The World As A Theater Of The Absurd

5. Poslednata lenta na KrapIt’s been a long time since I sat in a college literature class and learned about the theater of the absurd, the work of great writers like Beckett, Ionesco, Genet and Camus, among others. Their writing was their way of reacting to a world that seemed out of control and maybe out of its mind.

Wikipedia tells us “It expressed the belief that, in a Godless universe, human existence has no meaning or purpose and therefore all communication breaks down. Logical construction and argument gives way to irrational and illogical speech and to its ultimate conclusion, silence.”

Significantly, the word theater is used for places putting on plays and countries conducting wars. The battlefield is considered as much a “theater” as Broadway.

Without waxing philosophically and commenting on the many unknowns that so obsessed Donald Rumsfeld, our modern day philosopher king of the Pentagonian School, one has to abandon logic and rationality to try to make sense out of what is happening in front of our eyes.

The great leader who led the disastrous invasion of Iraq, and who expected that war to be a “cakewalk,” now calls the latest US attack “worrisome,” Rummy may be right this time.

Worrisome perhaps, that the media that has been having a ball making fun of Gaddafi’s fears about Al Qaeda and hasn’t looked at intelligence reports that suggest he may be right: that Benghazi has been one of Bin Laden’s favorite recruiting zones.

Then there was this inconvenient fact in the Washington Post: “Six days into the allied bombardment of Libyan military targets, it is clear that Moammar Gaddafi can count on the fierce loyalties of at least a significant portion of the population.” (Don’t the Pentagon planners know that when you bomb a country, the people unite against the aggressor. For more on this, see the history books.)

As Alexander Cockburn puts it,

“The war on Libya now being waged by the US, Britain and France must surely rank as one of the stupidest martial enterprises, smaller in scale to be sure, since Napoleon took it into his head to invade Russia in 1812.”

It’s one thing to oppose a policy that seems to have a rational logic behind it, however disguised, deceptive, and misguided. It’s another to find policies built around a politician’s desire to deflect criticism, look good or act for the sake of acting. That’s the essence of absurd.

We would like to think that our “leaders” know what they are doing and behave within some calculus of civilized norms. More often they act in a rushed manner on bad intelligence, or no intelligence at all, defending what they do with folksy aphorisms and unverified or unverifiable claims.

George W. Bush was a master of non-sensical faith-based explanations that he no doubt believed even when they made no sense. He viewed facts with disdain.

Western nations, wracked it seems by guilt and hidden motives about oil booty, start bombing Libya, ostensibly to protect civilians who perish in the bombings. Their action was uncoordinated, their mission, imprecise, and its impact uncertain. They are aligned with a phantom group called “The Rebels” (Sounds like a football team, one of whose members told NBC News that he is fighting Gadaffi because he is Jewish.)

The cost of this exercise is now over a billion dollars and rising — and rising; so much for the money we are saving to retire the deficit. So much for the hopes of economic recovery.

As Tom Dispatch noted,

“it could be the first intervention that actually escalated before it even began. It went from no-fly-zone to no-fly-no-drive-zone before a U.S. cruise missile was launched or a French jet took off. Within two days, it seemed to be escalating even further into a half-baked, regime-change(ish)-style operation. (162 Tomahawk cruise missiles had already been sent Libya-wards, most of them from American vessels, at more than $1 million a pop.)”

It might have been cheaper to just organize a giant fireworks extravaganza if the idea is to light up the sky. Since when was Libya considered a military power? We have lived with Gaddafi for decades in the knowledge that he was an abusive and corrupt autocrat. We made deals with him and benefited in the relationship. He hustled us and we bribed him — business as usual!

Supposedly this intervention was motivated by a desire to protect civilians. Who are the civilians — are they and the “rebels” one and the same? As Mark Benjamin writes in TIME, the issue has become muddied, “as the protests against Gaddafi have morphed into a civil war; it’s hard to determine exactly who the ‘civilians’ are in Libya, since many of them have taken up arms.”

The human rights groups that condemned Libya’s abuses also blasted similar practices in regimes in Yemen, Bahrain and Syria. Notes TIME, “The White House says that military action in Libya, under broad international support, has already averted 100,000 deaths. But if one only considers the lives already claimed in autocratic crackdowns across the region, it’s hard to see a significant gap between Gaddafi’s actions and those of governments like Yemen and Bahrain that have historically been friendlier to U.S. interests.”

We fired no Tomahawk missiles to help protesters in other countries.. (One wonders if firing all the missiles we did was just a way of cleaning out the old inventory to make way for the new models, i.e., the iPad 2s of these killing machines. ) That is what happened when Israel dumped old US supplied cluster bombs on Lebanon years back.

Is this a practice opportunity for NATO and Gulf country Air Forces? Wars often provide opportunities to test out new weapons and weapon systems.

At first, we were told the US was just joining their allies, that we were just there to “enable,” until it became clear the Pentagon was actually running the operation, flying 78% of the combat missions.

Now NATO, over which Washington has disproportionate influence but appears separate, is officially taking over. Still unclear is what it will do. The headline in the New York Times today reflects the confusion: “Allies Are Split on Goal and Exit Strategy of Libya Mission”

Additionally, the UN which exists to prevent war supports this one. Clearly, you can’t trust what you are told.

On the other side of the world, nuclear power plants are literally exploding with workers in hospitals for radiation, and water is unsafe to drink. A nation seems to be unraveling while trying not to alarm its people, and in the process alarming them, more than decades of Godzilla-like monster movies that perhaps anticipated this apocalypse. (The grim stats: Death toll from Japan’s earthquake and tsunami reaches 10,035 people, with 17,443 still missing, national police say (CNN)).

Of all nations, Japan had two good historical reasons to fear nuclear disasters, but they justified their power plants as a high tech ticket to the modern world.

And, as in our plants, safety rules were scoffed at, and warnings were ignored. Science gave way to commerce. Instead of confronting the dangers, they looked away.

The commissars in China have been following Japan’s travails in detail, but that hasn’t stopped them from ordering a batch of pricey new nuclear plants, convinced that their new technologies will protect them, despite so much advice to the contrary.

That’s just the tip of that country’s absurd policies.

Adrian Brown reports:

“Vast new cities of apartments and shops are being built across China at a rate of ten a year, but they remain almost completely uninhabited ghost towns.

It’s all part of the government’s efforts to keep the economy booming, and there are many people who would love to move in, but it’s simply too expensive for most. 64 million apartments are said to be empty across the country and one of the few shop owners says he once didn’t sell anything for four or five days.”

We are not much better off in this country. We stood by while Wall Street looted our country. Today, 20% of all homes in Florida stand empty. The debt grows, and all of us suffer. They can’t seem to stop it. Republicans promise jobs, but then pass laws that hike unemployment.

Ideology has become a substitute for clear thinking, while posturing and polarization define the issues of our times, leading to a stalemate and paralysis.

The theater of the absurd has gone from being a literary subculture to a mainstream political strategy. Its one thing to take an action to confuse your enemies, but today, government is routinely confusing all of us.

Filmmaker and News Dissector Danny Schechter edits Mediachannel.org.
For more on his film Plunder: The Crime of Our Time and companion book The Crime Of Our Time: Why Wall Street Is Not Too Big To Jail, visit plunderthecrimeofourtime.com.

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  • Liam_McGonagle

    Maybe because “absurd” seems to be where all the action is.

    People have a deep, existential fear of silence, stasis. “Better to do something stupid than to do nothing at all,” I fear, goes the unspoken ethos, as if they were unable to accept that thoughtful planning might actually be ‘something’.

    If you were to reduce the whole thing to an analogy with children, you’d likely suspect that the whole party will stop when someone actually gets hurt–that some woeful tragedy will stop us all in our tracks and almost physically force us to be thoughtful for once, to “stop the world”, as the famous carny huckster Carlos Castaneda might have put it. He wasn’t completely full of shit. He understood a good metaphor when he heard it.

    Just what sort of barbarism could engender such a horrified response? Beats me. Nightly viewing photographs of Libyans literally ripped in two by a relentless war machine, and constant analyses of the happenings at Fukushima Daichi whose only precedent could only have been in the imagination of Wes Craven, I really have to wonder what even could be so terrible as to silence the fucking eejits at the wheel.

  • Rwright05

    “Wikipedia tell’s us” lol!

  • Rwright05

    “Wikipedia tell’s us” lol!

  • Liam_McGonagle

    Has Disinfo adopted a new policy of vetting comments? Up hitting the ‘Post’ button I received a new message to that effect.

    That would be very disappointing.

  • Liam_McGonagle

    Okay, why was THIS message accepted instantly but the other STILL not posted?

    Not that it’s gonna change my life, but it is certainly curious . . .

  • http://disinfo.com Majestic

    Liam, you probably used one of George Carlin’s seven dirty words and the comments filter doesn’t like that too much ;-)

  • MorrisWise

    Grabbing the 50 billion barrels of oil in Libya might be immoral, but it would put 17 thousand dollars into the pockets of every American. A presidential candidate would be a winner if he promised the 17 Thousand if elected. The loser would let Libya keep their oil.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Morris-Wise/100001518338979 Morris Wise

    Grabbing the 50 billion barrels of oil in Libya might be immoral, but it would put 17 thousand dollars into the pockets of every American. A presidential candidate would be a winner if he promised the 17 Thousand if elected. The loser would let Libya keep their oil.

  • Liam_McGonagle

    Okay, now Disqus is REALLY chaffing my hide . . . Could have sworn to God that Majestic posted a comment about one of my previous comments being bounced due to objectionable language. Obviously, Majestic’s comment is no longer visible, if it ever was . . .

    Like I said, it’s not changing my world, but Disqus is more than a little flakey . . . I get edit access to only about 1/5 of my comments, monitors’ comments disappear mysteriously, and I now get comments bounced because of “objectionable language”–which really makes no sense considering the normal level of filthy vocabulary I regularly spout here.

    What’s REALLY going on with Disqus? Are they continually tinkering with the code and casually screwing with the integrity of posters’ comments?

    • http://www.disinfo.com Disinformation

      Things should be back to your usual experience Liam, yes, a hiccup with DISQUS.

  • Anonymous

    Okay, now Disqus is REALLY chaffing my hide . . . Could have sworn to God that Majestic posted a comment about one of my previous comments being bounced due to objectionable language. Obviously, Majestic’s comment is no longer visible, if it ever was . . .

    Like I said, it’s not changing my world, but Disqus is more than a little flakey . . . I get edit access to only about 1/5 of my comments, monitors’ comments disappear mysteriously, and I now get comments bounced because of “objectionable language”–which really makes no sense considering the normal level of filthy vocabulary I regularly spout here.

    What’s REALLY going on with Disqus? Are they continually tinkering with the code and casually screwing with the integrity of posters’ comments?

  • http://disinfo.com Disinformation

    Things should be back to your usual experience Liam, yes, a hiccup with DISQUS.

  • Haystack

    Our intervention in Libya does expose a lot of hypocrisy with respect to where we choose to support democracy and were we choose to look the other way. At the same time, the unrest in Africa and the Middle East has highlighted the knee-jerk contrariness of much of the leftist media. On one hand, we get angry when the US doesn’t seem to do enough to support pro-democracy movements; on the other, when we do intervene we hear assorted cries about US imperialism.

    The point is, there is no perfect, risk-free solution in a crisis like the Libyan one. It’s possible that our military intervention will lead to a protracted conflict, or install an even worse government than Gadaffi’s. It’s also possible that our inaction would have crushed Libya’s best chance of becoming a democratic society in the foreseeable future. It’s easy to point out all the potential problems with whatever course we take; identifying a solution is quite a bit harder.

  • Haystack

    Our intervention in Libya does expose a lot of hypocrisy with respect to where we choose to support democracy and were we choose to look the other way. At the same time, the unrest in Africa and the Middle East has highlighted the knee-jerk contrariness of much of the leftist media. On one hand, we get angry when the US doesn’t seem to do enough to support pro-democracy movements; on the other, when we do intervene we hear assorted cries about US imperialism.

    The point is, there is no perfect, risk-free solution in a crisis like the Libyan one. It’s possible that our military intervention will lead to a protracted conflict, or install an even worse government than Gadaffi’s. It’s also possible that our inaction would have crushed Libya’s best chance of becoming a democratic society in the foreseeable future. It’s easy to point out all the potential problems with whatever course we take; identifying a solution is quite a bit harder.

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