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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The magic hue of defense forces

Modern nation states seek to promulgate a culture of patriotism by hammering down its citizen’s throats incessantly the message of “we better than anything or anyone else”, using various means such as primary education, public broadcasting, and creating and accessorizing a few national heroes. One of the key cogs in this wheel of creating the “national supremacy” myth is to create a propaganda juggernaut around the country’s defense forces. The nation states flood our conscience right from childhood with that handsome man wearing military fatigues, dumb intensity in his eyes, a firmness in his posture symbolizing his resolve to prevent any person to cross over his national border, that artificial line drawn by some privileged people who took the advantage of or succumbed to the situation resulting from history at their time.

Indeed, defense forces worldwide are treated as the holiest of the holy cows and questioning the character of defense personnel is near taboo in all societies. All Television and film industries, especially Hollywood, churn out one after another mindless flicks showing the defense personnel under good light. This unquestioned ownership of rectitude is also extended to their wives, parents and children; “Army wives” sacrificing sexual happiness for the sake of their country; “Navy moms” refusing to cry during the funeral of her fourth son to be sacrificed to a country, “Air Force Kids” put on their father’s cap at the funeral to put the final garnish on the melodrama. Such movies and soap operas are filled with clichéd hyperboles, violin rich melodramatic background scores, a lot of slow motion, and images with soft golden hues to signify moral superiority. A recent trend is for rich countries to spend millions on advertising to develop the image of the defense forces as a trendy, sexy, cool, versatile and noble place to be employed with.

Whether it’s a Muslim with a gun or an alien, the defense personnel never veer from their path of patriotic morality. Under this code of morality, everything is usually ok as long as it is for the sake of the country. Good defense people, after all, never question the decision makers (unless in real world of coups). So, common mischievous acts by the defense forces such as raping the wife of a state declared terrorist, cutting of the tongue of a tribal fighting against the state for basic human rights, or simulating water-boarding on yet to be tried Guantanamo Bay prisoners, become perfectly legit and honorable. Making millions out of defense contracts and privileged access to jobs and monopoly markets (e.g. petrol pumps in India) are also seen as minor transgressions only. The defense forces may fight in Iraq in the name of protecting democracy and then assists Israel to keep Palestinians hungry in Gaza, but the defense personnel are projected as supreme examples of human character none the less.

Joseph Heller and Kurt Vonnegut tried their best to take the glamour out of military life by telling us that they too have the urge to urine, vomit, shit and masturbate. But such “deviant” works are overwhelmed by an abundance of romanticized display of lives of defense personnel in our media. After all, this makes lives easy for the rulers of any state. Also in this world where sovereign ratings force a government to limit salary for defense people to avoid budget deficits, glamorizing the job makes it easy to recruit. After all, it provides an avenue for dignity to the poor who constitute the overwhelming majority of any defense force.


Anonymous said...

"So, common mischievous acts by the defense forces such as raping the wife of a state declared terrorist, cutting of the tongue of a tribal fighting against the state for basic human rights." Please give the sources to these examples you cite, they seem rather hypothetical without proper evidence.

Shivaji said...

Atrocities by armed forces are well documented... For a starter, you can read:

Of course, mainstream media, typically under awe of armed forces or under pressure from the state, try their best to keep such news under wraps