Over time, continual bad news will discourage any civilian population, and Americans had the lowest tolerance on the planet for bad news.Karl Marlantes, “Matterhorn” (2009)
Have you read Matterhorn, by Karl Marlantes? You should. It’s not just the best novel I’ve ever read about the Vietnam War, but it’s also one of my irreplaceable sources of inspiration for understanding The Maw – that unlimited gluttony of the violent State to chomp on our bones and suck out our minds … and the oddly not-so-rare instances of individual human bravery to persevere regardless.
I would bet my life that there are thousands of instances of individual human bravery persevering against The Maw happening right now … in Wuhan … in Wenzhou … in dozens of other quarantined cities throughout China.
And in Xinjiang, too.
What was my first experience with The Maw? It was as a seven-year-old boy watching the nightly news on our little black-and-white set, where every night … EVERY NIGHT … we were told exactly how many American and South Vietnamese and North Vietnamese soldiers had been killed that day.
The American numbers were accurate, I guess, and the South Vietnamese numbers were probably in the right ballpark. But the North Vietnamese numbers of wounded and killed? Pure fiction.
The daily body count of killed and wounded North Vietnamese soldiers was, in Epsilon Theory-speak, a cartoon – an abstraction of an abstraction in service to the creation of Common Knowledge.
Hey, everyone knows that everyone knows that we’re winning the war in Vietnam. Didn’t you see the body count numbers on CBS last night?
Once you start looking for cartoons, you will see them everywhere.
Inflation numbers? Cartoon.
Employment data? Cartoon.
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