The bogeyman is dead.
Captain Obvious is currently working at peak capacity worldwide in dealing with both pithy and trite observations being updated on our screens in real-time.
I, like my generational peers, spent my late adolescence and early adulthood living in the shadow of Western-conceived Osama Bin Laden-symbolism. Too young to understand what the unfamiliarity of planes crashing into buildings meant in terms of warfare, but old enough to know that the political landscape had changed irrevocably. The media apparatus made sure we understood the latter as soon as possible.
The conspiracy theories began roiling in earnest. The visage of a man clearly fit only for mowing lawns (to put it charitably) continually appeared on screens with a drawling Texas accent to prepare us for crusade, war, endless war, with all the trappings and trimmings that accompany that gruesome theater.
The intervening years heralded a litany of abuses of law and practices in what can only be described as technologically efficient ways to transgress our own humanity. Many of these transgressions are widely known, but generally excused, dismissed or ignored by a public who were and are forever told to compare their lives to the dark horror of a pre-modern past, in order to be grateful with their lots. All these celebrations of the absurd were transmitted so very effectively by the perversion of language itself.
What happens when such a powerful and augmented symbol dies? For Bin Laden ceased to be a man long ago in the eyes of many. He became an effigy that absorbed all the stains of a increasingly-powerful and under-accountable elite. How will Empire fill the void? There will be no packing of bags on this battlefield; the generals and apparatchiks alike will shuffle their papers and re-calibrate their instruments, for the War Must Go On.
Will our only saving grace will be a mass of angry Arab youth, mobilized with understanding of their own painful history as well as love of all that is truly human, to spearhead the way out of suffocating, illiberal stupidity?
In the last twenty-four hours, my Twitter timeline was awash in bewilderment. Some rather popular libertarians and their followers alike lamented at how the United States became a much darker and toxic place, both politically and legally, to live in the last decade. Of course, they are right. This disease caught on like a pandemic. Read the woefully and ominously vague overreach of the legislation that was passed in the wake of the Bin Laden-branded attack on September 11: The United Kingdom’s and Australia’s debasement of the law pales in comparison to the Kraken that is the USA Patriot Act, however.
What is bemusing is that many libertarians, and those who have generally positioned themselves against their governments for moral and ethical reasons, still express dismay about the powerful’s brazen flouting of due process, adherence to constitutional law, or juridicial process in general. They forget that Empire (in Hardt and Negri’s sense of the term), by design, navigates its expansion outside of any juridicial processes. No exceptions.
We are currently condemned to a state of endless war, endless emergency, endless ‘humanitarian’ crisis, endless policing. In his official address to the Free World after Bin Laden’s assassination, President Obama wasted no time in dispensing the political equivalent of a Hail Mary: “The cause of securing our country is not complete.” The goal is to never complete the cause.
Long live all bogeymen.
Dubya image credit: @exiledsurfer