Bunker mentalities, security, and time

Published online 20 August 2014.

(also at Humanitarian Left)

Everyone, I think you’re going to see more of the bunker mentality in global politics in the future, of which the to-do in Gaza and the to-do in Ferguson, Missouri are mere instances.

So what’s it all about?

It’s about racism, to be sure — but there’s also an even wider mentality to be engaged here, which I hope to explore in this diary.  Masaccio’s piece, frontpaged at Firedoglake, has an interesting point: it’s about domination, domination of the few over the many.  The piece quotes from Michel Foucault’s classic “Discipline and Punish” and then discusses the topical matter of who gets to discipline and punish and who gets to be disciplined and punished:

This is a brilliant explanation of the reasons for the difference between the treatment of known scofflaw Cliven Bundy and Michael Brown, and many other dead Black Americans. The point of the delinquency is to mark the accused as not human, not a decent person, not a person entitled to any rights, not a citizen, not one of us.

— and —

The people who get to decide what is normal are the rich and powerful. They use their control over government to establish the line between acceptable delinquency and unacceptable delinquency and illegalities.

So arming cops to the point at which they shoot people down and arrest journalists in an air of total impunity has reached the level of scandal in America today.  What is our glorious Congress, of the low opinion poll approval ratings, doing about all this?  Well, some of them are going on AIPAC junkets in Israel, where they’ll probably find out if it’s kewl with the Israelis if they send US troops to Iraq or something like that.  Yeah, Israel, that’s the ticket.  Everyone’s favorite small-nation-sized bunker, with the requisite bunker mentality to boot.  And doubling down on Iraq.  Very kewl.One of the primary conservative efforts in this era of last-gasp capitalism is the general effort to feed the bunker mentality among those with power, specifically money-power and weapon-power.  In what used to be called the “society of the spectacle,” our elites cling to spectacular forms of what they think is “security” — wall off the masses, and stockpile weapons and ammunition.  (It should be added here that, as regards our Congress, the Israelis are ahead of the game in the category of wall-building.)

As technology races ever forward, you better be sure you have your copies of the newest weapons, and to be sure to use them, too!  This is no doubt the reigning attitude at the Pentagon, and at other places where “security” is the fetish of participants in the bunker mentality.

As I have suggested before, this is a conservative age, and one hallmark of a conservative age is the redundant reinforcement of hegemonic power out of a fear of the future.  It doesn’t matter, then, that the next war in Africa will generate a bunch of blowback — there’s money involved, so Americans carry on with the existing obsessions — guns, money, power.

Never mind that such an approach doesn’t make its participants more secure — just look at the lives of those who are the victims of “security.”  You wouldn’t want to be one of them, would you?  The real future is sacrificed in bunker mentality concepts of “security,” in the sense in which George W. Bush said “History, I don’t know, we’ll all be dead” when asked by Bob Woodward about his place in history.  Participants in the bunker mentality, then, have a problem with time.

The most curious combination of “security” and bunker mentality futurism has got to be the Pentagon’s strategies for climate change.  Compound disaster through climate change is a significant medium-term concern, and ultimate solutions to climate change are also medium- and long-term.  However, all of the scientifically-informed prognostications suggest that we begin action (which means “stop adding CO2 to the atmosphere at a rate of 2.3 parts per million per year) soon.  Climate change has thus attracted the Pentagon’s attention as prompting a need for short-term action, while at the same time exposing the utter confusion about the future to be expected from participants in the bunker mentality.

It’s been public knowledge since 2004 that they’ve had a plan for climate change.  Here’s the plan, in brief, as the editors of the Monthly Review explained it:

For the Pentagon, the answer to all of these dangers would seem to be straightforward: arm to the teeth, prepare for greater threats than ever from thermonuclear war, and build an impregnable wall around the United States, closing the global masses out.

There really isn’t that much of a difference between “security,” as such, and kissing the collective ass goodbye.  Later, from 2010:

Military planners will have to factor climate change into war game exercises and long-term security assessments of badly affected regions such as the Arctic, sub-Saharan Africa, and South Asia.

It doesn’t say much.  But when climate change offers the possibility of ending civilization, the idea that they are just going to “factor it in” should give one pause.  Also, from “DeSmogBlog,” in March of this year:

Unfortunately, the Pentagon’s Arctic Strategy — published in November 2013 as a follow up to President Obama’s National Strategy for the Arctic Region published last May — would only make a bad problem worse.

Now there’s some hardcore logic for you!  Climate change will increase the threat around the world, so the Pentagon’s “creative” response is to conquer the Arctic so that the oil beneath its ocean floors can be pumped for Pentagon use.  Seize the world!

The problem of the bunker mentality is ultimately a problem with time.  “Security” is ultimately a problem of the long run, but participants in the bunker mentality are narrowly focused upon a counter-productive grasping of the world for the sake of immediate sensations of total control.  It doesn’t work, of course, because participants in the bunker mentality are themselves “out of control.”  Their security is insecurity.

Ultimately, it can be said that elites in DC, at the Pentagon, and on Wall Street live in a world of commodities, in which purchase and possession are the moves that work.  The thing about all that high-tech weaponry is that, as a cultural phenomenon, it’s significantly a matter of commerce, of buying and selling.

The late Teresa Brennan’s Exhausting Modernity: Grounds for a New Economy is a ponderous work of high theory, connecting Marx, Freud, and the world-situation.  But there’s a passage in this book which can really connect readers to the psychology of commodities:

The vending machine that provides instantly upon the insertion of a coin, the fast-food establishment that promises no delay, the internet connection that promises immediate access, the bank card that advertises itself as the one that does away with the need to stand in a queue; all promise the abolition of waiting time.  Yete a little reflection shows that commodities cater to more than a desire for instant gratification… more than the abolition of waiting time is offered here; one will be waited upon.  And if the promise of service appeals to a desire for domination and control, it has to be noted that the illusion of control is also provided by vending machines and their ilk. (p. 21)

We can’t be surprised, then, if the elite definition of “security” is channeled through desires for domination and control through immediate gratification, even against the global threat posed by climate change.  We are talking, here, about possessors of money living in a world of commodities.  How long can it take, after all, to bomb Iraq?

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