By Wayne Allensworth
In Act 3, Scene 1 of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Marc Antony, alone with the body of the murdered Caesar, pledges to avenge his death. He speaks of the coming bloody war, and the horrors to come:
Blood and destruction shall be so in use,
And dreadful objects so familiar,
That mothers shall but smile when they behold
Their infants quartered with the hands of war,
All pity choked with custom of fell deeds…
And Caesar’s spirit, ranging for revenge,
With Ate by his side come hot from hell,
Shall in these confines with a monarch’s voice
Cry “Havoc!” and let slip the dogs of war…
Antony declares total war. The “dogs” of his legions will be unleashed to wreak unbridled havoc, with none spared.
The total wars of the 20th Century dwarfed the destruction unleashed by past empires. Antony could not have imagined the destruction of modern wars. Technology and inhuman ideologies made the scope and killing power of those wars something mankind had never experienced. The scale of Rome’s known world was quite restricted in comparison. The reach of weaponry and the technologies that support the “global village” have made possible the potential ensnaring and annihilation of the world itself, a world linked by a global techno-culture, the aims of which are totalitarian in aspiring to contain everything within itself.
War is one of the main lines of business of our managerial system, for war is the health of a system that is no longer simply a state, but a bureaucratic, technical mass conglomeration encompassing the economy, society, government, and globalized business. That complex identifies roadblocks on the way to End of History, and seeks to remove them, thereby extending its reach. It cannot abide anything standing in its way. Everything must be absorbed into the system.
Hitler has become one of the undead, an eternal revenant like Emmanuel Goldstein in 1984, the object of mass media orchestrated hate rallies against whatever Hitler of the moment has been identified by the system. Systemic media’s Gorgon’s Eye homes in only on what the system wishes us to pay attention to, lopping away context. The Eye can suddenly shift its focus, altering the narrative at will, while declaring that Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia. Like ruling classes of the past, finding enemies is a major function of the system’s military-“security” complex, propaganda a tool to rally the population to support its adventures. “Security threats” justify its further tightening of control over an increasingly polyglot population.
“National security” is the pretext for each adventure, though the aim of the system is the end of nations as such, reducing them to manageable units under a global network whose nervous system is the Internet, its tentacles trans-national business and institutions. The system seems to have grown weary of its adventure in Ukraine. No matter, it can always come back to it. The Gaza conflict has grabbed its attention for now, and can act as a distraction for the masses, who seem partly aware that their societies are being dissolved before their eyes but are easily rallied by media hype. In America, waving the flag is still effective in provoking them to charge on cue.
Waving the “bloody shirt” is also an effective tool of the system. The masses are told that “we have to fight them over there so we don’t have to fight them here,” even as our Southern border has all but been erased, with virtually no screening of who might be coming to your neighborhood soon. They are told that their “freedom” is at stake, even as technology gives the system an historically unprecedented level of monitoring of and potential control over the population. They are told that their “freedom” was secured by the deaths of soldiers of the past, though it’s hard to fathom how liberty in Columbus or Dallas was saved by the lives lost in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. It seems odd to this observer that the relatives of the fallen are often the most enthusiastic about the next war, though part of me knows full well that “supporting the troops” lends them the illusion that their loved one did not die in vain.
Conservatives, swayed by flag waving, and appeals to traditionally masculine martial virtues, as well as the bloody shirt, especially seem to like war, even though war is one of the most destructive solvents of traditional social arrangements known to us. It shatters families and has destroyed religious faith in its trenches and burned-out cities, spawning vengeful totalitarian ideologies in its wake.
In 21st century America, the system, with no protest from alleged conservatives, dispatches mothers and daughters as well as fathers and sons to war in places most of us had previously barely heard of. War has been a destroyer of nations, a revolutionary force that undermines freedom. War wreaks Antony’s havoc on society economically, demographically, politically, and spiritually.
Every war seems to set the stage for the next conflagration. WWI set the stage for WWII, WWII for the Cold War and the various “hot wars” that accompanied it, and the supposed end of the Cold War unleashed the globalist dogs to seek world-wide hegemony. The latest target for the system appears to be Iran. The monster is impatient, and Iran has been tagged a “rogue state,” which is quite a claim coming from many of the same people who used 9/11 to justify an Iraq debacle that has destabilized the Middle East ever since, cost trillions, and killed thousands of Americans, as well as an uncertain number of Iraqis, perhaps hundreds of thousands.
The instability in the Middle East underscores the unpredictability of the system’s Great Game: war is easy to start, hard to control (often it is impossible), and hard to stop. The dogs, once unleashed, can be very difficult to rein in.
War is the ultimate game for a set of Globalist Players. We are fascinated by it, and not horrified enough by its carnage and waste. It can have a certain pomp and majesty about it, but we glorify the act at our own peril. America has been spared wars on its own soil for a long time, making Americans especially vulnerable to war’s remaining allure, an allure that seems to have lost its gravitational pull on the human heart in a dispirited Europe. But war remains and will remain. It is with us and will likely always be there, lurking around, waiting for its chance.
In his existential Western masterpiece, Blood Meridian, the late Cormac McCarthy used the character of the Judge, a demiurge of darkness, to pontificate on war as the Greatest Game of all. The Judge explained his philosophy of war to his fellow killers, a group of scalp hunters:
Men are born for games. Nothing else. Every child knows that play is nobler than work. He knows too that the worth or merit of a game is not inherent in the game itself but rather in the value of that which is put at hazard. Games of chance require a wager to have meaning at all. Games of sport involve the skill and strength of the opponents and the humiliation of defeat and the pride of victory are in themselves sufficient stake because they inhere in the worth of the principals and define them. But trial of chance or trial of worth all games aspire to the condition of war for here that which is wagered swallows up game, player, all…
This is the nature of war, whose stake is at once the game and the authority and the justification. Seen so, war is the truest form of divination. It is the testing of one’s will and the will of another within that larger will which because it binds them is therefore forced to select. War is the ultimate game because war is at last a forcing of the unity of existence.
For a killer like the Judge, as he puts it, “war is god.” Some practitioners of the trade seem to live for it — mercenaries, for instance — but the allure of war for the global managers is its key role in their Great Game. It’s a managerial technique, a method that is also a high stakes turn of the cards in a Game to which they are addicted. I’ve stated this before, but the Great Game, the clash of armies, the maneuvering of political players, the high drama of intrigue and intervention can be great fun. The managers who are not in trenches can view the Game from afar and enjoy it for its high drama. It is an antidote to the soul crushing ennui of the postmodern milieu, a preoccupation for those who disdain the normal human struggles of everyday life as beneath their talents and aspirations. Mundane domestic life is not for them. But exotic locales, a whiff of high adventure, a chance to play the Game of Nations that has morphed into the highest stakes of all, the Game for the Globe, act as a narcotic that is difficult to resist. For the major Players, the movement of armies, and the machinations of transnational institutions and corporations on a global scale become an existential game of Risk. The most influential Players can gather at Davos or meet in Brussels or Washington to decide the fates of men and nations in ritual style. The drama of bureaucratic clashes and factional battles adds more spice to the life of the Players.
Nevertheless, we should not mistake their motives for mere cynicism. They love power, of course, and wealth, and influence, but there is more at play here. Modernity and its evil spawn, postmodernism, strip life of meaning and purpose. Everyone needs some kind of faith, something bigger than oneself, if one is to avoid succumbing to nihilism. Globalism is a religion, a faith. People who have built their lives and careers within the machine find it very difficult to give it up, for that would leave them in an existential vacuum. Some convince themselves by conflating the globalist mission with patriotism, with a sense of mission. It becomes very difficult to unwind all the strands. Where does ideology end and self-interest begin? How does passion for the Game interact with the faith? It’s an onion with many layers, each a translucent skin. The foot soldiers of globalism are not, for the most part, monsters or especially bad people. There is no need to demonize all of them. They are living out the faith of their age. The system is skilled at provoking conflicts and waving the flag when necessary, even as that flag is routinely burned and our monuments desecrated and destroyed. In the meantime, we must be on guard for the next Gulf of Tonkin or Iraq war deception.
Can we ever really learn anything from our past? We have to become aware of what is happening and convince others that our war is not “over there,” and is not with the system’s chosen enemies. Our fight is here. No alleged victory “over there” could ever atone for the possible losses we face at home. As matter of survival, we must reject the cult of war wholeheartedly and resist the system’s lies. Patriotism begins at home, specifically in our own homes, churches, and neighborhoods. It is that kind of courage we must cultivate and celebrate at this stage in our history.
Chronicles contributor Wayne Allensworth is the author of The Russian Question: Nationalism, Modernization, and Post-Communist Russia, and a novel, Field of Blood.