Posts Tagged ‘resistance’

When the Good Guys look like the Bad Guys…

In case you don’t hang around on pop culture websites, here’s the link to what you may have missed last week: the latest nugget of Hunger Games movie-franchise teaser images features the ostensible ‘rebel warriors’ who will appear in the series’ third film, Mockingjay, Part The First.
And here are the posters, all together:

HGMJ1rebs

(On a superficial note, Cressida‘s extreme undercut shaved-head look won’t hold up well in twenty years or so. Plus, good luck getting us to believe the story is set hundreds of years in the future when a character has an oh-so-trendy twenty-teens ‘do like that.)

Ugh. I think my first thought upon seeing these was something along the lines of, “Huh. Good Guys are looking pretty tacticool: black plastic submachineguns, black ninja suits…Are our protagonists planning to take the fight to the Capitol, or raid a Branch Davidian compound?”

In general, I find that the entire publicity/marketing propaganda campaign for these sequels leaves me feeling somewhat nauseous. While the ‘Capitol’ campaign is focused on ideas of ‘unity’ and decadence, the opposition seems more concerned with manufactured ‘resistance’ and being bleak. However, make no mistake, there is nothing organic about either campaign: each is meticulously planned, arranged, ‘shopped, and doled out to the masses of salivating fans.

However, in light of last month’s (justified and, frankly, long overdue) protests/riots and resulting police overkill/crackdown in Ferguson, Missouri, and the subsequent broaching of a national conversation about the militarization of police, I have to say that I find this latest batch of publicity posters pretty repulsive. Hell, even if they were released long before things went down in Ferguson, I still would have found them repulsive.

On the Wired link above, I counted (as of 4 September) 35 comments; most seemed to focus on fawning over the sole female in the lineup (I gathered that she also appears on the toxic ‘Game of Thrones’ series), complaining about the first and second films’ similarities, or technical issues. Of those 35, only a single commenter seemed able to separate his enjoyment of the franchise from the troubling visual message on display. This individual (who uses an image of a Black man as their avatar) remarked simply, “Wait, this is the Ferguson Police squad.”
Indeed. Congratulations, ‘tmsruge’, you win.

In fact, if you covered up the faces of these characters and the name of the film being promoted, I would have to assume that they were either elite, spooky, SEAL-type shadowy assassin-tools-of-the-State, or shady Blackwater-type ‘contractor’ mercenaries for private hire. But, surprise!, these are supposedly the Good Guys! Well, I’ll believe it when I see it, because as soon as you put your ‘rebels’ in matching uniforms*, they start looking entirely like oppressive, top-of-the-Pyramid Powers That Be.

And yes, tha Police fall neatly into that category.

*(History seems to show us that in a conflict, the less-civilized force will almost always be the one without uniforms (underdogs may have a similar look, but usually won’t be standardized). Star Wars is a good example of a rare exception: even though the Rebels have a standardized military, they’re still the less-Civilized of the two parties (being democratic, gylanic, and diverse, etc. versus the xenophobic, patriarchal, literal Space Nazis of the Galactic Empire.)

Why is this? Is it some kind of Stockholm Syndrome in the water? Have we become so accustomed to being oppressed by these kinds of paramilitary forces that we’re supposed to identify with—and even root for—them now?
Either the costume designers clearly do not understand what is meant by ‘ragtag resistance’, or perhaps this is a reflection of the fact that the rebels are entirely backed by District 13, whose leadership is just as corrupt as the Capitol?

Anyway, as I close, I’ll bring this back to the Real World, with a handy little tool—compliments of the Freedom of Information Act!—that reports what kind of groovy ex-military gear your local peacekeepers can bring to bear on your community. Stay informed!

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Doomsday Preppers: Mike Adams

Up next we have Mike and Jessica Adams from Salem, Oregon, whose family runs a barbecue restaurant, Adams’ Rib (I’m not sure if that’s intended to be a biblical pun?, but if so, ha!).
jessica-mike-adamsAdam’s doomsday scenario is a “terrorist occupation”, which he seems to think will be a good excuse to smear ketchup on his face, Rambo-mascara-style. Why not yell Wolverines! while you’re at it?

I don’t have much to say on this segment itself—there’s just not enough ‘material’ there for me. The fact that he openly admits his concern originates from a jingoistic artifact of 1980s Hollywood should give you a good indication of what to expect. Really, a lot of this segment is flavored with the kind of naïve adolescent speculation I remember from similar ‘what-if?’ discussions, back in high school or whatever. Y’know, we’d be hanging out down at the river and my friend would say, ‘If a zodiac boat full of Bad Guys came around the bend right now, how would you defend this position?’ And I’d make up something about holding the high ground with a belt-fed machinegun with help from my camouflaged sniper buddies.

In his imaginary scenario, Mike imagines that the terrorists will coordinate a series of dirty-bomb attacks across the country…and then close all the grocery stores so nobody can eat. Of course, because his family owns a restaurant, he thinks they’ll get special treatment…because you know how much terrorists love barbecue! ???
However, I would guess that unless his restaurant uses all fresh, local ingredients, that wouldn’t last long because they’d be just as subject to the just-in-time, three-day supply chain as everybody else.

And besides, I think Mike is fundamentally confused regarding how terrorism works:

To the US&A occupiers in Afghanistan today (or the Soviet occupiers 30 years ago), the Taliban, Mujahideen, and their lot are terrorists.

Terrorists.

To the German war machine 70 years ago, the partizaners of occupied eastern Europe were terrorists.

Terrorists.

To the white expansionist settlers in pre-1890 America, the indigs playing erratic retaliator were terrorists.

Terrorists.

To the English lobsterback officers 230-odd years ago, those pesky colonial squirrel hunters shooting them from behind trees were terrorists.

Terrorist.

Really, I could do this all day.

In other words, sudden out-of-the-blue attacks (often directed against the empire du jour) fall nicely under the umbrella of terrorism… …Occupation, however, does not. That’s definitely an actual standing army-type deal. The whole point of hit-and-fade attacking is ‘if you stick around, you’ll be a target’. Had the Cuban/Nicaraguan/Soviets of Red Dawn parachuted in, assassinated a bunch of government officials, and then had gone to ground, they’d be terrorists. But as soon as they started rounding up citizens for reeducation and patrolling the streets, they became occupiers, and thereby easy targets for a gang of high school terrorists.

Remember: one’s definition of terrorist depends entirely on which ‘side’ one is on.

Mike shows his brother how to install filters on their home’s rain barrels—hey, it’s Oregon, makes sense. This gives us yet another scene of preppers clinking glasses and drinking something.

Apparently Mike’s stockpile of doomsday food is skimmed off the top from the restaurant? So it’s all smoked and jar-canned meat? That’s fine, I guess. Personally, I’ll stick with my homemade jerky (ham, venison, beef, take your choice). Aside from pemmican or a properly-cured country ham, it’s about the only long-term survival meat I’ll stick with. And why not?: no mess (I’ve worked my fair share of barbecue festivals; smoked meat is greasy and has no part in a discussion of long-term survival); no glass jars; keeps forever.

About this point, we come to the standard “not everyone takes prepping seriously” part of the segment. And oh, what a surprise, enter the girly sister. Jennifer even gets her own bugoutbag from Mike…and it’s even pink! And so is the duct tape inside! Her rationale for not thinking about issues of survival is apparently, “If something happened I don’t see us surviving, so what’s the point?” Ohboy.

Thankfully, Mike’s wife is on-board with his prepping…but she has the serious kind of epilepsy. That’s all I’m gonna say on that topic, because the association of certain movements with certain 20th century political movements effectively make it impossible to ever talk about improving genetic health without being branded a monster by most folks.

While Mike grows St. John’s Wort in the garden as a maybe-backup to her month’s supply of medications, in Mike’s ‘occupying terrorists’ scenario the terrorists have also occupied the pharmacies! Mike and Jessica then go exploring Salem’s storm sewers with map in hand, hopefully coming up near one of these ‘occupied’ pharmacies (they don’t). I mean, it’s fun to explore sewers and such, but in this case because it’s as part of such a weird hypothetical situation…I dunno. Meh.

The experts give them 52 points for five month’s initial survival time.

Doomsday Preppers: Mister Wayne

I’ve noticed that these episodes seem to start with the most interesting people and end with the least interesting. This one is no exception.
Here we meet another smart, first-name-only prepper, this time known only as “Mr. Wayne”. He and his wife own three acres of land in central Texas that they have turned into a small vineyard. He claims he’s spent $160,000 dollars on his preps, but as he explains his strategy, I have a feeling a large part of that amount went into their wine-making enterprise.
He sees the big crisis looming on the horizon as “China’s domination of the world’s economy…and time’s running out.”
Mr. Wayne is concerned that when China calls the USA’s trillion-dollar debt, the US dollar will go worthless, leading to panic and then widespread pillaging. He’s afraid that we’re “not going to see it coming!” Actually, I think we do see it coming, but nobody’s doing anything about it (and if it’s going to be fixed, I think we’re gonna need really drastic measures).

Because he wisely sees that gold really has no value (now or post-disaster), he’s banking on using his wine as an alternative currency. He says that it’ll be useful as trade (people will still want to drink!), and he’s probably right, but…you can’t eat wine.
He produces about 600 gallons per year (he calls it Wayne’s World, harhar), and buries an ever-versatile shipping container to serve as his wine cellar (this costs $13,000.) Which is a great idea because, what with the whole year-round 55 degree nature of underground stuff, he can use it as a root cellar too. It was also nice to see his photos of the process of burying the container; it’s clear he’s done more than simply than bury a box in the dirt.
While he’s showing off his cellar, he opens a can of dog food and samples some pieces of duck or mutton or horse or whatever grade-D meat product folks feed to their pets. I have no problem with eating dog food. Go for it.

To defend his acreage, he has at least 25 guns. This is fine, having enough guns and ammo to fight a small war is great, but once you shoot it all, what then? Mr Wayne is somehow the first person on the show to make use of the awesomeness that is RELOADING. Finally! And not just reloading with factory-made bricks of lead, but casting bullets from old wheel weights! Which is even better, because they’re free (pick them off the streets while you’re urban backpacking, or ask around at your local tire repair shop)! A man after my own heart—I’ve been picking lead tire weights off the streets wherever I’ve lived for years now.

Then things start getting legally weird. In addition to all of his guns and ammo, Mr. Wayne plans on using more serious firepower to defend his farmstead from the yellow menace of invading Chinamen. Like pipe bombs. Which I’m 99% sure counts as BATF ‘destructive devices’. So like Pat Brabble and his 151-proof ‘Molotov cocktails’, Mr. Wayne and Cousin Jesse waste something expensive (six years ago, blackpowder was about $20 a pound; I’m sure it’s gone up since then) for entertainment value.
During this section, a caption pops up to inform us that pipebombs date back to 1886 Chicago. This refers to the infamous Haymarket Riot, which is the source of the stereotypical mustachioed, bomb-throwing Anarchist. And it’s a negative stereotype that continues to this day.

The experts say, “start a garden”. Because like I said, you can’t eat wine.

Blue is the new Green.

I found this on the website of a Texs news station, trying to pick this year’s Academy Award winners: “Best Picture – “The Hurt Locker” – It should be very close between “The Hurt Locker” and “Avatar,” but I think the social relevance of “The Hurt Locker” should sway more voters.

Erm, wait a second.  Did this guy get lost in the theater and wind up seeing “Tooth Fairy” or something?  Did he see the same AVATAR that I did?  Because the one I saw was like, one of the most important films ever (after Star Wars and The Matrix—both of which simply repackaged the same deep-rooted “hero’s journey” archetype that people have been telling since before Gilgamesh, except that Lucas based his on swashbuckling serials and Vietnam-era politics, and the Wachowskis drew upon postmodern anti-civilization philosophy and cyberpunk).
It’s funny, because The Hurt Locker and AVATAR are both ‘socially relevant’, except Bigelow’s film is specifically about the Iraq War, while Cameron’s is big-picture and about the Iraq War only to the extent that that conflict is simply the most current and visible example of Our Culture’s insatiable need to expand and devour natural resources.

Yes, AVATAR is Dances with Wolves, Pocahontas, The New World, Zulu, Fern Gully, 1492, or any other story where advanced imperialists have a run-in with the indigs.  And this is exactly the point; this is what Cameron wanted.    It seems that his plan with AVATAR was to repackage the same old story that we’ve seen countless times before, dress it up in his “gimmicky” 3D technology to get people into the theaters (because “You couldn’t get them to come… and watch a film about the conquest of New Spain…”), and show them how Our Culture has been exploiting the planet for transient, monetary gain—and otherwise generally fucking things up—for untold generations.

But apparently, it didn’t seem too terribly effective, because all people could see was a “groundbreaking film with dazzling 3d effects and breathtaking landscapes.”  Ugh.

In the 11 Dec 2009 issue of Vanity Fair, James Cameron explicitly states:

“What I was doing with Avatar…was more in response to the history of the human race (that) has been written in blood by technically or militarily superior people taking from those who are less capable.
I think it’s important for people to see the patterns in history…I think science fiction is a way of making history exciting by putting it in the future and taking you to a new planet and showing you exactly the same shit that’s been happening for the last 2,000 years…”

“Science fiction is excellent for that because if you make a comment about the Iraq war and American imperialism in the Middle East, you’re going to get a lot of people pissed off at you in this country, but if you do it in a science-fiction context, where you do it at a metaphorical level, people get swept in by the story and they get to the end of the movie before they realize they’ve been rooting for the Iraqis.”

After the film was over, I left the theater in high spirits: it wasn’t just me—finally, somebody who seemed to abhor “civilization” as much as I.  On the interweb, I hoped to see if there were others who thought the same.  But if you go to the IMDB’s AVATAR message board, you won’t find people debating the merits of industrial sabotage, or the ethics of armed vs. nonviolent resistance; no, you’ll find arguments over whether or not AVATAR is an animated film, or how much the final budget was, or yet another 15-page thread repeating the same petty comments we’ve been hearing since before the film came out: “It’s just Dances With Wolves in space!”  No shit, Sherlock.  Grow up, get over it.  Look past the 3D, look past the surface story—see AVATAR for what it is: a metaphor, a message—and wake up.

ecodefense, Na’vi-style.