The false consciousness parade

Maybe it’s because I’ve been studying for exams the last few weeks, so that my mind has become like the eyes when they’ve been staring too hard for too long, and things come into and go out of focus chaotically and lose depth and proportion, but there has been something strange about watching the NBA the last few days, especially the commercials.

I don’t know if there are so many commercials for the military just because it’s Memorial Day, but commercial breaks are starting to just look like different wings of the military vying with each other for fresh meat. Yes, it’s truly a new era of cooperation and harmony between the branches of the armed services in the post-9/11 world. I assume they think that basketball is the sort of manly spectacle that many potential recruits will be watching, but then again one of the series prominently features Manu Ginobili and Sasha “everyone wants to punch him in the face” Vujacic. Anyway, I was watching the game with an Indian guy the other night when a commercial for the Air Force “unmanned surveillance drone” came on. I glanced over at him and thought about asking him whether in his country military equipment gets advertised between commercials for Dockers and SUVs, but I still have a vestigial stump of national pride that, like a tail bone, might be painful to shatter.

I also like how they emphasize the “leadership and career skills” you supposedly learn as a soldier, as if the real goal of following the glorious calling of arms is to develop competence as a data enterer. And what are these delectable “leadership positions” that strafing Afghan shepherds with an M-16 gets you? The commercials seem to show a lot of car mechanics and TV camera operators. Funny, if I was lured by promises of career success it would be to escape from a future as a car mechanic or an equipment operator. So I’m not exactly sure what lower rung on the career ladder all this risking death or disfigurement is sparing them.

Nor can I quite determine what skill is necessary for becoming a car mechanic that any random person that has two hands and isn’t retarded can’t develop going to work at 17. And if that is all that’s necessary it might be a good thing for all the ex-soldiers, since although in the commercials they show montages of, for example, a soldier operating a rotating machine gun turret fading into the same person operating a video camera as if there was a seamless transition between the two, I can think of many career uses for proficiency with automatic weapons, but few of them are legal. Michael Corleone in The Godfather started out in the military, as did John Allen Muhammad, the “D.C. sniper,” so I guess those are advertisements for the military “providing the tools” for some kind of “career success.”

It begs the question, though, given that the main tangible career benefit of being a soldier, apart from the salary, is the GI Bill, which is supposed to allow poor kids to go to college, if the career paths that the brains behind the military advertising see as most likely for soldiers are fixing cars or operating a camera, how many soldiers do they expect to actually take up that opportunity to go to college? In other words, it could be a cheap way of luring in the less rational sort with promises of career “benefits” which turn out to be of a nature, i.e. money for college, that most recruits aren’t interested in and won’t use.

Even the cops are joining in the nationalization of commercial breaks with their ads warning us all to wear seat belts. One of them does so by just camera-staring at a quadrapalegic for 30 seconds, a message I could respect more if not for all those afore-mentioned military recruitment commercials. If the fine for risking paralysis or death by not wearing a seatbelt is $500, how much is the one for volunteering for the Marines? Or better yet, what about for enticing someone into volunteering? Oh, but as the ad says, “when you see a Marine you can’t help but look up to them.” Especially if you’re a Hadithan laying on the ground because they’ve ordered you to get out of your car and lie down in the road as a prelude to shooting you in the head. Wait, I forgot, there’s no judicially usable evidence of that happening because none of the witnesses are willing to come to America to testify. Yes, the fact that people aren’t willing to let the soldiers that they watched kill their neighbors take them into custody and out of the sight and reach of anyone who knows and cares about them in order to supposedly bring them to give evidence that would be hugely damaging to those same soldiers makes them completely irrational and unreliable witnesses.

Of course the military hasn’t been able to prevent a scandal simply by avoiding some farce military trial, but on the plus side for them, studies have found that home-field advantage yields up to up to an 84.6 % winning percentage for non-professional teams when visitors have to travel more than 200 miles. Since like all self-respecting imperialists the U.S. military has progressively invaded more and more distant locales, this could be a comprehensive excuse for its declining winning percentage.

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