On January 13, 2018, at approximately 8:15 in the morning, a ballistic missile warning was sent out statewide to people’s phones and TVs in Hawaii saying that it was not a drill and written in all capitalized letters. It wasn’t until ten-twenty minutes later that a follow up message was sent out saying that it was a false alarm.
After looking up newspaper headlines about hawaii missile warnings I saw that Hawaii has been testing their missile warning sirens since late November/early December, but there was no mention of text notifications that I could find.
Anyways, regardless if this was a false alarm and someone messed up or this was the state’s first of many public drills, this morning’s warning broke the existential ice on escalating geopolitical tensions and American imperialism. Even after months of pervasive media propaganda vilifying N. Korea and ramping up the public’s fear of a missile attack while S. Korea and Japan have been issuing their own sirens and building up missile defenses and the American establishment ramps up military training, invasion drills, sanctions and blockades of N. Korea AND Hollywood produces a movie about N. Korea invading America, people still freaked out this morning and ran around with their heads cut off not knowing what to do and feeling like they didn’t have time to say their goodbyes to loved ones.
I have to say that I have yet to see the full scope of the public’s reaction to this, after all I am in Kea’au, a rural/suburban area of the big island of Hawai’i. It was a short-lived reaction many had, but it is interesting that a notification on our phones and TVs struck that nerve of fear about the reality of our mortality. They weren’t even real sirens, just text notifications. “Public” officials and agencies tweeted to the “public” their apologies and commitments to investigating the event before anything was compiled in the news attempting to explain the situation. The first news stories were referring to these tweets and acting as middlemen between the non-tweeting public and the tweeting officials.
The last few months I have been reading a lot of history and recently have been reading about the Vietnam and the Cold War era. It is interesting to have just experienced the stirrings of something I was reading about as history. We don’t need to fear N. Korea. That is nonsense; if they do attack it’ll actually be a retaliation to our behavior and the missile will likely be shot down by either us or Japan or S. Korea, or it will be let through to cause a tragedy and justification for further totalitarianism and imperialism. I get that people fear the abnormal danger, whether rational or not, disproportionately more then a familiar danger but it still is hard to come to terms with the general pandemonium. I myself have only recently been able to reconcile with death in an honest way, and that was largely due to exposure to philosophical excercise, contemplation and reflection and thinking, in the last few years in my undergraduate studies. Now I recognize the importance of that exposure and practice.
The American public is dessenstizied to disaster elsewhere, and desensitized to their living-experience here. There is a screen between people and reality, and until reality breaches the screen Americans, and probably many many others around the world, will not genuinely reconcile with reality. We live in an empire, are “citizens” of an empire, and support by simply existing and being taxed and not dissenting from the everyday structure of the empire the regular and constant bombing of people around the world. Yet, the thought of us being the victims of a reaction against our imperialism is still so distant that even a false alarm will freak people out. Even after 9/11 and the following genocide in Iraq as a disproportionate reaction to the 9/11 reaction based on hype, myth, and lies, people still haven’t figured out or really reflected on or come to terms with the fact that our safety is an illusion built on military supremacy and cruelty. I am very thankful that I was stirred into wonder and curiosity by philosophy and that I have been reading ever since. Without a historical perspective it is easy to be taken by the current of fear and paranoia in this society. The Cold War was a sham built on such paranoia, arrogance, and fear, and was used to escalate militarism, totalitarianism, and imperialism for decades, and people are buying into it again, or still.
That being said, I am proud that people are also resisting and not buying into it in greater numbers then ever before. People and truth find ways to shine through the fog. Enough of imperialism and nationalism and racism and capitalism and militarism and classism! The empire has already lost the war, people and the grassroots have already won, it’ll just take patience and persistence to live while the battles continue. People don’t win because they use imperialism against imperials, they win because imperials decay from within until they change or die. People live until they die, and living is active, and imperials do not understand this. Imperials wish to make everyone suspend living until imperialism wins, but inperialism rots away before it can accomplish its goal. Life adapts to circumstance, and sometimes that means being a seed lying low in the dirt and waiting patiently for the rain to come; other times it means growing up through the cracks in concrete and asphalt, or taking root in ash and rock after a fire or lava flow. Other times it means bending but not breaking in the monsoon winds and standing straight again afterwards like the palm tree.
I feel that the establishment might be at its most powerful point yet, but also paradoxically at its weakest. It’s at its most powerful point militarily, but at its weakest intellectually and spiritually. Screens might be between many people and reality, but they are also exposing many people to other people’s realities as windows, and these realities might be different or surprisingly similar to our own, but the exposure broadens our worldviews.
My apprehension about this event doesn’t have as much to do with the false alarm as much as what is happening in America more generally. The effects of the Cold War that I was reading about are still ruining lives to this day. “Business as usual” is what I am apprehensive about. People that make us uncomfortable with our situated-in-an-empire-selves are who make me hopeful.