. Students of history are aware, or should be aware, of the dangers present in this attitude. A culture that trivializes human life, a culture that is comfortable greeting death, especially the death of others, as an amiable friend, is a culture in decline. It is a sign of decadence and moral decay. The apathetic laughter of the entertainment industry, as apathetic as it is banal, is symptomatic of a deeper underlying indifference. An indifference to life itself. The pulsating thrust of death, in the guises of economics or religion, have taken the driver’s seat. Agitated and fragmentary attempts to make sense of it all, or to deal with the aftermath follow, necessarily, for we are still human. There is still something, an instinct or value for life, that is preserved among us.
But it needs to be stronger. The spectre of permanent war, the permanent and perpetual destruction and degradation, not only of our “enemies”, but of the very planet itself, cannot go on. We cannot continue to design for war and expect peace to ensue. That is a fool’s hope, an empty illusion which harbours no truth at all, only the scent of death.
How do we, collectively, exorcise the demons of bloodlust, apathy, indifference, inhumanity? I don’t know. There are small ways, small acts of caring, to be sure. There is welcome and hospitality. There is the refusal to laugh where others laugh. I can attempt to call the government of the country where I live to account. Elsewhere David Swanson, along with Roberto Fantina has challenged Canada not to follow the U.S. into the culture of permawar. Drawing on the wisdom of the late Robin Williams they say that he called us, that is Canada, “a nice apartment over a meth lab for a reason.” Now, for some time, we have been bringing the drug upstairs. We have been imbibing the drug of war, and especially, its economic perks. Swanson and Fantina define war as the root problem which leads to the degradation of morality, the erosion of civil liberties, environmental degradation, and a tendency to oligarchic rule.
And they are right. War is more than act of conflict declared between nations. It is, and is increasingly, a disease of the soul and mind. It is a systematic hatred, a posture which infects us all and blinds us to our fragility as well as our creative potential. When permawar is the incessant background of cultural development, then we stagnate as people as human beings. The horizons of our imagination, of our creativity, and of our involvement with others are hemmed in completely by death. Death as saviour.
This, I reject. I refuse to spend my short days on this earth locked in an embrace with destruction. I refuse to disavow beauty, gentleness, and humility. I refuse to laugh at the misfortune of others. The culture of war cannot endure, must not endure. And we must not let it.