07 August 2014

Cheering for Death

I watched a man die the other day.

I presume he was a man, though I can't be sure. He may have been accompanied. The deceased was/ were last seen driving/ passenging a pick up truck, just before it was blown to smithereens by a Hellfire missile.

In my job I sometimes get to see these "events of interest," a perfectly understated description of vaporizing another human, on the big screen in the operations center.

They are, indeed, interesting. Fascinating, even. My recognition of the drama of snuffing out another man's life so easily does not translate into sympathy. I am remorseless about enjoying the "strike" as a spectator. It elicits satisfaction, often elation; at times, laughter.

I have a high degree of confidence that the targets were really bad dudes, and needed to be vaporized.

Of course, other may disagree. I'm not going to get into the argument about weather drone strikes are moral or not. Though in a combat zone-- particularly after a supposedly friendly soldier killed one of our highest ranking officers by shooting him in the back-- morality is a very loose concept.

What is more interesting to me is how satisfying it is to watch these killings. Like an amazing football play, it is more meaningful and memorable if seen live. "I was there," we are able to say, and with more pride if our gazes were fixed in the moment. A replay is just as exciting, but less genuine and valuable a memory.

Like sports, we pick our teams, and root for them zealously. We ascribe a sort of good-evil dichotomy to the players in the field. The formulation is exaggerated in war.

If they surrendered tomorrow, there would be no hard feelings. But they have deigned to meet us on the battlefield, so their evil deeds are punctuated with the hubris of thinking they can match us in combat; that somehow they can elude the far reach of our surveillance and weaponry. It is slightly disappointing that they never had even a millisecond to form the beginnings of a thought of regret or the realization that they had lost.

Perhaps warfare is becoming more virtual. An expert in virtual reality, Jaron Lanier, says,
We tinker with your philosophy by direct manipulation of your cognitive experience, not indirectly, through argument. It takes only a tiny group of engineers to create technology that can shape the entire future of human experience with incredible speed.
Maybe the speed of a Hellfire, but not too quickly for me to watch on TV.

1 comment:

  1. Provocative post, Rick. I've never watched a bad dude die. I've witnessed a couple deaths - my grandpa, a complete stranger in a car accident - and both of those events impacted me significantly for different reasons. No matter how many deaths I had seen on TV/movies, the real deaths stuck with me in a dramatically different way. So I can relate to a small degree to what you're saying here, though the celebratory twist is unique to engaging an enemy in battle. Thought provoking.