Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Fight Club

It's a sign of the times, I suppose, when news, entertainment and government appear to converge upon a single mindset: America is a warrior nation at war with the world of "extremism." Warrior nation has always part of this country's make up but now the warrior/thug is celebrated and encouraged openly, lovingly, not only in the showbiz arena of WWF wrestle-mania but by mainstream news outlets that now have fully embraced the ideal of noble American warrior savage. Government, for its part, continues the onslaught of legislation ostensibly designed to make us safer from the brutal and hateful world. The salient message in all of that, of course, is that it is a brutal and hateful world. Though most Americans appear uninterested in how the world got to be so, it is, nonetheless, one that requires Americans to be diligent in their readiness for the fight.

This message convergence in news, entertainment and government peaked last night on MSNBC. During the course of what seemed an interminable hagiography on the inherent nobility, mean honesty and tough-knuckle savagery of cage fighters, we learned of these fighters' family values, respect for theirs parents and peers. They suffered this brutal sport -- and did so gladly and humbly -- to put food on their family (the flash and small time celebrity were pure luck). They represented the archetypal American who had voted for George Bush, if they had wits enough left to actually know who George Bush was. Indeed, the show was entitled Warrior Nation, though whether the producers understood the larger meaning there is uncertain. Missing entirely from this and completely downplayed is that, as Elite Cage Fighting asks right up front in bold bright letters: "Are you a fighter with an interest in gaining national exposure and recognition?" Perhaps humility isn't really a requirement of the noble warrior after all.

Cage fights are simply the human version of cock fights, with the one adorable feature that either human can choose to quit at any time. Usually they don't, of course, because they're noble and proud and such decisions are often left to an impartial referee, one who is experienced in deciding just how much wounding can be permitted before the match is called. This is also probably due to a certain inability on the part of at least one of the contestants to recognize how many fingers are being held in front of their swollen, bleeding eyes. While the word "sport" is tossed around with abandon -- there is no doubt the participants are fit -- cage fighting actually looks more like some back alley scrap you might stumble upon behind a pub in the wee hours of a Saturday morning. Except these have a cage, a cheering audience (which also might be present at the alley fight), television cameras, miked and jacketed "analysts," and the requisite tarted-up ring girls haughtily informing the crowd of the number of the next round.

All of this was about as dreadful as it could be. Caligula and the final, decadent days of Rome kept flashing though my mind. But then a news bulletin flashed across the screen; the final piece fell into place:
House Approves Anti-terror Bill
Yes, there is terror everywhere. Our government tells us, not only this, but also that the government is here to save America from that terror with anti-terror. Unfortunately for many sad, misery-ridden parts of the world, our anti-terror looks very much like plain terror to the inhabitants of those pocked lands. This is a major reason why American governments feel they have to pass "anti-terror" bills.

Tonight, President Bush will tell America that more American fighters will go to Iraq to continue to fight a fight we ought not have fought in the first place. It matters not to Bush that Americans have tired of the fighting in Iraq. The message of "fight" will continue apace, until we become fully imbued by it, finally unable to recognize fighting as undesirable. Indeed, we are told and will continue to be told that fighting is to be honoured, glorified and respected, just as all warring nations are told. While individual Americans may not be, America is fully invested in fighting. We celebrate it or, at least, are told to celebrate it. The message is everywhere, broadcast by every media outlet that can spew forth its own special brand of fight club. And so the war will continue. The message to Americans is, get used to it. It doesn't matter how you vote. Fighting is where it's at.

So please, enjoy the show. You're probably not one of the extra 20,000 grunts about to be dropped into the meat grinder of Baghdad.


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