Scared Silly

People ask what possible motive our leaders could have for another military adventure. The nation has achieved nothing from any engagement since 1945, and it’s lost plenty, both in dollars and in moral standing. The only thing we’ve gained has been enmity. Our enemies are everywhere. Often, they have been enemies of our own creation, as in Afghanistan and Panama. Could it be that enmity and the insecurity that goes with it are the whole point of all this strife?

Insecurity, anxiety and fear are useful tools for manipulators of mass behavior. Scared people tend to be compliant and needy, and so they resist less and buy more than they would if there were nothing to be afraid of. The more fearful they become, the more they have to fear, because insecurity puts them in fierce competition with one another and makes them dangerous. Close ties tend to disintegrate, and this colors their anxiety with anomie.

Intense anxiety makes us compliant at work, compliant at school, tolerant of malfeasance, obedient to corrupt authority and insatiable consumers of palliatives of all kinds. If Americans ever stopped being scared, our dementia-inducing consumer economy would probably take a steep dive. Maybe the proprietors of the United States of America, the rich and powerful people that control commerce and government, must keep us in a state of terror to retain their dominion. Mass imprisonment, unemployment, violent entertainment, and corrupt administration can put us off balance, but the thought of hosts of dark-skinned enemies can leave ordinary people in a state near panic.

The pliancy of terrorized people could explain why we must have a permanent state of war. The alternative is rebellion. Enemies divert our attention from what the proprietors are doing to us, between debt, unemployment, pollution, bad food, worse drugs, maldistribution of resources, and the excesses of government. If there were no foreign enemy, we might discover that our true enemies lurk in our own institutions.

Will the attack on Syria really be over conditions in Syria, or will it be to remedy a very specific condition here? With peace on the horizon in Afghanistan, we need new enemies. Syria’s government is as good an enemy as we can find, especially in view of its security arrangements with scary allies in Iran and Russia. We’ll have something to be afraid of again, and so we’ll wave flags and buy stuff instead of confronting our employers, our banks, our manufacturers and our elected officials.

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