Sunday, February 20, 2005


Reality Bites Back

In the 1976 movie Logan’s Run, the computer that runs an enclosed, captive human society creates its own reality through control of the society, and is convinced it also has a handle on “reality” outside that little world. But when it turns out that the computer’s reality and real reality don’t match, it precipitates the cataclysmic undoing of the computer’s world. In the end, reality catches up, as it has a tendency to do.

According to neocon empire-builders, they also create their own reality. The rest of us study and analyze their reality, and just when we think we’ve got it figured out, they create yet another reality. Or so the explanation goes.

According to their reality, everything is hunky-dory at home, we’ve got the terr’rists on the run, Americans enjoy free speech and a free press (are you laughing yet?), Iraqis have been blessed with democracy, etc. etc. Create your own reality.

There’s nothing wrong with social security that taxing the rich wouldn’t fix, but it faces a “crisis.” Create your own reality.

A rag-tag bunch of guys who couldn’t fly planes and who were led by another guy hiding in a cave did 9/11. Create your own reality.

The US military is stretched thin and not even properly supplied, even while the administration publicly maintains (while instituting a backdoor draft) there will be no draft, and that there is no need for one. Create your own reality.

As Hegel said, “We learn from history that we do not learn from history.” And the American leadership is showing once again that it does not learn from history, which is the real reality. Specifically, empires don’t last. Can you name one that has? They all try to create their own reality, but none lasts. Invariably, every empire comes crashing down in a great heap of ignominy, with the terrible price paid for building and maintaining itself all wasted. Homes, families, lives, the environment — all destroyed. The resources that could have been used to build caring, healthy societies and to create beauty are instead squandered on war, devastation, suffering, and ugliness — all for the greed of a handful. In the end, all the self-justification about doing good rings hollow. Just as the Romans claimed to be bringing the Light of Rome to the benighted masses in barbarian lands, the US empire claims to be bringing freedom and democracy. But of course weapons and war bring only darkness, death, and destruction.

The Greeks called it “hubris” — the overweening pride that brings the arrogant down in the end. And hubris oozes from Washington these days. Dubya and many of his followers seem to believe that God is on their side and making America invincible, but they should recall the ancient saying, “Those whom the gods would destroy they first make all-powerful.” In the end, this terribly misguided adventure has got to end in the same way that all imperial adventures do: in shameful ruin. All we can do now is hope that — like the new Germany rising out of the ashes of the Third Reich, or the new Japan rising out of its nuked ruins — a new America will rise phoenix-like out of the neocon wreckage.

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