Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Long War – Conflict, Crisis & Militant Myths

“Damn it all! all this our South stinks peace.
You whoreson dog, Papiols, come! Let's to music!
I have no life save when the swords clash.
But ah! when I see the standards gold, vair, purple, opposing
And the broad fields beneath them turn crimson,
Then howls my heart nigh mad with rejoicing. ”

Verse 1 – Sestina Altaforte, by Ezra Pound

Riots in Egypt, riots in Bahrain, riots in Greece, and now war in Libya, the breaching beast of globalization will have no bloodless birth. Conflict is the price of emergent paradigms; whether it’s polemical rants or missile strikes, a new world is no easy child to bear.

With the shooting in Arizona we saw the power of words and images to create an atmosphere where a subtle spark in the mind of the right individual can lead them to wing off in a violent purgation of their inner demons. Take that to the level of an entire society, and we see the roots of global conflict.

The conflict currently raging in the Middle East and Northern Africa are logical proofs for the powerful marriage of λόγος (logos) and τέχνη (tekhne), language and art, rhetoric and artifice. Communications spurred by technical proficiency engage directly with the immediate mind of individuals and cultures, allowing for slow seeding with the social equivalent of SEO. Produce a cultural script with the proper terms, and then bring it to life by working those terms into the narrative of your choosing. Or use preexisting cultural scripts and reformat the keywords to fit your meaning, repeat across all mediated outlets and let simmer until it starts to spark.

Myth draws out images from the ever present plenum, the chaotic matrix where all possibility resides. Myth sculpts raw energy into motivating forces that act on the culture to produce tangible results. Sound, narrative and image reproduce the potential for action and build guidelines for actualization. When this is used for militant ends we “see the standards gold, vair, purple, opposing ; And the broad fields beneath them turn crimson.”

We write our wars against the standards of the divinized rights of humanity, but the underlying truth still shows up the artificial script. A Κρίσις (Krisis) is the ‘turning point in a disease’, pointing to a trial that separates the healthy from the unhealthy, the gold from the dross, sometimes it’s even rendered as ‘judgement’. A crisis in society marks the point at which the social infrastructure is tested, Violent lesions break out on the surface, the poison pushes out through the skin.

Last night I met three kids from the Navy, barely 18, it was 4am and they were wandering the streets waiting for a 6:30 train. They had taken two trains, and traveled for at least 3 hours to go dancing at a local club. As I walked past them and down the street I noticed the headlines and realized that “Gadhafi Vows to Defeat Western Forces” and “Gadhafi warns of ‘long-drawn war’ after airstrikes” meant that these kids might not have very many opportunities to dance in the coming years. Last night may be one of the last good memories they have of quiet suburban streets and the minor inconvenience of public transit.

Here is where the myths steps forward, to reenact the event in light of some broader narrative that reads “crimson” in place of pain. Stories clad in symbols rewrite the horror, and pave the way for the true long war, the continuous conflict raging since the first stone was set and civilization rose out of the crisis of nature ravaged by an orgy of technical hubris. The news writes ‘raining missles’ and authorizes a vision that keeps corpses in the background, and the light opens on our sons and daughters dancing to a song of war, awaiting the spark of life in their eyes to dim as “the broad fields beneath them turn crimson,”

“I tell you that I find no such savor in eating butter and sleeping, as when I hear cried "On them!" and from both sides hear horses neighing through their head-guards, and hear shouted "To aid! To aid!" and see the dead with lance truncheons, the pennants still on them, piercing their sides.

Barons! put in pawn castles, and towns, and cities before anyone makes war on us.

Papiol, be glad to go speedily to "Yea and Nay", and tell him there's too much peace about.”

- Be'm platz lo gais temps de pascor, by Bertran de Born (trans. Ezra Pound)


David Metcalfe is an independent researcher and artist focusing on the interstices of art, culture, and consciousness. He is author of “Of Dice and Divinity – Some Thoughts on Gambling and the Western Tradition,” forthcoming in The Immanence of Myth.

Writing and scrawling regularly for The Eyeless Owl, his illustrations were brought to life in the animated collaborative grotesquery A Serious Enquiry Into the Vulgar Notion of Nature featured at select venues in downtown Chicago during the Spring and Fall of 2010. He also co-hosts The Art of Transformations study group with support from the International Alchemy Guild.


Pre-order a copy of The Immanence of Myth, published by Weaponized in July 2011.

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