Terrifying Peace: Living Within a Permanent War Economy

Terrifying Peace(Image: Jared Rodriguez / Truthout)The opening years of the 21st century have been characterized by new levels of security and safety fears that have plunged the world into a post-millennium state of in-security. These insecurities have been heightened by the deliberate breakdown of old and familiar dualities, such as friend vs. foe, so that the “enemy” has now been shifted from someplace outside of society to dwell as the potential enemy within society. What this means is that all civilians can effectively be categorized as “potential terrorists.” Over recent years, the US government especially has been using “function-creep” to bring into law policies which ever increasingly encroach upon the basic freedoms of civilians. What is occurring is a seeping militarization of the social sphere. This socio-militarization now claims a legal right – and “duty” – to arrest and detain any civilian on the pretense of suspicion only. This has been most recently highlighted by President Obama’s signing of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) whose Section 1021 sanctions the military detention of American citizens without charge. One wonders here how many nails it takes to put the coffin lid on the American Constitution. The NDAA states that suspects can be held without trial “until the end of hostilities.” However, when such “hostilities” are now part of a permanent war economy, such definitive “end of” seems to be an obscured issue. Further, it allows the militarized state to bring in troops (such as the National Guard) and local police forces, combined with extensive authorized surveillance, to “secure” the social sphere. With no defined enemy and no defined timeline, the notion of peacetime becomes meshed with socio-militarization to produce a state of terrifying peace.

Much of the world has been plunged into a state of mental and emotional warfare; the heightened activities of terrifying peace now characterize the social construction of the global war on terror. This might be more appropriately named a “war in terror,” as it perpetrates a rising tension of fear, anger and also bloodthirsty hatred. As Howard Zinn rightly noted, “How can you have a war on terrorism when war itself is terrorism?” By bringing the specter of terror into our very homes, the potential for social breakdown, or break-out, is magnified. A breakdown in community cohesion serves into the hands of the authorities as it decreases the effectiveness of organized social unrest. A break-out may also serve the ruling authorities by giving them ammunition to call for further draconian ‘in-security policies. Such measures are not only worrying for civil liberties, but act to bring unease and paranoia into people’s everyday lives; in other words, to really bring the terror within our homes. This cleverly orchestrated movement within modern states confirms that civil space is increasingly becoming the new battle zone. Not only does this assist nation-state anti-terrorism laws in that citizens forfeit their rights if they are “suspected” of being a potential terrorist (or harboring terrorist tendencies), it also brings in levels of social distrust and community disharmony. Such dystopian trends further create an environment where human behavior is increasingly governed by processes outside individual control.

Further, the presence of fear, anxiety and distress, as they permeate through the fabric of a society, can weaken the mental and emotional resilience of people.

The escalation of the global-terror situation is not only limited to the West and its targeted foes. This is a manufactured war with no definable enemy, no definable strategy, no definable end and an almost impossible goal of securing a terror-less world. Yet through its actions, it has helped to further catalyze anti-Western tensions and ideologies, as well as fueling once-lesser fractured parties. Splintered groups throughout the Middle East and other non-Western nations have been united against a common enemy (the Wicked Witch of the West) and this has resulted in a more artificially polarized world. Whilst this may first appear contradictory to a globalizing Western project that seeks to develop ever-grander systems of control, it actually plays into this process. We must remember that things which appear contradictory or opposite on the surface are often working together on other levels. Networks of resentment, terrorism and violence now stretch, tentacle-like, throughout the world. They also reach inward into communities, since terrorism is no longer “out there.” With potential terror networks now brought into the everyday world (sleeper cells; using the real and imagined existence of female suicide bombers to target a wider swathe of the population – beyond ubiquitously profiled Muslim men – for surveillance, etcetera), the social control strategies can be further increased as so-called security measures needed to better protect people’s freedoms (especially in the “freedom-loving” West). Whilst these measures are being put in place, purportedly for our benefit, we are also being made to feel more vulnerable in an insecure world where even our own streets, our subways, our buses, our places for social congregation, are not safe. Also, in those countries suffering the interventions of Western forces – such as Iraq, Afghanistan, and now, covertly, in Libya and Syria – there is the daily barrage of fear, death, violence, rogue militarism – the list goes on. Most people in these regions have a difficult enough time securing their daily living without the constant bombardment of violence, fear and anxiety.

And for those people who think they are at a safe distance, our beloved/begrudged mainstream media channels pump in the visuals, the stories of ongoing “attacks,” into our living rooms. Take the Twin Towers event as a central example; this was the defining moment of “terror-ism” brought into our homes. It just so happened that video cameras were filming both planes at their separate moments of impact. So for days, months, and now years, we have seen the repeated images, again and again, of the impacts and the towers falling. This is a visual bombardment into our minds. The public collective consciousness has now been conditioned with these images, and of the seeds of an endless global war that is both overt and covert. After all, fear is the strongest weapon; more so when it pervades a person’s consciousness repeatedly, introducing its dis-ease. Further, these seeds of fear have been deliberately planted within our minds, and our societies, as part of a larger agenda of control. Fear as a consciousness suppressant also works highly effectively on a subconscious level when people are unaware that the fear is even operating. Yet it can make us more suspicious, more possessive and less hopeful for our global future(s).

The orchestration of global events has created polarized energies. Fear, stress, tension – these all create disruption in our everyday lives. We are being distracted by deliberate design. Part of this strategy for distraction is for the system to create problems that, whilst they do not correspond to the reality, are made to appear as if they do. The minds of the people are then focused upon what they feel is the “reality problem,” which may then become a new form of social reality for a temporary span of time. This strategy is in play throughout the mainstream media, which infuses the viewers’ minds with a perpetual state of tension and paranoia over what are deemed domestic insecurities. War, then, is not only about resources (such as oil, gas, etcetera) or concocted territorial disputes; it is also about exploiting an atmosphere of in-security within the collective psyche of humanity. For this reason, our global world has been maneuvered into a permanent war economy.

A Permanent War Economy

There is no better way to construct societies of control than through the notion of a terrifying peace. What this expresses is the notion of peace as constituted through the presence – and potential – of terror. In this way, peace does not exist on its own merits, but as a state of ‘in-security’ in defense against terror. The UK government, for example, in line with EU statutory law, manifested this terrifying peace when using the “precautionary principle” for suspected terrorists residing in the UK. What this precautionary principle means is that the state can arrest people for what they believe they may do in the future. If the state has a suspicion for future guilty acts, they are lawfully able to protect against this by locking away those who may be guilty in the future. The precautionary principle is now being utilized by other governments, especially the United States. The use of “pre-crime” cameras is now also coming into effect on our streets. The irony here is that once locked away, the suspected person is no longer able to perform what they have been suspected of. This is similar to an old folk story of the wise fool who arrives at the door of the king’s castle to be told by the guard that the king’s decree is for anyone who tells a lie to be hanged. Then upon asking for his destination, the wise fool replies, “I am going to be hanged.”

“I don’t believe you!’ exclaims the guard. “You are lying.”

“Very well, then. If I have told a lie, hang me!”

“But if I hang you,” replies the guard, “then you would have told the truth and I shouldn’t have hung you!”

“Exactly,” replies the wise fool. “This is your definition of truth.”

The paradigm of prevention that the precautionary principle instigates is a dangerous pre-cognitive precedent that is veering dangerously close to the “thought crime” practices of Orwell’s “1984.” It allows the power structures to imagine the worst without any, or little, supporting evidence. What is worse is that politicians in the EU are now using this “lawful tool” in displays of power, exaggerating fear, and instigating a wave of terrifying peace. These public constructs are the fantasies, a phantasmagoria projection, of fearful images. Such state behavior shows us how politics is operating on the fears of an imagined future. It is the legalized instigation of their truth.

Warfare and the state of warfare perform multiple functions. It is not solely the case that nations enter into territorial disputes and thrash it out on a world stage. There are many levels of maneuvering taking place that involve power, money, resources and – above all – control. A permanent war economy is a feature of how governments are now tightly aligned with the powerful infrastructures of both the military and industry. This “iron triangle” relationship is now referred to as the military-industrial complex. This term was popularized by the farewell address speech of outgoing US President Dwight D. Eisenhower when he warned of “the potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power.” This misplaced power now permeates most governmental infrastructures and often works above and beyond national governments. This complex is what some commentators refer to as the “shadow government,” as its military-industrial dealings operate irrespective of national borders and state policies. I would now refer to this conglomerate as the military-industrial-entertainment complex, as all these strands are now interrelated in their dealings. This also refers to the notion of mili-tainment in the crossover (or merging) of the military and entertainment industry. This Leviathan of power has cooperated together to shift (or co-opt) the world towards a total war – a permanent war – whereby terrifying peace has become the norm rather than the exception.

Such manufactured agendas within the global system serve to create waves of in-security that reverberate within our collective psyche. Moreover, the usual response to such in-securities is to develop greater social securities, which further deprive people of their civil liberties and extend the technological cage of control that negatively influences the expression of individual liberty and creativity. The social construction of fear and learned helplessness results in creating greater dependency upon the old structures of top-down governmental control. In other words, we are conditioned to want to feel safe – to call for our governments to protect us from our perceived enemies, who wish to destroy our way of life. We are thus covertly manipulated to ask for powerful state protection – yet it always comes at a price. Part of this price is our subjugation and the handing over of our authority to others. Yet just this act of expecting others to be responsible for us has a powerful psychological effect of disempowering us. Not only do so many people hand over their physical responsibilities and power, but also, perhaps more importantly, they give away and relinquish their inner authority.

Today’s geopolitical interventions to extract power (primarily on behalf of the Western nations) have established a “perpetual war for perpetual peace” that is without end. Inside this web of warfare, played out by the military-industrial complex, is an ever-greater stranglehold on our societies and individual freedom of expression. This has been orchestrated through economic warfare as well as physical wars. The controlled mainstream media has always played its part in largely duping the masses into believing a biased and often delusional history of world events, and to distract people into a mass passivity. Along the way, the entertainment images of superiority and cultural dominance are fed into the national consciousness, and now that the power elite are fearful of an increasing wave of awareness from citizenry and the masses, the war gets turned inward, into every living room and every mind. They tell us that the end of the world is nigh, and that we should, by the way, be very, very scared – yet these lies are finding fewer and fewer gullible minds.

The patience of many people has already worn thin, or has already snapped. We’ve seen behind the wizard’s curtain and there lies a bald, bumbling, pot-bellied man – not the fearful specter. Fear, it seems, is changing sides, and peace for the majority of us will be extremely terrifying for the minority looking out from their high-tower windows.