Don't Fear The Terminator:
This seems ever-more relevant as the Supreme Court grants corporations
personhood, even after they destroyed our economy.
LAST NIGHT [when it was in the theater, Dec. 2002] I went to see Michael Moore's new documentary, "Bowling for Columbine," and I think I have the answer to his oft-repeated question. Why are Americans so much more likely than people of other nations to shoot each other? Perhaps more to the point, Why are Americans so quick to shoot everyone in the world?
Our country was founded by rich white guys, so not surprisingly our government is a representational republic, where money = votes. The framers of the Constitution wanted to make sure that the little people didn't have too much power ("They aren't educated enough to vote"), so they made sure the wealthiest few were fully represented in governing the country. Everyone in the world knows that the USA is a capitalist's utopia. If H.G. Wells had been one of the framers, he would have made sure that engineers and scientists were fully represented in governing the rest of the country, but at least they would have had an interest in something besides profit for the sake of profit. Right now, as the Constitution is written and interpreted, those most represented by our government aren't really rich white guys anymore, but faceless, ethics-less entities with no soul or love or anything human about them (and no, I don't mean your favorite CEO villain). Corporations are richer than any individual could ever be. To make their executive staffs slaves to their needs, corporations ensure that those executives get rich, thus keeping the rich white guys in the money. So it's easy to assume that rich white guys are still running our country. That's bad enough, but it's not true. Corporations are running our country.
What do corporations want? To make profit. That is all they want, the only reason they exist. Profit is neither good nor evil, but how it is acquired can be either. Some examples:
To make sure Americans keep financing the violence needed to protect our corporations' economic interests, the powers-that-be work hard to skew our view of the world, in this case that not-Americans are scary and threatening to our way of life. Though I should have been, I wasn't shocked to read an article which theorized that our current administration knew the 9/11 attacks were coming but did nothing to stop them - why wouldn't they? Because what better way to terrify us all into letting the government finance worldwide violence than to prove that non-Americans are threatening (literally, terrorizing)? What better way to allow our representational government to erode our individual rights, to set up truly scary internal police, and so on? What better way to make sure that Americans transfer more and more of our power to the non-human entities who are represented by our government? External terrorists like Osama bin Laden - or internal terrorists like Timothy McVey - are the perfect straw pit-bulls to set up as objects of fear against which we must protect our nation "at any cost."
To protect our national interests, we must further erode individual rights and further empower our military. If no American dares speak out against our representational government lest he be jailed indefinitely without formal charges (or with coming-soon anti-liberty charges), and if no other country dares stand in the way of America's economic interests lest it be bombed and/or invaded, we will hand over more and more power to the non-human entities. But to wield this kind of internal and international power, the USA must develop a Stalinist internal police, reinforce its international intelligence forces, and continue to build and use its military might.
I'm not afraid of "the government" becoming all-powerful, as long as it's "our government." Those anti-federalists who seem to crop up all over our country are missing the point. However, I am afraid of all the power passing into the hands of those represented by the government, unless those represented are individual human beings.
One of science fiction's themes has long been that AI or other sentient technology presents the greatest threat against humanity, that our technological hubris holds our downfall. It's easy to chuckle about how quaint the early stories were, such as Clarke's "Dial F for Frankenstein," or E.M. Forster's "The Machine Stops," or Saberhagen's Berserkers. Even the Terminator movie series lives safely in the realm of fiction, with its unlikely non-human villain easily defeated by one woman. But the threat seems awfully real when you consider how readily we are transferring power to the non-human entities that are our nation's profit centers. Surely we will see the first true artificial intelligences appear as managers of these profit centers; who else could afford such technology? Perhaps the military might be the first, but that is no more comforting, and as I argued before, the non-human power entities are dependent upon (and sometimes are) the military-industrial complex. At this very moment, by granting more and more power to non-human entities, we are building the throne for the future Frankenstein's monster, who will rule us whether we know it or not.
So, to answer Michael Moore's oft-repeated question:
Americans so often kill each other and people all around the world because we are a nation taught to destroy what opposes us. We are taught that we are justified in killing huge numbers of people because we stand to make more profit by doing so, or because they stand in the way of our non-human entities making more profit. The government needs us to live in fear in order to scare us into surrendering more and more power to them. They need this in order for them to better represent their true constituents, the non-human entities, which require increasing profits to thrive. If our government, which creates our laws, justifies killing lots of human beings and annihilating countries that can't defend themselves against us in order to protect the profits of our nation's non-human entities which it represents, then surely we can justify killing a single person who threatens us in some real or perceived way! Our national news reinforces these messages every evening.
Perhaps now is the time to rewrite the Constitution to ensure that human beings don't become second-class citizens, even slaves, of a mechanized nation. Perhaps now is the time to frame a new type of American government: a democracy where one human = one vote. At the very least, we need to enact real campaign-finance reform which ensures that the government represents the people, not the non-human entities.