Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Masking Reality

"The longer term effect of this war will be to sharpen the struggle for energy resources and to increase America's determination to somehow rein in the local power. Russia will almost certainly throw its weight around a lot more in the Caucasus and Central Asia, probably arming and subsidizing local proxies. America and those who support it globally will flood regional allies with weapons and money, build up the 'lily-pads', support any potentially secessionist current within Russia, anything that might be destabilising and drain resources, try to lure the country into a war it can't win, and so on. In short, as I've said, we've just watched the world become more dangerous. Those who thought it would improve stability if US power was 'balanced' by two, three, many imperialisms were mistaken. Watch the arms race resume, see that new generation of nuclear weapons proliferate, observe as the mini-conflicts and conflagrations sponsored by different players leave thousands dead, and witness the deadly escalation in global tensions . . . and then you'll see what I mean."

So says Richard "Lenin" Seymour. I agree, especially now that the US looks to assist its Georgian client. The world's getting more dangerous, if that's even possible. Thus the joy heard from neocon and lib hawk circles this past week, as they sink their yellowed claws into fresh carnage, their damaged minds flashing future wars, eyes dilating, mouths glistening. And this is based on what I've seen online. I don't have the stomach to watch the cable news nets. I'm sure that carrion's flying all over the studios, flecking the cameras, smudging the lenses, accompanied by strange guttural sounds. I'd sooner watch UFC fans howling on cue than tune into Fox and CNN. At least their insanity comes honestly.

No matter who wins the White House this November, we're in for some rough riding. A shit economy pushing millions off the grid coupled with widening resource wars abroad -- reserve your spot today! With President Obama, the horror will sound sweeter, hopeful, promising, until reality smashes his face a few times. Then maybe we'll see the Obama under the mask. I suspect he'll appear mantis-like as imagined by Cronenberg. But that's more a wish than actual reasoning, as well as a tiny product placement for "Savage Mules" (if you've read it, you know what I'm talking about).

Speaking of masks, there's been some lefty carping about "The Dark Knight," which just went over the $800 trillion box office mark, or something like that. This was inevitable, given the cultural impact of the film and its widespread popularity. Brother Lenin was among those calling "TDK" reactionary, fascistic Hollywood gruel, and I have no real problem with that. Hell, Frank Miller has played with Batman's authoritarian side for some twenty years now, his latest pitting Bruce Wayne against al-Qaida, or whoever the Arab/Persian subhuman happens to be at the moment. So Batman as a Nazi is nothing new.

As to whether "TDK" is a hollow-hearted piece of shit, well, that's a matter of taste. I enjoyed it immensely, but then, I have a soft spot for superhero stories going back to my earliest memories of George Reeves' Superman and Bruce Lee's Kato. This softness sharpened in my early teens, when I routinely had the shit kicked out of me by jocks and rednecks, money stolen, cherished sports-related attire ripped apart. I've previously written about studying Tae Kwon Do and other forms to counter this onslaught, but I never got into the weird, alter-ego aspect of it. All that superhero absorption fractured a bit of my developing mind, not only giving me a sense of right-and-wrong that Catholic school failed to impart, but stirring in me a sick sense of vengeance. I didn't want to merely pay back my tormentors, I wanted to hurt them, humiliate them, make them brutally understand that they chose the wrong psyche to fuck with. Above all, I wanted to do it while wearing a mask.

I desired nothing fancy -- a bandit mask as worn by Robin, Green Arrow, or Captain America's sidekick Bucky would be fine. But instead I designed a bright yellow mask out of elastic material that stretched from the tip of my nose to the middle of my forehead. A little like Kid Flash, yet without the superfluous side wings. I trained in this thing, getting used to the limited vision the mask afforded me while kicking and punching. I would sneak out of my bedroom window in the middle of the night while masked, running through suburban neighborhoods, crouching near the houses where those bullies lived, fantasizing about invading their bedrooms and beating them quickly before escaping. It was an insane rush. What if I got caught looking like this? How would that shake down? The mere thought of it excited me.

In the end, I never exacted revenge while wearing a mask. I did return a few violent favors, but during the day, sans any crazy, theatrical look. Did my plan reflect fascist thinking? Perhaps in a raw, undefined form. But that had more to do with my white-knuckled rage than what I wore across my face. You'd think that given this twisted background, I would be at one with the present madness. The sorry thing is, I am. I understand it all too fucking well.

Today, a mask doesn't hide your true identity, it simply brings you in line with torturer and tortured alike. Some complain that superhero narratives are too dark. Given reality, they're not dark enough.