When I was in high school I got a speech once from the basketball coach intended to teach me a life lesson. I imagine I was goofing around rather than applying myself with absolute discipline and determination to the task at hand of jumping in place or over a bench or something of that sort. He pulled me aside and said, "Storm, who do you think you are? This game, this team, this school, this town was here before you and it will be here after you. What do you think makes you so special that you can disrespect all of these things?" (That's not quite what he said, but that, along with, "get your ass jumping," was what he intended. Who are YOU, you little shit? Of course, you could tell that every sentence spoken by him had the mental tag, "you little shit.") This did not inspire me--shamed me, sure, but it did not make me care one bit more about the game I was playing, about the town I was living in, and so on. Honestly, I found nothing fun about playing high school basketball and nothing fun about basketball practice. I did and do enjoy playing basketball, just not playing for a team, for a coach, for a town, for an expectation, for respect, as a representative of some abstract notion.
That incident came into my mind as I read the following. This is the consciousness of Christopher Tietjens in Ford Madox Ford's No More Parades. It's the first world war and he's in France near the front lines and he's a Captain.
The curse of the army, as far as the organization is concerned, was our imbecile national belief that the game is more than the player. That was our ruin, mentally, as a nation. We were taught that cricket is more than clearness of mind, so the blasted quarter-master, O.C. Depot Ordnance Stores next door, thought he had taken a wicket if he refused to serve out tin hats to their crowd. That's the Game! And if any of his, Tietjens', men were killed, he grinned and said the game was more than the players of the game...And of course if he got his bowling average down low enough he got promotion. There was a quartermaster in a west country cathedral city who'd got more D.S.O.'s and combatant medals than anyone on active service in France, from the sea to Peronne, or wherever our lines ended. His achievement was to have robbed almost every wretched Tommie in the Western Command of several weeks' separation allowance...for the good of the taxpayer, of course. The poor ---- Tommies' kids went without proper food and clothing, and the Tommies themselves had been in a state of exasperation and resentment. And nothing in the world was worse for discipline and the army as a fighting machine. But there that quartermaster sat in his office, playing the romantic game over his A.F.B.'s till the broad buff sheets fairly glowed in the light of the incandescent gas. 'And,' Tietjens concluded, 'for every quarter of a million sterling for which he bowls out the wretched fighting men he gets a new clasp on his fourth D.S.O. ribbon...The game, in short, is more than the players of the game.'
Now, this also rings true to every single aspect of the society and culture I know in the U.S. But I'd add another aspect, and I think Ford would too: certain players are more important than the game--or, they and the game are a unity. In fact, the "game" for the rest of us is to respect and promote the players who represent the "best" of the social structure of a country, town, team. Further, what they do, we must learn, is always for the best...for US...for the country, town, society, economy, etc. That is for the greater "good." And always, the rest of us must not understand the way things work if we don't agree with that. And we all agree with this, at least unthinkingly, or for some of us, tacitly.
This was captured once in the phrase "noblesse oblige" which means, via dictionary.com: the moral obligation of those of high birth, powerful social position, etc., to act with honor, kindliness, generosity, etc.
That sounds roi't proper, don't it, guv?* Well, one would offer that this OUGHT to be applied to all people in all situations...to act with kindliness and generosity (I'm not sure what "honor" means for us today). Perhaps you'll note that this definition seems to leave out "towards those of lower birth, no social position, etc." Why, I wonder?
But in any event. We have removed all the "kindliness and honor" and etc. and replaced it with the de facto assertion that anything those of "higher social position" do is by definition a "good"--for the good of all of us. Most commonly now, "greed" is a good. That certainly seems to negate that moral obligation to kindliness and generosity.
One of the most horrible people in the media, Bill Kristol, said once that it was his duty, his noblesse oblige, to lie to the common man. The commoner would be too upset to know the truth about how the world works. So his moral obligation was to be a fraud. (Dante tells us what this will earn him.)
And this is what our politicians, our generals, admirals, mercenary killers, school profiteers, think-tankers, preachers, and so on want us to believe too. It's all done for a greater good. Ah, Consequentalists, Utilitarians, unite under the great eye of the Panopticon! (How is it that this idea of Benthem's doesn't give the lie to the "goodness" of the utilitarian philosophy?)
The "good book" helps us here too--because it all passeth understanding and we must acquiesce to this. You, friend, are not agent in your living. Your one responsibility (should I say privilege?) is to go vote. You've now discharged your one duty, we'll take care of the rest!
Jeremy Scahill, war correspondent for the Nation magazine, makes this point in his movie Dirty Wars when he presents his appearances on "news" talk shows--it's all a game in a forum.
But these players think they ARE the game, they deserve to play on a national stage and confuse every single issue they can. My guess is, with the clarity of night raids being overwhelmingly illustrative of just who is immoral in our current situation, if you were less confused by the media you would be sick to your stomach every day that YOU kill men, women, and children every day, by your inaction, acceptance, acquiescence that those in charge of your existence deserve to be, that they know better, that they must know better because they are in charge, because they are wealthy, because they did go to Yale or Harvard, or some horribly secret private college in Pennsylvania that accepts 9% of its applicants. YOU kill grandpas and grandmas and moms and dads and sons and daughters. Hey, religious folks--YOU kill unborn babies in the wombs of Afghani women, of Yemeni women, of Pakistani women, of Iraqi women. You, who seem most virulent as warriors yet claim to be the protectors of the unborn. Have you seen the images of toddlers and babies dead, in pieces, bloody and simply extinguished? Have you seen the places YOU have bombed? Have you seen the "technology" you're up against militarily? Your fear of "them" is so pathetic.
That your murders are by proxy is irrelevant. You can stop it. We can stop it. Don't vote, don't pay taxes, gather in the square and YELL, NO MORE! And get ready to hunker down.
And here is our real dilemma: you and I are not afraid of the poor rest of the world with their occasional weapons (that we manufacture and sell to them using our radioactive waste as material for shell casings). Rather we are afraid of our own rulers, our own police, our own army. They have the RIGHT to shoot us, to taser us, to jail us, for the rest of our lives. So, I alone am afraid. Will I be afraid if there are hundreds, thousands, millions who might stand with me? (Is that even a possibility in this land of manufactured ignorance and obeisance?) How would I know in my house, in my room, on my laptop? I am too afraid to stand in the town square and ask of my fellow citizens (is that even a word that matters anymore?): "What are you afraid of?"
The GAME is a lie. When I say YOU are more important I mean each and every YOU there is. I don't mean the YOU that is Catholic or Christian, or White, or President, or the you that is a soldier, or a judge, or a senator, or a city council member, or on the board of the local hospital, or a superintendent, or a basketball coach. I mean EACH and EVERY single, individual, important ONE in the entire WORLD.
And YOU, Mr. and Mrs. America, are the most responsible for innumerable deaths world-wide (and at home) due to your "foreign policies" and your "capital markets" and your insatiable, blind, unthinking habit to have have have more more more stuff. Whatever will you do without...your landfill existence? How can you BE without your stuff?
Who are you?
You must ask. All of this...All of this...All of this as the world begins to boil.
*(I wrote that without thinking what that "mimicry" of some kind of Dickens character might mean--the American as individual mocking in the voice of the poor Brit the establishment position.)