Tuesday, December 18, 2007




Improvised explosive device. (See also booby trap)

With ironic thanks to our misadventure in Iraq, we are all too familiar with the cause and horrific effect of the IED, more so those who have seen their comrades in arms killed or wounded with an unthinkable severity. Nevertheless, the mere sound of those three letters wrenches the heart and conscience of those of us at safe remove before sending us into the familiar pattern of frustration, then rage.

With respect to those who live within the sphere of influence of the IED in Afghanistan and Iraq, I bring forth another kind of IED, explosive and damaging in its own right, sometimes inflicting psychical wounds as disfiguring and debilitating as those buried and planted with haste in the path of approaching armed forces.

I speak of words.

Words can be and have been improvised explosive devices, sometimes causing the explosion of ideation, of long-lasting, world-shaking consequence of a positive nature or at least words that provide the species information about it self that, if understood properly, add to the integrity and longevity of the species.

Words advance, deflate, attack; they inform, provoke, inspire. Words help form bonds of love, hate, and understanding. Words exploding about us numb our senses, words betray, seduce, mislead us. Words enlighten us, not always in the best of ways. As horrific as the IEDs of Afghanistan, Algeria, and Iraq are now, the explosive force of words on new technologies will make even more virulent IEDs for the future.

It is part of the human wiring to impart a desire to belong to some clan, family, club, organization. Even such activities as sports fandom reflect an interest in belonging to a particular group and, in the process, of detesting , showing hostility or disinterest to other groups.

Another part of the human wiring scheme includes the desire to be off on a mountain top, desert island, or remote dale with little or no other contact except for a carefully chose set of tools and conveniences, a desire so strong that the mere thinking of it produces the delicious fog of pleasure. Thus as a species do we alternately gather and withdraw, challenge and retreat.

Perhaps back when we were attempting to establish ourselves as a species this internal pair of opposites was not so manifest. Perhaps. If so, it is interesting to observe that there was no written language at this time, only some incised nicks and checks on rocks and cave walls, but none of the IED-effect words.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war beyond the empathetic glimpse of our best president, a battle of cultures and betrayals and cronyism abetted by our worst president. This is a time where amazing numbers of this worst president's adherents still chant as their mantra words of racism and bullying, of division and extreme self-interest, of a kind of entitled privilege that turns the planet into a network of gated communities.

Threats, betrayals, corruption, and self-interest are some of the products of the words that advance the philosophy of these neocon Barbarians to the point where such words as discussion, mediation, and negotiation are seen as unpatriotic, unrealistic, and naive. Many of these IEDs spring directly from a belief in a force, a deity if you will, of implacable armor and of a belief that the fruits of living in a democratic harmony cannot possibly be achieved in this world but must be attended in the rapturous world to come, entry by invitation only, and invitation extended only after significant donations.

Some of the most stunning IEDs are directed against such concepts as Let's talk this over, Let's see what we can work out, Plenty for everybody. We will not even pause here to discuss such heresy as I love you.


R.L. Bourges said...

Last night, I finished reading Camus' address "The Crisis of Man", delivered at Columbia U in 1946. Reading it now is eerie - as if Camus were standing in the McMillin Theater, shading his eyes against the glare from the spotlight and saying: "and this is what you can expect to happen in fifty years or so." I don't know if it's been translated into English. Can't find it through a quick Google search. May have to go ahead and translate it myself. Do you know it?

Lori Witzel said...

Amen, brother.

Before an IED can be formed, an IED of hateful words-and-meaning must have gone off inside the skull of the one who'd form such a thing. That childhood ditty about sticks and stones was wrong in so many ways.

And, in our land of plenty, those pseudo-leaders who practice zero-sum winner-take-all games seem to me tantamount to crying "fire!" in a crowded theater, then refusing an ambulance to those trampled in the rush for the door.

Empedocles' notion was that the world spun between two opposing forces, Love and Strife. Here's to more of the former; we have too many who'd dip their hand into our pockets to fund more of the latter.

x said...

Hush! "I love you"? They will Search and Destroy it. Look what the war is doing to the families of the military alone.