Back and froth

IOZ sez:

It may well be that if a state of war or conflict didn't exist between Iraq (or elements in Iraq) and the United States, then people would react with relative indifference to news of a crew of Americans massacring a lot of innocent Iraqis, but I think it's wrong to believe that there would be no outrage. In the absence of state sanction, such actions would rightly be seen as murder and condemned. In fact, we can see the operations of this very dynamic in the developing case of the Blackwater mercenaries. As the impression that their actions were sanctioned in war diminishes and the idea that they were acting outside of the violence permitted by our state grows, the domestic American reaction has increasingly been one of shock, horror, dismay, and disapproval--as if they had, indeed, committed murder. We might pause to note the sad supporting evidence that every day American troops, American pilots, American actions do kill dozens of innocents and otherwise violate their basic rights, and these actions are met with indifference or approval because they are state-sanctioned. And of course, it's worth noting that the very conditions which allowed the Blackwater guards to conduct themselves as they did--right or wrong--were 100% dependent on American state actions.

I respond:

People are tribal -- the proper sociological term is probably 'xenophobic', but in this case that seems an incorrect connotation, as we're talking specifically about an apathy towards atrocities committed by members of our tribe against outsiders, so, 'tribal' probably works better.

That's essentially what it comes down to -- we do not live in our heads, but in our hearts, and in our hearts, we can only bring ourselves to care about things that occur to members of our tribe. This is why we're more outraged about American disaster victims than Mexican, and, largely, why black Americans are more outraged at what Katrina did to NOLA than white Americans. Tribes within tribes within tribes, unfortunately.

Your insistence that the state controls our outrage by either sanctioning or withdrawing sanction from atrocity done to non-tribe members rings false to me, as does your assertion that more and more people are becoming outraged and infuriated at Blackwater as state authority to commit violence against non-tribe members erodes. It is not that at all.

Most people still don't much care that Blackwater mercs have been shooting some towelheads, and if Blackwater really wanted to defuse the situation, they would simply have to run a few ads identifying the involved mercenaries as American tribe members -- Here, for example, is a blond boy from Illinois, a former Marine who did two combat tours and then joined up with Blackwater to feed his wife and two children back home. There we have a young black man from Alabama, a one time Airborne Ranger, who goes to church every Sunday and has a dependent grandmother. And over here, a winsomely smiling Hispanic fellow name Jorge who comes from West Texas, and whose father and grandfather before him both served in the U.S. Army, and who himself has wanted to be in the Army since he was three years old.

Show folks such as this waving to the camera, American flag patches on their shoulders, while Sam Elliott or Phillip Bochco pontificates sadly as to the inhuman stress of war and who are WE to judge such as they, poor lost lambs, surrounded by vicious enemies in a land not their own, and Blackwater will be forgiven all.

The only reason outrage is growing against Blackwater now is not that the government has, vaguely, cluelessly, and incoherently, begun to withdraw some tattered blanket of authority from Blackwater's shoulders. It is, again, tribalism; being Little People is to be part of a tribe, and all we Little People know in our hearts that Big Corporations are not of us.

We have been allowed by our media to regard these murderous mercenaries as being members of the Evil Big Corporation tribe (although, to be fair, our media does its best to convince us that we are all part of the Big Corporation tribe, and so far we seem to have for the most part successfully resisted that particular indoctrination) and so, we don't much like them. Like them or not, though, as long as all they do is kill towelheads, we really won't much mind, either. We won't cheer them on because, you know, they aren't Our Boys, but neither will we trouble ourselves to get up out of our recliners over their nonsense. They are members of the Big Corporation tribe, and therefore Not-Us (and, probably, evil, but, you know, we pretty much take that for granted these days) and the Iraqis they are slaughtering are members of the Islamoterrorist Raghead tribe, and, therefore, Not-Us. It's pretty much a wash, as far as the average American is concerned.

And when people we DO regard as tribe members -- Our-Boys, Our-Boys (give me a red) -- slaughter dune coons with mad abandon for no discernibly good reason, well, if we do not stand up and cheer, it's only because there's something more interesting on VH1 right now, and we'll stand up and cheer later, after today's BEAUTY AND THE GEEK marathon concludes.

The State certainly encourages tribalism, and manipulates it to its own advantage, and I will even countenance arguments that the State grows out of tribalism like a particularly virulent, mutant weed grows out of the poisoned soil of a toxic waste dump. But our concern for fellow creatures we regard as tribe members, and our apathy towards, or fear/hatred of, non tribe members, has nothing to do with State authority and/or sanction. It's just who we are.

And in response, one of the Usual Suspects says the usual shit:

hahaha. I've never read so little of something before deciding that I didn't need to read the rest. I literally made it to "proper sociological term" and realized that in no way could it benefit me to read on.

Translation: this fella has a microscopic attention span, and somehow, that's MY fault. Heh. If I had a nickel for every time some 'net cretin has told me that...

Popular Posts