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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Football, Militarism, and The Glorification Of Violence in American Society

"... life is just a game of inches. So is football. Because in either game, life or football, the margin for error is so small. I mean one half step too late or too early you don't quite make it. One half second too slow or too fast and you don't quite catch it. The inches we need are everywhere around us. They are in every break of the game every minute, every second. On this team, we fight for that inch. On this team, we tear ourselves, and everyone around us to pieces for that inch. We CLAW with our fingernails for that inch, 'cause we know when we add up all those inches that's going to make the ... difference between WINNING and LOSING, between LIVING and DYING." 
--- Excerpt from: Al Pacino's Inch By Inch speech from the movie "Any Given Sunday"

The coach in the drama noted above expresses in graphic terms the dilemma of a culture consumed by the vision of life as a constant battle for survival. In American Football, life is presented as the next ten yards in front of us. It is territory that must be captured and secured at all cost...and that means at the cost of our own lives and limbs, and the lives and limbs of those who dare to get in the way of our territorial objectives. Make no mistake about it... Football is the most graphic representation of the blatantly gross militarism that has come to define American political and economic culture. None of us are spared the "draft" into this war. On "any given Sunday" during the "Season", in every major city in this country, we all get to go to war. As in so many actual wars we become consumed in the grafting of territory by any means necessary, and to hell with those who stand in our way. The mayhem that ensues, and which we all cheer on, provides an outlet for the violent lusts that have become engrained in our very DNA as a national entity.

This entrenchment of the culture of violence as something normal in our society has resulted in a national psycho-social problem. We have become socio-intellectual schizophrenics, at once celebrating and bemoaning the consequences of our preoccupation with a philosophy of living that does not pan out in light of our presumed higher moral aspirations. It should not be surprising then that we re-present the violence we assume to be integral to our very survival in our lives and in the various relationships we develop.  But, wearing the mask of our moral selves, we act all discombobulated when confronted with this reality... The reality that we are socially and psychologically conditioned to be a violent people. The hypocrisy is nauseating.

The Doublethink that characterizes our society's attitude to violence is featured in our popular Media's coverage of recent episodes of domestic violence involving some NFL players. As a society our acceptance or mental capacity to accept contrary opinions or beliefs at the same time, especially as a result of political indoctrination, is nothing short of appalling. Consider the fact that a certain beer company has voiced its outrage at the issue of domestic violence in the League while touting the moral high ground which it thinks is a part of its own culture as a corporation. We are talking here about a corporate entity that makes its profits from selling a brew which potentiates the expressions  of intemperance and its subsequent violence at stadiums. It peddles a product which serves to "pumps up" the vicarious warrior much like gang members who "shoot up" with, or snort narcotic substances in preparation for their turf wars.

The descent into the bottomless pit of  moral contradictions, driven by the predilection to live out our existential insecurities, is shocking. Instead of reasonable dialogue about our predicament, what we witness are attempts to use the tragedies that arise as opportunities to bolster profits by Media houses and their corporate sponsors. Constantly bombarded with information that drives us by our insecurities, our moral duplicity morphs into a convenient cultural and political complicity. And so we try to justify the illegal invasion of Iraq which caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of  Iraqi citizens and thousands of American soldiers; while we condemn Ray Rice for knocking out his fiancé in an elevator. We keep quiet when our "friend" Israel unjustly expropriates large portions of Palestinian land; while we loudly condemn Russia for its incursions in Crimea. We insist on "law and order" in Ferguson, Missouri;  while we hide the rogue cop who murders a black teenager causing the
uproar in the first place.

As for our Media, their demonstrations of fake outrage is exactly that... Fake! They live for this stuff. Look at the obvious glee which drives their unnecessary replay of acts of violence. They "warn" us that the images are "disturbing" knowing full well that they are feeding the insecurities that pull their audiences to them. This is about economic territory for them. It is about conquest and their "market share". It is about profits. Ratings. They are the enthusiastic drum majors for wars. Wars make them richer. Casualties be damned! Domestic violence victims be damned!

The unfortunate truth of the "game" we are playing as we engage our insecurities for profit is one that we must all sooner or later face. The difference between WINNING and LOSING, between LIVING and DYING... is sometimes just inches. We are that close to being the reapers of the harvest of the violence that we continue to cultivate. One half step away... One half second. One argument. One beer. One unfortunate incident, and we will be the feature of that next gratuitous replay on one of those bottom-feeding networks we call Media.

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