I like Jeff Jarvis. A lot. He introduced me to Spirit of America, which allowed me to take the Dean Design Principles to the next level, and that directly led to the formation of our new company, Open Resource Group, LLC. So I owe Jeff a lot, and I’ll never forget it.
But Jeff and I have a fundamental disagreement on a core principle. I believe that you can be a warrior and put yourself in harm’s way without hating your enemy, but he seems committed to hate and revenge as a result of his near-death experience on 9/11. Every time he touches on his personal experience that day, the bile spills onto the page and, to my gentle sensibilities, poisons the dialogue that is the core of the give-and-take of blogging. Jeff seems to seek out opportunities to pick the scab of his near-death experience. Today’s example is his “dread” (Jeff’s word) of Brian Grazer’s NBC mini-series on 9/11, presenting the viewpoint of the perps, whereby Grazer hopes to portray the Muslims in the way that Das Boot humanized the German U-Boat crews.
In case you might have any doubt about Where Jeff is coming from on this, he titles his rant, Next: The Chuck Manson You Never Knew:
I had to read it three times, not believing that even a Hollywood executive could say something so awfully insensitive and idiotic and so much of a self-parody of show biz PC. But in a story about the 9/11 movies and miniseries in the making, he said it:
Brian Grazer, co-chairman of Imagine Television, which is producing the NBC mini-series – and which has hired The Times as a consultant – said he hoped it would do for Muslims what Wolfgang Petersen’s film “Das Boot” did for World War II-era Germans.
He wants to “humanize all the different sides.” How the hell do you humanize the evil bastards who killed 3,000 innocent fellow Americans, Glazer?
Jeff, you got the shit scared out of you. It happens. Get over yourself. Please.
9/11 isn’t about you, and it’s beneath your dignity to take it so personally and viscerally. By over-personalizing your experience, you deprive us of the best of your wonderful gifts, which you bestow so freely when you treat every other subject. We get it that it affected you so personally and strongly. Hatred is a drug that’s addictive, energizing and pervasive. The problem with all that testosterone and adrenaline coursing through your system is that you can’t fly your plane as well. There are very good reasons that military aviators affect the archetypal sangfroid that has become their stereotype. To be effective at the controls of a plane, every experience must be dismissed as nothing but a minor inconvenience. Coolness at the controls of an aircraft is a metaphor for how we live our lives.
The first place that emotion is distilled out of military aviators is in the area called radio discipline, and you’re graded on it in flight school. In our world, it would be called blogging discipline. Radio discipline is the most visible indicator of the self-control that the aviators’ guild imposes on its members. In Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff, the essence of mental discipline in combat is revealed by an anecdote from the Korean war:
Combat had its own infinite series of tests, and one of the greatest sins was “chattering” or “jabbering” on the radio. The combat frequency was to be kept clear of all but strategically essential messages, and all unenlightening comments were regarded as evidence of funk, of the wrong stuff.
A Navy pilot (in legend, at any rate) began shouting, “I’ve got a MIG at zero! A MIG at zero!” – meaning that it had maneuvered in behind him and was locked in on his tail. An irritated voice cut in and said, “Shut up and die like an aviator.”
Now it’s time for We the People to control our fear and face the music.
If there is such a thing as right action, it places a demand on our resources whether or not our intellect or gut buys into it. That’s the essence of trusting our instruments rather than our inner ear. It also suggests that, when we must do things that seem threatening to our survival, it’s OK to keep our perspective.
In fact, it will improve the odds of survival.
Better a Cool Response than a Cool Engine
The Grumman aircraft that the scared young pilot was flying was built before the hydro-mechanical fuel control, a kind of intelligent fuel injection for jet engines. In those days, the throttle was connected directly to a valve that dumped raw fuel into the engine, which was, essentially, a blowtorch. Dump too much fuel and the fire goes out.
Suddenly it’s quiet. Ruins your whole day.
Today, an F-18 pilot slams the throttle to max power and starts jiving. In those days, if you moved the throttle from cruise to afterburner faster than about 5 seconds, your fighter became an expensive glider.
Think about it: you’ve just been jumped by a faster, more agile MIG 15. Your job now is to tame your reptile brain and count slowly while advancing the throttle and jinking like a mothafucka (technical pilot talk for turning fast while under duress):
one thousand and one, one thousand and two, one thousand and three, one thousand and four, one thousand and five.
Such suppression of one’s reptile brain requires behavioral modification at an early age. Now we, the front line combatants in the politically powerful War on A Noun, without the benefit of such training, need to keep our heads on straight and learn to fear only Fear Itself.
Are we Airborne?
The question we need to ask ourselves is whether we should model our behavior on poorly-trained, superstitious Muslim terrorists or on our own highly trained military aviators? Because hatred and revenge are the M.O. of terrorists, not cool-headed warriors, we lower ourselves to th
9/11 was a wake up call to a reality that we’ve been living in for forty years but have been unable to face. Devolving into ritualized, repetitious rants about how the enemy is evil and that there are no good enemies and no bad friendlies is worse than sophomoric. It’s simply ill-informed and stupid and has been proven to be so by so many wars and jihads that to misunderstand those learnings is a conscious choice to embrace the only dark side available to us: ignorance and superstition that’s been proven wrong.
Like our own Vietnam vets who’ve gone back and had tea with their former enemies and shared family photos and wept together, we too will some day sit down with former terrorists and meet the humans within. As will they. It has happened every time, with all the Gooks, Nips, Huns, Slopes and Ragheads that we’ve ever railed against as we firebombed their homes for no apparent military gain.
What does this fear of death morphed into hatred get us? Every one of us is going to die. Most of us are fated to die stupidly, slowly and expensively, like Terry Schiavo, rather than quickly and messily, like James Dean. I’d much rather live hard, die young and have a good looking corpse.