- Memories of My Green Machine:Posthumanism at War
"War has its own logic."J. Glenn Gray, The Warriors
Memory: "The insights of one hour are blotted out by the events of the next, and few of us can hold on to our real selves long enough to discover the momentous truths about ourselves and this whirling earth to which we cling. This is especially true of men at war."1
My Green Machine 1: Unarmored but armed, woodland camo with olive drab liner, Charlie 6, a standard-issue M998 HMMV-W. I drove it through traffic-choked, smoky Baghdad streets at the head of the convoy, waiting for the blacktop to explode in shrapnel and fire, watching overpasses for ambushes and rooftops for snipers, watching hadjis for sudden swerves. I gripped the wheel and tapped the gas, weaving unstopping through crowded intersections, feeling tires grip the road and weight shift from right to left. Every morning I opened the hood and lovingly ran hands along belts, rubbed oil between fingers, traced lineaments and undercarriage with tender eyes.2
Posthumanism: Something has happened to "Man." Whether understood as "the subject," as "the human," as "Modern Man," or "Western White Male Hegemonic Identity Discourses," the problem of "Man" has been brought to a new pitch by various thinkers, more recent than Nietzsche, Darwin, and Marx, and the political question of our anthro-ontology has been raised to the status of imminent dilemma. We are, we're told, postmodern cyborgs engaged in apocalyptic biopolitics: "For millennia," writes Foucault, "man remained what he was for Aristotle: a living animal with an additional capacity for political existence; modern man is an animal whose politics places his existence as a living being in question."3 Auschwitz, according to Agamben, has confronted us with the "metaphysical task par excellence," the "'politicization' of bare life."4 We are de-centered, fragmented, fluid, part-thing, part-animal, primitive and modern at once: "Beyond the edge of the so-called human, beyond it but by no means on a single opposing side, rather than 'The Animal' or 'Animal Life' "—and we should add here "The Object," "The Parliament of Things," "Commodity Life," or even "Technological Man"—"there is already a heterogeneous multiplicity of the living… a multiplicity of organizations among realms that are more and more difficult to dissociate by means of the figures of the organic and inorganic, or life and/or death."5 We are, we are told, posthuman.
All this seems more or less taken for granted, as if in the realm of ideas the forces arrayed against anthrocarnophallogocentrism themselves formed a theoretical hegemony unwilling to confront the conditions of its possibility. Critics have come out to give the critics a good critique. Neil Badmington argues posthumanism is not quite ready for prime-time: "Posthumanism… needs theory, needs theorizing, needs above all to reconsider the untimely celebration of the absolute end of 'Man.'"6 Daniel T. O'Hara asserts that posthumanist theorists have misread their Foucault, ditching his nihilistic Nietzschean-Heideggerian baggage in order to put him to work toward "liberal or social democratic" progressivism in the service of "all kinds of self-revising subjectivities," and argues that many of posthumanism's "prophetic discourses" are in fact not posthuman at all, but very much within a deeply humanistic Romanticism.7 And Derrida, true to form, questions whether we have even begun to question the questions behind our question: "It is thus not a matter of opposing another discourse on the same 'things' to the enormous multiplicity of traditional discourses on man, animal, plant, or stone, but of ceaselessly analyzing the whole conceptual machinery, and its interestedness, which has allowed us to speak of the 'subject' up to now."8
Yet something has happened. I would hazard, in fact, it happened some time ago. Writes Bernd Hüppauf on the "crisis of representation": "The experience of the dissolution of subjectivity and its traditional patterns of orientation and values, the transformation of modes of perception, and the destruction of vast areas of landscape and experience of time and space have become constitutive elements of modern consciousness…. It seemed impossible to restore the human face after it...