War Machines Make War. Not Butterflies.

[I wrote this post on November 23, 2016 – three months ago.]

Did we really think we could build a war machine that would not make war on us?

It is heartbreaking to hear the reports from Standing Rock, from the undeclared war on the water, the land, their human protectors. And I wonder: Haven’t similar scenes been unfolding in other countries, and in American inner cities, at the behest of our war machine, for decades (at least)?

It is not that the mercenaries in North Dakota are doing anything out of the ordinary; it is just that they are doing it here. And, in my world, personal connections to people at Standing Rock are far more common than personal connections to those dying in our nation’s murderous raids overseas.

What parts of industrial civilization do you love? To what lengths will you go to defend it? What horrors will you have to witness, or endure, before you understand that carnage is not an anomaly for industrial civilization, a spot that will come out in the wash – before you see that this is what it does?

Eons ago, someone posted a want ad: Seeking a story that will destroy life, while buying off most humans with dreams or illusions of affluence. Required: Sense of urgency, demonstrated record of abuse, working smartphone. Wrap a rock with your application and hurl it at the nearest peaceful being. Bonus points if you score a kill.

Industrial civilization rushed to answer the ad. Pick me! Pick me! It said (though no one else applied). And set about accomplishing precisely the mission it was made for.

How do tanks travel from A to B? How do mercenaries mass at the pleasure of their corporate masters? How do tear gas cannisters, water cannons, rubber bullets, metal bullets, riot gear, get made? None of this could happen without money, mining, highways. Without the systems, the stories, the warfrastructure we use – for supposedly peaceful purposes – every day.

In Engine Summer, by John Crowley, Earth’s women have banded together, in the wake of a devastating industrial disaster, to destroy all the technology that intertwined to make such a disaster possible. In a sense, they have returned the genie to the bottle, and hidden the bottle where no one will ever find it. The few remaining humans marvel at concrete, plastic, and the like – objects they’ve lost the key for. They call these objects “angel-made.”

There is awe in this term; there is wonder. Yet no one in the story (as far as I can recall) wishes to find the bottle, or let the genie out. They know what industrial civilization has cost them. And so I ask myself: What’s my investment? What of industrial civilization, inseparable from everyday carnage, am I attached to? What would I mourn, if it were gone?

So much I would not mourn: jobs, phones, dollars, clocks. Recorded sound. Asphalt. Yet I hold on, as if I have aught to gain. As if I’ll receive my gleaming reward, slick with blood – someday.

If you liked this post, you’ll love my memoir, Mating in Captivity, in which my twenty-two-year old self enters a cult with a radical take on sex and relationships. Learn more here.

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