although my interests in war machines haven’t been quite this literal i can’t help but pay attention to this. i’m reminded of Eugene Holland’s conceptualization of the contemporary American state as oscillating between neo-Despotic (under George W. Bush) and neo-Liberal (under Clinton, and not to be confused w/ neoliberalism): the former is Varuna, the latter is Mitra. i recently read Dumézil’s Mitra-Varuna to try and understand this oscillation; my notes:
Varuna is the “binder” and expresses the fearful aspects of political sovereignty: he is the terrible, tyrannical, magical and omnipresent deity with “immediate prehension and action everywhere and over everything” (Dumézil 1988, 67); he corresponds to night, poorly executed sacrifice, otherworldliness, roasting food over flames, intoxicating drinks…in short, “the sovereign under his attacking aspect” (Dumézil 1988, 72). Mitra, by contrast, is the “organizer,” the god of the daytime, rewards for proper sacrifice, the human world, cooking with steam, and milk: “the sovereign under his reasoning aspect, luminous, ordered, calm, benevolent, priestly” (ibid).
how then do we conceptualize the current regime, which seems to be doing both of these things at once? is the oscillation speeding up like everything else?
Amongst the on-going riots, a number of news outlets have covered the militarization of U.S. police forces in Missouri and elsewhere. Since the 1990s, the Pentagon has funnelled surplus military equipment to law enforcement agencies to the tune of more than $4.3 billion. This cache, administered under the “1033 Program” by the Defense Department’s Law Enforcement Support Office, includes everything from assault weapons to tactical armored vehicles. According to the original 1990 piece of legislation, in the 1990 National Defense Authorization Act, the goal was to combat drug barons and cartels in counter-narcotic operations.
Going well beyond the parameters of “crowd control”, such violent implements lend credence to the notion that U.S. streets are becoming a “battlefield”–although this should be tempered by the reality that power is overwhelmingly one-sided.
Recent News Articles on Military Policing
- How the rest of the world views the riots (WP, 19th August, 2014)
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