Do you remember that scene in The Deer Hunter when Nick (Christopher Walken) wanders into a Saigon gambling den and agrees to play Russian roulette for money? He does this voluntarily after escaping from the Vietnamese prison camp where he and Robert De Niro’s character had been forced at gunpoint to play the same game.
Former New York Times war correspondent Chris Hedges’ book Empire of Illusion brings to mind Nick’s vacant expression as he puts the gun to his head in the gambling den. Nothing matters to him anymore. His soul is dead. Thanatos.
And so it goes with us …
Mind-bogglingly massive bank bailouts. Click. Tens of billions of dollars in no-bid contracts for Halliburton. Click. Crumbling infrastructure and outsourced labor. Click. Lobbyist-written legislation, suspension of habeas corpus and healthcare industry profits soaring as tens of thousands die each year for lack of health insurance. Click. As the computer named Joshua calculated in WarGames, the only way to win the game is to stop playing it.
But we won’t stop because the corporate-owned media has convinced us that playing it is essential to our survival, is our only road to Wellville. That’s the illusion of the pleasure palace that Aldous Huxley predicted would make us compliant in ways that coercion never could. That’s the Big Lie.
Tuning around the internet dial this morning, it was as if the only thing we have to fear really is fear itself. Even NPR, that presumptive last bastion of independent thought, was waving a non-ironic flag. Some reporter on the scene at a celebration somewhere. This just in Scott … America still the best darn country that ever was.
Hedges is, to be sure, a very, very gloomy Gus. By the end of Empire, I was, as I so often am, ready to get the hell out of Dodge, Dodge being the grid, the grid being these lovely fruited plains of ours. But his gloominess is amply justified.
To me, the flag waving and the the “hero” worship, the terror talk and the jingoism … it’s just noise. White noise. Interrupted at intervals by a distant clicking sound.