High Tech Rifles and the American Future (the Portrait of a Future American Citizen)


Magritte’s “The Survivor” in gloomy coloration


Magritte’s “The Survivor” in pompous coloration

There is no such a thing as a weapon in general, a weapon as such (except in the mind of weapon theoretician). It is either mine/ours or it’s my/our enemy’s. Likewise there is no just a war (it’s only war between “us” and “them”, between the benign and the wrong powers); there is no just a weapon, weapon as an object of philosophical contemplation. Weapon is always good (mine/ours) or bad/dangerous (my/our enemies’, the other side’s).

If the rifle, Magritte immortalized in this painting, is the rifle of my/our enemy – whose blood is under it? May be, it is my blood (may be, I was killed by this rifle, and my friends after avenging my death took this rifle as a trophy?). But may be, it is my own rifle and my blood – may be, my rifle has survived my death and will be kept alive in memory of my prowess and optimism? It looks that what is important in Magritte’s painting is that weapon is the survivor, not the human being (me or my enemy).

Weapon always survives us because it is serial, it is beyond death. It is like human armies always surviving the individual soldiers. It is like countries survive the death of those who sacrificed themselves for the sake of the larger collectives, or like nations and religious and political systems survive on the blood of those who fight for them. Weapon belonging to me or to my enemy survives human beings (me or my enemy). Next generations will keep it as a reminder of the deaths that took place – like Magritte shows it: the rifle after its use, the rifle as a noble object of our memory. But the rifle is not only about the past – it’s an expression of our actual feelings about the world.

Will our weapons continue to survive us, or will we one day become capable of surviving our weapons? The existence of two versions of the painting (one is in a gloomy and the other in pompous /bravura coloration) answers this question. It comes to the difference between elevating weapon to the status of our savior (of our best self), or enveloping it with feeling of our pain and grief. The first is the reaction of the majority of people with a conservative sensibility, while the second is the reaction of people with a democratic sensibility (which are not identical with political affiliation). Either the rifle is a nostalgic call for more arms and more wars or it is a progressive call for more masterful diplomacy oriented on prevention of future massacres.

Why Magritte after the victorious end of WW2 shows us the archaic rifle when it has already been surpassed by the smart weapons and weapon systems invented by modern military technology (by its creative logic)? – May be, because this rifle is not a rifle at all but a representation of us, human beings – our souls. May be, it is what we have been transformed into after our long history of wars. The blood then is ours, from our physical or psychological wounds as a result of participating in wars as soldiers, jingoists or witnesses of its terror.

US military spending per year is roughly (rifley) equal to what all other countries taken together spend on their military needs. It means that American corporations with their global ambitions prepare us, American citizens to be ready again to be survived by the invincible American weapons.