Monday, January 19, 2009

pacman wars

I should have seen it coming.
Yet the item on CNN the other day still shocked, then disgusted me.

In a Philadelphia mall, the U.S. Army has set up a large recruiting center filled with various “realistic” Xbox type video games, to introduce and entice the young to the glories of war. There are even full sized tanks to sit on while firing.

Life is not like television or Hollywood, people.
And war is NO video game.
Seems so obvious, yet, the place was filled with the young and probably gullible, operating various faux killing apparatus.

For decades, we have been in a continuous state of blurring “lines”
between fiction and non-fiction;
between news and entertainment;
between editorial and advertising.

This, however, crosses the line. And intelligence is no protection. My own son, not lacking in stuff of the intellect, fell for an army recruiter’s line in the waning days of Gulf I. He thankfully avoided combat, but I could have lived a long and fruitful life without knowing my only son could strip an M-16. This young man, brought up without so much as a water pistol.

My own father, having survived WWII, detested guns and taught his children to also. Yes, yes, I’ve heard the drill: Guns don’t kill people; people kill people. Yet I know that guns make it much too convenient for people to kill people—even by accident.

Back in 1983, long before the realistic avatar-type electronic world our young now populate, the movie WarGames introduced us to the dangers of such a world. In the film, a mischievous teen hacker, played by a young Matthew Broderwick, innocently starts a “game” of Global Thermonuclear War on the side of the Soviet Union, triggering a chain of events that bring the real world to the eve of destruction. (The world is saved, by the way, when the supercomputer in charge is tricked into playing an endless loop of tic-tac-toe against itself. A device Capt. Kirk uses several times in Star Trek. But I digress).

The following year, Hollywood served up "The Last Starfighter," starring Robert Preston as the desperate alien recruiter combing the universe for pilots as an unending conflict has eliminated those of his planet. He targets great, teenage, video game player and tricks them into being a pilot in a real intergalactic war.

Does any of this have a familiar ring, folks?

Since 2001 we have been harangued with the message that we, too, are constantly at war. This message is suppose to help keep us safe. I don’t buy it, my friends. Reaching back 26 years ago to WarGames, the film ends with the supercomputer concluding "the only winning move is not to play.”

Can I hear an “Amen.”


carol said...

AMEN! Good one, Roberta. I could not have said it better.

nola said...

Well said! You are a pleasure to read!

Mad Dawg said...

NOT an Amen.

One of the Mahayana precepts is "Not to elevate oneself by putting others down."

The contrast between the current situation and a world with no contention and no weapons will always leave the current situation in the dust. Fantasy often beats reality.

The productive contrast is between a world in which sacrificial and effective warriors place themselves between us and our enemies and one in which they don't.

Similarly, while we have stats on culpable homicides and accidental deaths in which firearms are involved, where are the stats on the death and injury prevented by firearms?

For example: Out of uniform, I am directing traffic around a disabled vehicle. A man with racist proclivities (as it later turns out) approaches me "breathing threats and slaughter" and brandishing a small club. I can't out-run him -- hey, I'm in my late 50s. Hand-to-hand looks dicey: somebody's going to get hurt.

So I draw my pistol. He sees it. Game over. Nobody hurt. "The only way to win is not to play." In this case showing my firearm prevented death or injury. The pistol persuaded the guy who started the "game" to quit playing.

The example that got me into active law enforcement: A woman in KY watches a person previously judicially slapped on the wrist for violent felonies kill her three children before her eyes. Unarmed, she can do nothing to save them. A weapon in the hands of that Rachel (weeping for her children) might have been useful there.

At tail-gate parties at "the University" deputies, ARMED deputies, patrol -- NOT to be party poopers (though we will detain people who are drunk in public) but to prevent out of control people from dominating the others. We, BECAUSE we are prepared (and authorized -- as is every US ciizen)) to use controlled violence, are ASKED by the victims and potential victims to intervene, and when blood is shed, it's usually our own. And we are sometimes applauded because suddenly the pacifistic, well-educated, liberal (as a rule), party-goers realize that we make it possible for them to enjoy themselves freely and safely.

As to the "glories of war": The most peaceable people I know (and this was one thing that prompted me to abandon pacifism) are soldiers and other military people. They know what fighting is and they'd just as soon avoid it. There is an undeniable beauty to courage and self-sacrifice, and it is set off by the horror and carnage of war. A quote attributed to R.E. Lee at Fredericksburg perhaps says it best: It is well that war is so terrible — lest we should grow too fond of it. ...

The fault is not in our stars -- or in our weapons. It is in ourselves. If we individually decide to outsource our defense, let us at least not deceive ourselves into thinking that that makes us in any way superior to our defenders, or that our chosen helplessness weakens aggressors.

Anonymous said...

I understand what you are saying, but I have to disagree and agree with Mad Dawg. Being an individual in my early 20's I have had my fair share of violent video games and continue to today and so have my close friends. We have no desire whatsoever to run around shooting people or joining the army simply because of a video game, or playing with toy guns when we were smaller. It is purely an escape, a fantasy world. We being of average intellect know the difference between fact and fiction. It is all situational and individualized. I therefore cannot generalize and neither can you. KISSES!

P.S I'm bringing your pillow to work.

roberta said...

my dear "squeeze" .. i thank u for ur thoughts, but u missed my point entirely. It was not about playing the games, it's about who is promoting them. The games so not necessarily promote violent action, but a government using such games as bait to lure young people into a recruitment center is unforgivable.

Mad Dawg said...

Well, actually, Colonel Grossman, army ranger and Psychologist, author or "On Killing" and co-author of "On Combat" says that some video games may indeed be responsible (not in a sort of direct "push this button here and that comes out over there" way) for some school killers, and especially for (a)the excellence of their shooting and (b) the way many of them stop when an authority figure tells them to stop.

In any event, some of the skill developed in some video games would translate over to highly effective combat personnel, according to Grossman. In particular quick and accurate response to the sudden appearance of a target AND the ability to "engage" several targets in sequence without pausing to assess the effects of one's last shot(s). These are all useful, indeed, life-saving skills when things get ugly.

Roberta, I did not understand your essay to be about using video games to recruit. Because of the remark about guns and violence, it seemed to me to be a generally anti-war and anti-warrior post.

Personally I am anti-war but highly pro-warrior and I think a nation that is to survive must count warriors among its citizens.

But if we are to have an army either partially or entirely staffed with volunteers, then I think it's legitimate for the army to recruit. And getting to know and to be known by potential recruits seems to be a legitimate activity.

I'm not sure I'd want a soldier who was too stupid to see that real live combat is not like playing video games. On the other hand, a young person who had the skilled to work an apache simulator effectiviely and who thought, "Hey, I have these skills; maybe I could risk death or maiming while I used my abilities for the sake of my country; maybe that would be a
noble thing to do."

If all warriors and all military is bad, then all recruiting is bad. If it is good, though the need may be regrettable, for a nation to have an army, then it seems to me we have say it's legitimate for that army to recruit.

"Unforgivable?" I fear that may be precisely the kind of sentiment or judgment that leads to war and armies and recruitment.