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The Brothers Karamazov

By Fyodor M. Dostoevsky; Constance Garnett (Translator)

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Youth in Revolt: The Plague of State-Sponsored Violence

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Posted on Mar 14, 2012
Jessierocks (CC-BY)

Young people attend an Occupy demonstration in early October 2011.

By Henry Giroux, Truthout

(Page 3)

The war on terror has become a war on democracy as baton-wielding cops are now being supplied with the latest military equipment imported straight from the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. Military technologies once used exclusively on the battlefield are now being supplied to police departments across the nation. Drones; machine-gun-equipped armored trucks; SWAT vehicles; “digital communications equipment and Kevlar helmets, like those used by soldiers used in foreign wars.”(16) The domestic war against “terrorists” (code for young protesters) provides new opportunities for major defense contractors and corporations who “are becoming more a part of our domestic lives.”(17) As Glenn Greenwald points out, the United States since 9/11 “has aggressively para-militarized the nation’s domestic police forces by lavishing them with countless military-style weapons and other war-like technologies, training them in war-zone military tactics and generally imposing a war mentality on them. Arming domestic police forces with para-military weaponry will ensure their systematic use even in the absence of a Terrorist attack on U.S. soil; they will simply find other, increasingly permissive uses for those weapons.”(18) Of course, the new domestic para-military forces will also undermine free speech and dissent with the threat of force while simultaneously threatening core civil liberties, rights and civic responsibilities. Given that “by age 23, almost a third of Americans are arrested for a crime,” it becomes clear that in the new militarized state the view of young people as predators, a threat to corporate governance and disposable will increase as will the growth of a punishment state that acts with impunity.(19)

No longer restricted to a particular military ideology, the celebration of war-like values has become normalized through the militarization of the entire society. As Michael Geyer points out, militarization in this sense is defined as “the contradictory and tense social process in which civil society organizes itself for the production of violence.”(20) The conceptual merging of war and violence is evident in the way in which the language of war saturates the ways in which policy makers talk about waging war on drugs, poverty and the underclass. There is more at work here than the prevalence of armed knowledge and a militarized discourse; there is also the emergence of a militarized society in which “the range of acceptable opinion inevitably shrinks.”(21) But the prevailing move in American society to a permanent war status does more than promote a set of unifying symbols that embrace a survival-of-the-fittest ethic, promoting conformity over dissent, the strong over the weak and fear over responsibility; it also gives rise to a “failed sociality” in which violence becomes the most important element of power and mediating force in shaping social relationships.

As a mode of public pedagogy, a state of permanent war needs willing subjects to abide by its values, ideology and narratives of fear and violence. Such legitimation is largely provided through a market-driven culture addicted to the production consumerism, militarism and organized violence, largely circulated through various registers of popular culture that extend from high fashion and Hollywood movies to the creation of violent video games and music concerts sponsored by the Pentagon. The market-driven spectacle of war demands a culture of conformity, quiet intellectuals and a largely passive republic of consumers. But it also needs subjects who find intense pleasure in the spectacle of violence.

As the pleasure principle is unconstrained by a moral compass based on a respect for others, it is increasingly shaped by the need for intense excitement and a never-ending flood of heightened sensations. What has led to this immunity and insensitivity to cruelty and prurient images of violence? Part of this process is due to the fact that the American public is bombarded by an unprecedented “huge volume of exposure to ... images of human suffering.”(22) As Zygmunt Bauman argues, there are social costs that come with this immersion of a culture of staged violence. One consequence is that “the sheer numbers and monotony of images may have a ‘wearing off’ impact [and] to stave off the ‘viewing fatigue,’ they must be increasingly gory, shocking and otherwise ‘inventive’ to arouse any sentiments at all or indeed draw attention. The level of ‘familiar’ violence, below which the cruelty of cruel acts escapes attention, is constantly rising.”(23)

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By gerard, March 16, 2012 at 11:26 am Link to this comment

balkas: My point was that people who write headlines need to say what the author means, and not just throw some words approximately in the direction of the author’s theme in order to catch people’s   attention.

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By balkas, March 15, 2012 at 8:06 am Link to this comment

gerard,
perhaps HG meant to say: “youth in revolt agaisnt state-sponsored
violence.
this can be illated from what he says in his piece. in any case-and in
spite of putting it wrongly- i understood it as i said above.

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By balkas, March 15, 2012 at 7:59 am Link to this comment

kiddie school=doggie school of obedience=KZ lager. this was noticed by
some at least a century ago.

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By balkas, March 15, 2012 at 7:45 am Link to this comment

HG: “as war becomes a mode of sovereignty, it erodes the distinction
between war and peace”.
this statement appears to some degree inaccurate/inadequate. for one
factor, it doesn’t include a vital fact: that said distinction does not exist
in US because US had not ever been at an usual war, in which an army
engages another army of equal or thereabouts strength on own and/or
theirs or own soil. 
so, enduring such US wars or rather raids, incursions, variety acts of
war, blockades, invasions in order to stop spread of socialism-
communism; protect people, spread democracy, can be endured
effortlessly/helplessly and often thoughtlessly/uncaringly by vast % of
americans; usually called silent majority .

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By balkas, March 15, 2012 at 7:16 am Link to this comment

natch, an army, spy agencies, and police [private included] will be used
by the 1% against home pop and not just ‘alien’ and disobedient world
pops.
if ‘lesser-valued’ people and peoples remain obedient and show piety to
personal and national supremacism [such as for the ashkenazic or
anglosaxon-ashkenazic voelker (folks), there will be peace on earth and
not before. also spricht bozhidarevski, thanks

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By balkas, March 15, 2012 at 6:47 am Link to this comment

yes, i’ve been fervently hoping that world youths would one day notice
that 99.99% of them would continue to be left out, used as meat for wars
or as oppressors of own people here in US and in much of the world; and
also remain dependents on unseen/secluded/protected by police people
without any degree of humanity in them.
however, in some parts of europe there appears little awakening now by
youths.
but we can expect it! thanks

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By CassandraSpeaks, March 15, 2012 at 1:13 am Link to this comment

This is an excellent article, and I appreciate Gerald’s comment as well. I don’t think we’ve reached the tipping point yet, but we should start thinking about what to do in November.

Obama and Romney are both warmongering, 1%-loving, corporatist, neoliberal neofascists. Their different rhetoric at this point reflects the difference in their parties’ bases, not actual differences in philosophy, ethics or styles of governance.

When Bush was president, most Democrats did speak out against the wars, rights violations and abuses of power, but their vocal cords were paralyzed on March 20, 2009. This proves, of course, that they are just unprincipled, partisan hypocrites, but at least their opposition could help curb the abuses.

As crazy as it may sound, that is why I, a lifelong liberal Democrat, will vote for Romney over Obama, unless there is a viable third-party candidate such as Kucinich or Gary Johnson.

We can ill afford another 4 years of Obama.

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By do over, March 14, 2012 at 9:27 pm Link to this comment

Corruption saturates society, top to bottom, therefore, change will not result from well researched articles, debates, etc.  Those methods have failed.

Change will take place differently.  ______________________________
“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
Richard Buckminster Fuller

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By gerard, March 14, 2012 at 6:48 pm Link to this comment

A poor headline,  again:  “Youth in Revolt: The Plague of State-Sponsored Violence”  What?  Really?
the youth in revolt are a plague—of State-sponsored Violence?  Excuse me, but that gives a completely false impression of the content of the article. I read this in Truthout yesterday and was bowled over by the stupidity of the caption.  Who writes these things?

Now—here’s for starters, the most important idea in the piece which has to be put across to the 99% a.s.a.p. “This movement is NOT simply about reclaiming space, but also about producing new ideas, generating a new conversation and introducing a new political language. Rejecting the notion that democracy and markets are the same, young people are calling for an end to the corporate control of the commanding institutions of politics and culture, poverty, the suppression of dissent and the permanent war state.  This movement is not simply about reclaiming space, but also about PRODUCING NEW IDEAS, GENERATING A NEW CONVERSATION AND INTRODUCING A NEW POLITICAL LANGUAGE, CALLING FOR AN END TO THE CORPORATE CONTROL OF THE COMMANDING INSTITUTIONS OF POLITICS AND CULTURE, POVERTY, THE SUPPRESSION OF DISSENT AND THE PERMANENT WAR STATE.” 
  If we permit this beginning movement to be suppressed, we will lose everything we ever thought we had, including our own humanity. Nothing is half as important.
  This movement is in no way a “plague” of “state-sponsored violence”—it is a gift we scarcely deserve!
  (Again, of course I know Giroux didn’t MEAN that; but THAT’S WHAT THE HEADLINE SAYS!)

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