Saturday, December 3, 2005

Kill it or Buy It

In his truly groundbreaking book, A Brief History of Everything, philosopher Ken Wilber gets down to bare basics about the difference between men and women. Here’s a quote, and I’ll follow that up with my own adaptation of Wilber’s insight, applied to the Bush administration:

Studies on testosterone—in the laboratory, cross-culturally, embryonically, and even on what happens when women are given testosterone injections for medical reasons—all point to a simple conclusion. I don’t mean to be crude, but it appears that testosterone basically has two, and only two, major drives: fuck it or kill it. (pp. 3-4).

Now in Washington for the past five years, we’ve witnessed a phenomenon that may well drive Mr. Wilber back to the intellectual drawing board. We all know how the testosterone dichotomy translates into Bush-ese, because we’ve seen it in action time and again—most recently in the fascinating purchase of “Iraqi journalism”. Kill it or buy it.

First, you get good and fed up with journalism as it’s practiced by anyone outside the intellectual embeddedment of FOX News. Then, you have a frank and intimate discussion with your closest international political ally about the possibility of bombing Al Jazeera headquarters. But when it’s pointed out to you that such an action would amount to an attack on as friendly a nation as you’re going to find amid the deserts of the oil suppliers, you have second thoughts. You can’t kill it…so you decide to buy it. Thus, we encounter news of the Pentagon Marching Chowder Society for Truth in Journalism—paying an Iraqi version of Amstrong Williams to post your half-baked propaganda for readers of the Baghdad Times and the Fallujah Post.

The difficulty, of course, comes where the two impulses converge in a violent fit of capitalist lust —as Mr. Wilber himself points out in his book. “Men sometimes fuse and confuse these two drives, with fuck it and kill it dangerously merging, which rarely has happy consequences, as women are more than willing to point out” (could he have been thinking of Maureen Dowd, I wonder?). Then it’s time for a little face-saving damage control, Pentagon-style:

The articles were designed to counter "misinformation and propaganda by an enemy intent on discrediting the Iraqi government and the Coalition, and who are taking every opportunity to instill fear and intimidate the Iraqi people," the statement said.

Now kill-it-or-buy-it is taken to a wholly different plane: it’s the information war, the battle for hearts and minds all over again, merely in a different guise. America is once again spending its resources, its taxpaying citizens’ hard-earned dollars, on a cruise missile of Truth that will defend the Iraqi people, just as our 500 pound bombs and white phosphorous have defended them (never mind the tens of thousands of innocent dead—you can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs, you know).

So what’s the answer to this dilemma? Where do we draw the line between truth and spin on the information battleground? Some Congressmen are beginning to ask this question. While that process gains whatever momentum the neocon majority allows it, perhaps we can ask Ken Wilber what his answer would be:

Where the traditional sex roles of male and female were once perfectly necessary and appropriate, they are today becoming increasingly outmoded, narrow, and cramped. And so both men and women are struggling for ways to transcend their old roles, without—and this is the tricky part—without simply erasing them. Evolution always transcends and includes, incorporates and goes beyond. And so males will always have a base of testosterone drivenness—fuck it or kill it—but those drives can be taken up and worked into more appropriate modes of behavior. Men will always, to some degree, be incredibly driven to break limits, push the envelope,  go all out, wildly, insanely…and women will always have a base of relational being…So for both men and women, it’s transcend and include, transcend and include.

Great idea, Mr. Wilber…but evolution takes too much time for our purposes here. My prescription would be similar, but faster: transcend and impeach.

No comments: