A new kind of Christmas story

Dead Soldier Wreaths

Christmas Wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery. Photo: Beverly & Pack via Flickr.

‘Tis the season for reaching out, connecting, and gifts, for good or for ill.

One of the Christmas cards was unintentionally soaked in irony. I’ll forgo the tempting rant about a religious holiday that has been co-opted to promote conspicuous consumption in an empire founded on secular ideals and skip straight to the card and its message.

Filled with proud stories of the kids in the U.S. Army, it closed with, “We pray for peace.” I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Never mind that the writer almost certainly is fooling herself. If the prayers are answered, that’ll put the battle-ready kids out of their jobs. And, since war comprises the foundation for this country’s industrial economy, the empire almost surely would sink to the bottom of the already stinking swamp within weeks of an outbreak of peace.

Praying for peace makes as much sense as supporting the troops, and both cases of wishful thinking are clothed in lies.

Supporting the troops accomplishes anything but

Support the troops. It’s the rallying cry of an entire nation. It’s the slogan pasted on half the bumpers in the country.

Supporting the troops means:

  • Pledging your backing of the most lethal killing force in history.
  • Cheering for the occupation of sovereign nations because might makes right.
  • Condoning wanton murder of women and children throughout the world. And men, too.
  • Promoting obedience at home and oppression abroad.
  • Throwing away every ideal on which this country allegedly is founded.
  • Hastening the ongoing destruction of the living planet in the name of economic growth.

Supporting the troops therefore hastens our extinction in exchange for a few dollars. Supporting the troops means caving in to Woodrow Wilson’s neo-liberal agenda, albeit cloaked as contemporary neo-conservatism (cf. hope and change).

Supporting the troops trumpets power as freedom and fascism as democracy.

Perhaps most importantly, supporting the troops means giving up on resistance. Resistance is all we have, and all we’ve ever had.

You say you don’t want a revolution

We say we’re mad as hell and we claim we’re not going to take it any more. But, sadly, we gave up on resistance of any kind years ago. After all, we might get in trouble. We might be incarcerated for protesting without a permit.

When jets from the nearby military base scream over the university campus, conversation stops, indoors or out. We pause awkwardly, stopped in mid-conversation. After the jets pass, in formation, an excuse often is articulated by the person with whom I’m visiting: “It’s the sound of freedom.”

My response never varies: “Sounds like oppression to me.”

The ensuing silence is more awkward than the scream of the jet engines.

It’s as if America’s cultural revolution never happened. It’s as if we never questioned the dominant paradigm in an empire run amok, as if we never experienced Woodstock and the Summer of Love, bra-burning hippies and war-torn teenagers, Rosa Parks and the Cuyahoga River.

Instead, we’re right back in the 1950s, swimming in culture’s main stream instead of questioning, resisting, and protesting.

In a Tucson coffee shop recently I saw a woman, apparently in her early twenties, dressed in a short skirt, an apron, and high heels. Had she been behind the counter, she would have been the perfect symbol of the 1950s, a refugee from two generations gone by.

We’ve moved from the unquestioning automatons of Aldous Huxley and George Orwell to the firebrands of a radical counter-cultural worldview and back again.

A generational sea change swept us from post-war “liberators” drunk on early 1950s propaganda to revolutionaries willing to take risks in defense of late 1960s ideals. The revolution gained steam through the 1970s, but lost its way when the U.S. industrial economy hit the speed bump of domestic peak oil.

The Carter Doctrine — the world’s oil belongs to us — coupled with Ronald Reagan’s soothing pack of lies, was the perfect match to our middle-aged comfort, so we abandoned the noble ideals of earlier days for another dose of palliative propaganda.

Three decades later, we’ve swallowed so much Soma we wouldn’t couldn’t find a hint of revolution in Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto.

In short, the pillars of social justice and environmental protection rose from the cesspool of ignorance to become shining lights for an entire generation. And then we let them fall back into the swamp. The very notion that others matter — much less that those others are worth fighting for — has been relegated to the dustbin of history.

The danger of camouflage

The problem with being a martyr: You have to die for the cause. And along the way, you’ll probably be jailed and tortured.

But there’s a fate far worse than being a martyr in the minds of America’s youth. There’s the thought you’ll be viewed as an anti-American freak, out of touch with Lady Gaga and Dancing With The Stars. A fate worse than death: Your Twitter feed or Tumblr page will be removed, thus “disappearing” you.

A line from Eugene Debs, five-time candidate of the Socialist party for U.S. president, comes to mind:

While there is a lower class I am in it, while there is a criminal element I am of it; while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.

He was serious. So am I. That I am not taken seriously in these most serious of days pulverizes my ego. That Debs is not taken seriously these days shatters my heart.

When I visit with college-age people these days, they have no idea what I mean, and they believe Debs and I are misguided jokers. Completely immersed in a culture of make believe, hypnotized from birth by the corporations running the media, the thought of resistance is, quite simply, beyond the pale.

Resistance? Against what? And why? Isn’t resistance a form of terrorism?

Every revolution has failed. And if that’s not sufficient reason to launch a revolution, I don’t know what is. The revolution is dead: Viva la revolution!

If any one of those troops we claim to support attempts to bring transparency and reform to this country, we instantly turn on him and support his torture by — you guessed it — the troops. Bradley Manning, incarcerated and tortured for more than 900 days, comes to mind. And who’s the commander in chief of these troops? That’s right, the man who promised transparency and reform, but who now seeks to crush the very people trying to bring it to us.

If obliterating transparency means criminalizing journalism, we can live with that. Those journalists are probably terrorists anyway. Or worse, liberals. The First Amendment was shredded by Obama’s predecessor, and now it’s being turned to ash.

Addicted, distracted, euphoric!

The U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights are bobbing along the same waves as social justice and environmental protection, sold down the river by a nation addicted to growth for the sake of growth (the ideology of a cancer cell).

It seems very little matters to the typical American beyond economic growth. And for that, most importantly, we need an uninterrupted supply of crude oil. All wars are resource wars, and even our involvement in the last “Good War” was about oil, notwithstanding revisionist history about our compassion regarding Hitler’s final solution.

Crude oil’s annual decline means many troops will be needed to secure the lifeblood of the industrial economy. If we’re to continue running ruining the world, we’ll need plenty of troops.

And they’ll need your support.

You keep supporting the troops, and trying to convince yourself you’re fighting terrorism in the process. If doubt creeps in, turn on the television. Listen to the news anchors and the politicians, the characters and the commercials. Immerse yourself in the ultimate hallucination. Keep lapping up the self-censored “news,” confident the future will bring even more self-indulgent hedonism than the recent past.

And if somebody tries to tell you economic collapse is underway and will reach completion in the not-so-distant future, you just ignore the uncomfortable news, just as the mainstream media have ignored it. That kind of thing can’t happen here. It’s never happened, so it can’t happen (Francis Bacon’s Idol of the Den).

If some misinformed fool attempts to point out the consequences of consumerism, shrug him off as a terrorist. And if somebody tries to confuse your happy holidays by telling you the good news about economic collapse, you tell him you’ll be praying for peace.

That’ll make it all okay.

–Guy McPherson, Transition Voice

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  1. shastatodd says

    thank you for daring to speak the truth about the usa ‘military sacred cow’.

    when the us military has become (was it ever different) the political enforcement of USA INC resource grab… no, i do not ‘support the troops’.

  2. Kathi says

    But, but, Guy……Diane Sawyer declared the end of peak oil last evening on her nightly ABC news broadcast. She says the US will be a net oil exporter soon and declining gas prices are the proof 😉

  3. says

    On one hand I agree that it’s important to take down a bogus military sacred cow — and I agree that our militarism, aggressive empire, and killing with impunity are the hidden problems at the center of the matrix of our society. Letting it keep on is killing us.

    But on the other hand it’s also fair to say — and I think this essay should have included this — that the vast majority of young folks who join the military do so because they believe they have no other prospects ( and with the so-called “job creators” being more like “job exporters” the kids are essentially correct) and these young, impressionable folks likely have not begun to encounter a robust critique of their system that would allow them the distance to reject the military as a path.

    For them, though, they’re off to the front lines, quite often earnestly believing they are doing a good thing and feeling justified and respectable about it in the process. In that regard “supporting” them means offering them alternatives, with the onus on us to have as robust an offer (maybe in Greenhorn farming, apprenticeships, work-study training programs or internships for the new economy) rather than grouping their naive hopes and sense of duty/lack of choice into the same bucket as that of an American leadership gone wrong.

    Further, once they’re home from wars, vets are too often treated like dirt by their own country and countrymen, with difficulty in finding post-military jobs, healthy relationships, a sense of belonging, and peace of mind. In this sense “supporting the troops” means going out of our comfort zone to be inclusive, and help them reintegrate productively into civilian life.

    So while I agree that “Support the Troops” is an Orwellian (Goebellsian?) double-speak designed to silence criticism, blunt outrage, and depress the citizenry’s voice in the use of resources in our people’s government, it’s too easy to sound like we have no compassion for the poor lowly soldier who opted-in at age 18 after barely graduating HS and staring a lifetime of working at Taco Bell in the face.

    I feel it’s my duty to point this out and include it in the conversation.

  4. James R. Martin says

    Thanks Guy, and thanks Lindsay.

    How very intertwined all of it is — the propaganda and lies, the crude fuel addiction and addiction to growth at all costs, the maldistribution of wealth and power / empowerment….

    As for the young canon fodder being basically trapped … with the jobs having been exported and all that… what sort of jobs were shipped to China and India? Mainly they were soulless, repetitive, dreary factory jobs, soul-killing jobs made so by the worship of money/power manifested as what they call efficiency. (“Efficiency is the shortest path to Hell,” said James H. Kunstler — and he’s right about that.)

    Capitalist industrialism and “efficiency” are just short of synonymous. What is made efficient is … death and destruction, the ongoing manufacture of dystopia. For this, an efficient system of propaganda has been emplaced. It’s main job seems to be the sort of revisions which make war into “peace” and freedom into “slavery”…. These lies all have familiar resonances, but the crucial one, as I see it, is the revision which makes money “wealth,” which is a version of insisting that power is more necessary and more important than love (i.e., kindness, generosity, compassion, sharing, caring…).

    Etymological dictionaries are helpful here. They tell us that wealth was once understood as “well-being”. Only a fool would think he/she could hoard well-being, storing it up for only him/her-self, walling it up away from the grasping hands of others. “Gated community” is oxymoronic.

    Let’s please provide the young–and help them to help us to do it–with an alternative which isn’t a “nice factory job,” or a position in a fast food assembly line, … or cannon fodder / death dealer. And let us begin by refusing “efficiency” and emplacing the conditions of possibility which will revive that which worked for millennia prior to the capitalist-industrial system: community-based self provisioning of basic “economic” needs, e.g., food, shelter, water, medicine….

    Wait. No. Most people didn’t have that prior to the capitalist-industrial system. You have to go back farther in time in most locations to find such a physical culture / economy / lifeway. Before modern “efficiency” there was another kind of factory which had another kind of owning class / ruler / system of exploitation and domination.

    Let’s try to avoid falling back into that old rut.

  5. jim ashley says

    Guy, those are some fighting words….. I know you are used to it by now but darn, that can o worms gonna stink the palce up.

    I wish there was an easy solution to this but unfortunately I really do think its not worth the effort to fight it out with folks. From reading Guy and many others, it appears we only have a short time until the mass death scenarios start to hit. I just want to know where the most likely place is where i can take my boys and teach them to be the little bacteria at the heat vents on the bottom of the ocean. The planet may dies except for a few select areas, thats where I’ll be…. (or die trying to get there)

  6. John Andersen says

    Many very motivated young people join the military as a way to make a secure future for themselves. They are disciplined, focused, physically fit, not overweight, intelligent, and often well aware of U.S. history. They make good, often lifelong friends in the military, learn skills like sewing, cooking, and woodworking, volunteer in the communities where they are stationed, and otherwise comport themselves as exemplary citizens. Also, the national guard is there to rescue people when natural disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes, or floods happen.

    In an ideal world, all able-bodied citizens would be as selfless as our military men and women.

    The issue should not be with the troops, but rather with the way the troops are used.

    • W. R. Flynn says

      Every healthy society needs to be prepared to defend itself against the aggressive forces of both nature and humanity. A powerful armed response capability (civil defense, local militia, national guard, army, navy, police, etc … ) must constantly train and practice to be readily available to respond immediately against all threats and attacks. This has been true since the very beginning of collective humanity. Those who chose otherwise did so at their peril, and usually their demise.

      The men and women who place their lives in danger to protect society are engaged in the noblest of professions. Those who use these men and women for personal or political gain betray their country and should suffer appropriately.

  7. Auntiegrav says

    Thanks all for the comments. These are good thoughts.
    I think I like the idea of just evaluating what is the biggest cost center of the current planet-killing system, and encouraging the PTB to spend money on that, in order to bankrupt them.
    In the case of the troops, we’re talking about gasoline that costs something like 50 bucks per gallon to get it to the front lines.
    In the meantime, let’s use the force of momentum and encourage the Republicans to support their own FairTax plan, so that the real costs of government will be seen when money changes hands and where demand is initiated: the cash register. The more we use their tools to show people how expensive the System of systems really is, perhaps some more people will opt out of such things. They have all of the power to fight on their terms, so let’s encourage them to waste their energies puffing up their own egos until their heads and debts implode.
    Europe voted against peace in the 19th century because war was the “way we do things”.
    Meanwhile, at least some of us get socialized medicine: the military.

  8. says

    Thanks for your comment, Lindsay. I could have been more clear: I’m not blaming the youngsters for joining the military. It’s one of the jobs left in this war-torn, war-based industrial economy. And, like the rest of us, the newly enlisted were born into captivity.

  9. says

    Hey Guy, I would say “it’s all good,” except you and I both know that it’s NOT all good. At all.

    However, between you and I, the process of sharing philosophy, insight, observation, analysis, and, hopefully, in March, a beer and a smile in Staunton, is good, in that we hope to get closer to the kinds of information and storytelling and engagement that brings us all into a sense of togetherness as we stare the Transition in the face (and work the Transition to good ends.)

    All my best,


  10. Bill says


    Reading your thoughts here reminded me of my mother, a die-hard liberal born in 1917, who looked up from something she was reading back in the early 80’s, and told me that she was luckier than me. I asked why and she replied, “Because I’m going to die before the pendulum swings back from where it is now.” She died in 1994. At age 59, I’m still wondering when this swing will end.

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