The City of Disney Book VII:

Signs in the Streets: The Dog(s) of War

Augustine of Epcot
and his scribe

Daniel White

The puritan wanted to be a person with a calling -- we must be. For as asceticism was transferred from the monastic cell out into occupational life and began to control inner-worldly morality, it began to build that powerful cosmos of the modern economic order, mechanistic production bound to technical and economic foundations, which today determines, and perhaps will continue to determine, the lifestyle of all individuals who are born into this drive-mechanism -- not only those engaged directly in gainful employment -- with overwhelming compulsion, until the last metric ton of combustible fuel is burnt up. Only like 'a thin cloak that one can throw aside at any moment' should . . . the cares for outward goods lie on the shoulders of a saint. . . . But from that cloak fate has permitted a steel-hard cage to arise . . . . In the realm where it has been most fully unleashed, in the United States, its metaphysical meaning has today been stripped down to naked acquisitiveness, associating itself with pure competitive fervor that often impresses on it the character of sport. No one yet knows who will live in this cage in the future, and whether at the end of this monstrous development entirely new prophets or a powerful rebirth of old thinking and ideas will arise, or -- if neither of these -- a bureaucratized fossilization, augmented by a kind of convulsive self-important grasping.

Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism [1]

Can "literature" fashioned from mere "words" thwart the inevitable Logic of War? Words have been set since the Age of Gutenberg like lines of troops obediently following their course, evoking little explosions of meaning as they march, bursting in the "consciousness" of "readers." Can the little alienated sparks connected only at steering and targeting points of the machina mundi, the world machine, do anything but fly out of the way as the tanks roll and the smart bombs hunt their prey, predatory desiring machines engineered as the avatars of greed, to gather more fuel for the fires of entropy in the apocalyptic world vision of McEmpire -- the Fast Food Planet's historic destination? Do links matter, do communicative minds in ecoinformatic networks have the power to post-substantiate the machinery of modernity, miraculously, like oil and blood into living bodies and aromatic wine?

Luther, Calvin, Saints underlying the New World Order, now shorn of its old mantel of religiosity and Revealed in the hardened, gleaming shell of Strategic Weaponry, new abode of the spirit, microwave-radiating missiles to disrupt any spark of rebellion, Eyes of satellites, Command and Control Systems, Guided Missile Frigates, ships steered by Adam Smith's Hidden Hand, Carriers of Birds of Death, Minions of "Freedom," in whose data helmets reside the techno-selves of the Targeting Spirit, who Sometimes even Offer Friendly Fire to our Canadian Brothers, sharing the Benefits of Liberation with All, soon including Koreans and Cubans, and of course, the Last to Know, Americans themselves, looking up from their SUV's (Soul Ululation Vehicles -- just step on the Gas and the Planet Screams!) at the new Light on the Horizon that spells their obsolescence, discovering, Too Late, that they Too are to be the new sacrifices on the Altar of Capital, new members to share the global misery of the Underclass, their air poisoned, their money safely offshore (off-world?) in Daddy's Private and Sacrosanct Accounts, Divinely Taken by the Man (surely he's still human, not Yet like Nero, a god) they trusted when He told them that Greed was divine, a national duty, as was the Faith to fulfill Weber's prophecy of Fuel Consumed and Civilization Collapsed, a planet in cinders fulfilling the Beruf, the Calling, of St. George, a Manifest Destiny that leads, imperturbably, into the Valley of the Shadow of Exhaust: Once Protestant Spirits, now Dupes of Empire (DOE), dwelling in Consternation within your Brave new Children, hear my pixilated prayer!

Your Secret was, as Dr. Weber saw, a new translation, a Code that would reshape the world into pure capitalized imagery, into bodies miraculously transubstantiated from the Domain's of Nature or God into the Language of Capital, reification fused with signification in a New Machinery of Desire, whose logics are so encompassing, whose vision so complete, as to ensnare all that lives in its Gehäuse, its Shell, its titanium Cage. Now that übertragung -- translation, transference, and Broadcast -- has encompassed the globe with chains of information, links binding us all together in one set of woven handcuffs, tightening as we pull apart, threatening to snap our joints, like the Shuttle Columbia, if we assert our strength, cautioning that there must be a gentler way Out, through the bars, into a the embrace of the World Community. Industrial civilization, the exoskeleton of Cartesian mechanism -- res extensa -- recently reunited with its EX, res cogitans, that old early Modern mind superadded to the machinery in the Mode of Information, in a ghostly shell of cyberspace enveloping the sickening mechanism of entropic biology, the World Body: the two conjoined, after all not where Descartes thought, in the Brain's Pineal Gland, but, more prosaically even, at the Plug, the "electrical outlet" which we dare not cut off for fear our electronic dreams might Cease, leaving All of us cybernauts wandering in poisoned silence amidst collapsing ecosystems, like Vladimir and Estragon, after all, waiting for a Godot's Modem to carry us out of the Dump of the now not so New World Order.

How to translate, to transform this mutually excluding and reified opposition of incompatible substances, whose progeny are, respectively, the Sciences (of res extensa) and the Humanities (of res cogitans), the Primary and Secondary Qualities of our techno-heritage, of the last Industrial Revolution, how to make them meet beyond Metaphysics, in a new Cultural Configuration, as a new Code of Making, a new Poetics off the page and into the street, along the information highways, around the ecoinformatic sphere of ecology, politics, and culture, into a Bright-and-Dark simulacrum of learning and evolution intertwined by autopoietic weavers of energized signs in a Poetry of Action? The Cartesian Self, like the Modern Protestant Soul, is not only the principal cultural mode of "subjective experience"; it is also an enclosure, a Firewall, that would keep out the Other -- as Foucault saw it, the Mad -- from the self-appointed Reasonable Destiny to improve the world by appropriating it as Real Estate, Oil Shares, Security Zones, Television Sets (in more ways than one), Highways and of course Malls where said Capitalist Spirit may follow its Calling in the handily advertised Guises of any number of Mannequin-Personae. The sacred Soul-Substance residing comfortably before the emblems of national identity, the Super Bowl and Terror-War, the pilot between the ears and behind the eyes of every Patriot has a God-Given Right to follow His (and less thankfully less often, Mother Mary Forgive) Her calling to do what is required to be SAFE, including Arrest, Invade, Poison, Run Over, turn to Road Kill or otherwise Erase all threats Foreign and, who knows? Domestic. That Spirit is not just "you" or "me" sitting inside each consumer; it is rather a Principal Mode of Control, a Rule for the arrogation of Mind, of Information, of Communicative Action, into the Private Property of the Self -- a Meshwork of Code to Encircle Creativity, Productivity, and Power in all its dimensions into a neatly kept Personal Space, a Cultural Yard with Fence. Capital Resides there, as does Philosophy, particularly Ethics -- the Seat (actually the Sofa) of Judgment is in the Middle Class living room -- an imaginary space even of those who cannot Pay their Bills, but who still Adore the Rich for being Saved and having Savings as God's Hand tips the Scales into their Coffers. "I" am NOT the Ecosystem, Not an Iraqi, Not on a Government Dole, I am Just Like the Rich I Long to Be, among Whom I Will (to) be, in Time, with Prayer, Lord, and the Might of our Planetary "Defense" Forces protecting Me and Mine by Flattening Evil everywhere -- but particularly where it occupies Real Estate housing that Slippery Fossil Fuel for America's Immaculate Machinery, in whose Driver's Seat "I" sit. Chevron fuels my Freedom.

But -- wait! -- Plutos, the God of Wealth and Chief of the Elephantine Plutocratic Brigade, now Speaks, attended by Myriad Cheering Fans and a Zany Chorus of Protesters. Let his words Resound with Theirs in the Great stahlhartes Gehäuse -- steel-hard cage -- of the Secure Spirit!

Tele-Vision Drama in One Act

Ceremonial sales of Fossil Fuel Consuming Vehicles, Aspirin, Dead-Cow Mash with extra Fat (represented by a jovial Bun-Waving Clown), "extra soft" Toilet Paper, and Antidepressants, all on the Digital Altar of Trade Acts (DATA); then fade and cut to podium:

Plutos: (through a miracle of Ventriloquism wrought by a Ghost Writer, speaking in the Persona of a Regular Texan): You and I serve our country in a time of great consequence. During this session of Congress, we have the duty to reform domestic programs vital to our country. We have the opportunity to save millions of lives abroad from a terrible disease. We will work for a prosperity that is broadly shared and we will answer every danger and every enemy that threatens the American people.[2]

Virtue: (dutifully translates Plutonic speech into English): "A time of great consequence" and of little truth. You, America, are already feeling the consequences: your economy is in a shambles; your environment is in-toxicated; your national wealth is being vented into the high-tech industry to build Security for All whether they like it or not; your retirement has disappeared; your civil liberties are history; your children are being sent to fight an ominous war; you are viewed increasingly with ridicule and fear by the world's peoples, including your own allies. But at least you care about AIDS.

AIDS Chorus: . . . the true test of Bush's resolve on this issue would come in the FY2004 budget he will propose next week. We must approach this as realists. This would not be the first time we've been greeted with a warm beginning and a frigid end.[3]

A Voice Echoes from the Congress of the United States (largely out of the televisual EYE): The White House is aggressively pressuring Senators from both political parties to cut funding designated for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria (Global Fund) from an authorization bill now pending before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, according to Senate sources. Yesterday's committee markup of the bill had to be cancelled due to disagreement over the proposed legislation.[4]

Virtue: Wasn't that a Quiz Show once, Truth or Consequences? The gist was, as I recall, that if you didn't know the truth you got the consequences? So, let's see, if Plutos says we live in a time of "great consequence," does that mean we don't know the truth?

Plutos: This nation can lead the world in sparing innocent people from a plague of nature. And this nation is leading the world in confronting and defeating the man-made evil of international terrorism. . . We have the terrorists on the run, we're keeping them on the run. One by one, the terrorists are learning the meaning of American justice. . . .

Noam Chomsky: First of all I think we ought to be very cautious about using the phrase 'War on Terror'. There can't be a War on Terror. It's a logical impossibility. The US is one of the leading terrorist states in the world. . . [The Reagan Administration, members of whom have been recycled into the current Bush Administration] declared a war on terror 20 years ago and we know what they did. They destroyed Central America. They killed a million and a half people in southern Africa. We can go on through the list. So there's no 'War on Terror'.[5]

Solomon: The word "terror" has become a linguistic staple in news media. For keeping the fearful pot stirred, it's better than the longer word "terrorism," which refers to an occasional event. The shortened word has an ongoing ring to it. At the end of February's first week, when Attorney General John Ashcroft announced an official hike in the warning code, the cable networks lost no time plastering "Terror Alert: High" signs on TV screens. . . .

Virtue: Is that why the terror altars, I mean alerts, get brighter, like the Star of Bethlehem, every time Plutos needs more support for his war?

Solomon: In the propaganda end game prior to an all-out attack on Iraq, the Bush crew is playing a favorite card; as a word, terrorism can easily frighten the public and keep competing politicians at bay. And now, Washington's policymakers are on the verge of implementing a military attack that will, in effect, terrorize large numbers of Iraqi people.[6]

Plutos: Today, the gravest danger in the war on terror, the gravest danger facing America and the world, is outlaw regimes that seek and possess nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. These regimes could use such weapons for blackmail, terror and mass murder. They could also give or sell those weapons to terrorist allies, who would use them without the least hesitation.

Spymaster Le Carré: This is High Noon for American democracy. . . . The American over-reaction is beyond everything Osama could have hoped for in his nastiest dreams. But this war was planned long before Osama struck, and it is Osama who made it possible. Without him, the Bush junta would have been mired in Enron, electoral scandal and taxation sleeze. Thanks to Osama, Americans are instead being daily misled by their leaders and by their compliant corporate media.[7]

Plutos: This threat is new; America's duty is familiar. Throughout the 20th century, small groups of men seized control of great nations, built armies and arsenals, and set out to dominate the weak and intimidate the world. In each case, their ambitions of cruelty and murder had no limit.

Teiresias: I admire the self-disclosure of tyrants.

Douglas Kellner (a recent Texan) drawls, about the title of his recent book: By "Grand Theft 2000," I mean that a crime of the highest magnitude was carried off by the Bush machine, that the presidency was stolen, that U.S. democracy was undermined, and that the hardright were able to seize control of the state apparatus and public policy. The theft of an election shows the U.S. system of democracy to be highly defective and vulnerable to takeover by societal forces that were heavily financed by corporate and rightwing groups, highly organized, and completely ruthless. The theft of Election 2000, as I attempt to demonstrate, was one of the most scandalous political crimes in American history and a demonstration of the need for radical change in the U.S. system of democracy.[8]

Plutos: America is a strong nation, and honorable in the use of our strength. We exercise power without conquest, and we sacrifice for the liberty of strangers. . Americans are a free people, who know that freedom is the right of every person and the future of every nation. The liberty we prize is not America's gift to the world; it is God's gift to humanity.

Max Weber: Am I witnessing that religiously sanctioned, "bureaucratized fossilization, augmented by a kind of convulsive self-important grasping" I saw looming?

Bin Laden: We need your intention to fight for the sake of God, not for nationalism or any infidel regime, including Iraq . . . . We want to ask the good Muslims to help in any way they can to join the forces and ... overthrow the leaderships that work as slaves for America.... [9]

Spymaster Le Carré: Perhaps the most nauseating aspect of this surrealist war is the religious hypocrisy that will send the American troops into combat. Bush has control over God. And God has very precise political opinions . . . God has entrusted to America the need to save the world by any means that it judges good . . . God has made Israel the key archway of American politics in the Middle East . . . God also has malevolent acquaintances. In America, where all people are equal in His eyes, if not in the eyes of others, the Bush family counts in its numbers a president, an ex-president, a former chief of the CIA, the current governor of Florida, and a former governor of Texas.[10]

Virtue : God certainly gets around, from Bin Laden to the Bush family! What a broad-minded Entity!

Plutos: We Americans have faith in ourselves but not in ourselves alone. We do not know - we do not claim to know all the ways of Providence, yet we can trust in them, placing our confidence in the loving God behind all of life and all of history.

Nietzsche: If the resolution is once made to close the ear even to the best counterarguments: this shows strong character. And anoccasional Will to Stupidity -- Dummheit. [11]

Max Weber: By God's Steely Bars, Fred, with global-communicative technics and armor divisions and informatic warriors on the horizon, don't you realize that America is finally approaching her fabled Manifest Destiny: A Global Arcade, the World a Floating Glory-Mall where All the Elect (not to mention Those in power but Never Elected) may Freely follow their Beruf into Dummheit under the Knowing Gaze of God's Panopticon (Inc.), with Terrorists sent to Perdition, or to polish the bullet-proof Glass securing the Plutonic Display in the Window of the American Political Imagination?

Virtue (played by Eurydice) and Orpheus, rising from Washington's Underworld undaunted by the Security Alarms: "Maybe Plutos will hear this":

CNN: 'Anti-War Protests are flooding the streets of cities around the globe today, as an estimated 500,000 people have arrived in New York's Times Square, as many as 2,000,000 in London, an estimated 1,000,000 in Rome, hundreds of thousands in Sydney, and in some 600 cities around the globe, including Paris, Berlin, Istanbul, Amman, Baghdad, Philadelphia, Austin, Raleigh, Seattle, Wausau,' and, I might add, even the Epicenter of Global Tourism, Orlando![12]

Virtue: Signs in the Streets!

NYSPC (National Youth and Student Coalition, who put on a skit -- "The Dog(s) of War" -- to implement their proposal. Freshmen street musicians dress as Pink Cruise Missiles, racing ahead of a Sophomore dressed in Jet Black as Sigmund Freud, who himself is driven by upper class(wo)men, three of whom are zipped into a Three-Headed Canine attire, lovingly called a Lavender Cerberus Suit, whose Three Faces bear remarkable reminiscences to Colin Powell (center), John Ashcroft (right), and Donald Rumsfeld (grumbling somewhat about his position, left); above them, at the hastily constructed paper machete foyer of Dis(ney), the city of the Damned, stands Plutos, in vermillion tights under a grey business suit, who snaps a whip over Cerberus's head; meanwhile, above, a member of the local Radical Mariolitrist Brigade (RMB) in Tinker Bell suite sprinkles Angel Dust over the scene, while she magically opens Dis's Door, on the other side of which Osama Bin Laden, played by Saddam Hussein (performed good-naturedly by a Former Chief of CIA), dig trenches out of which flames rise provocatively, as Plutos and Company prepare to Enter; now Tinker Bell Speaks with a sparkle the same day-glow orange of the current Terror Alert: [We oppose] all existing and developing US military activity in Iraq which will only serve to increase the misery and suffering of the Iraqi people. The threat of an Iraqi attack on the US is non-existent, and if anything, an invasion will actually make the region less stable and the US less safe while providing ample recruiting opportunities for Al Qaeda and other terror networks. Indeed, we recognize the strong historical role the US has played in the current situation by providing decades of support for Saddam Hussein, including chemical weapons programs. The call for war against Iraq is actually a call to increase US oil interests' control over the region and its valuable resources. The current drive for an illegal war by the administration is motivated by profit and politics alone and should be opposed by all in the US who value international law, human rights, and democracy. . . . Lastly, we call for the multilateral disarmament (i.e., all nations) of weapons of mass destruction, a necessary step in order to begin a sustainable, effective peace process in any region.[13]

Virtue: Does that mean that the United States would have to give up ITS weapons of mass destruction, too? You're kidding? America only uses weapons of Mass Enlightenment to defend itself and to save other souls from themselves!

Thomas Pynchon (echoes from off stage, as a missile, once again, makes its descent toward the text): "Till the light that hath brought the Towers low,/ find the last poor Pret'rite one. . . ."[14]

Weber: I told you America is a religion.

Nietzsche: I told you God is dead!

Plutos: May he guide us now, and may God continue to bless the United States of America.[15]


Signs too are Trapped within the Bars of our Weberian Cage, through whose bars my voice resounds into electronic space. May it Rise through the meshwork, bounding beyond the boundaries of Authority, to form a Living Song amidst a Global Chorus, whose Melody, whose Words, are not "mine" or "yours" but the voice of Ecopoiesis coursing through us all, fashioned of "Plankton and Verbs,"[16] as of the Hip-Hop rhythm and Activist Theater of the noosphere, calling the Children from their Homes, to join Hands in a literature off the Page, Out of the Self and its Golden Factories, Insecure, and Willfully Alive in the Streets.


[1] My translation. The German text: Der Puritaner wollte Berufsmensch sein, -- wir müssen es sein. Denn indem die Askese aus den Mönchszellen heraus in das Berufsleben übertragen wurde und die innerweltliche Sittlichkeit zu beherrschen begann, half sie jenen mächtigen Kosmos der modernen, an die technischen und ökonomischen Voraussetzungen mechanisch-maschineller Produktion gebunden, Wirtschaftsordnung erbauen, der heute den Lebensstil aller einzelnen, die in dies Triebwerk hineingeboren werden -- nicht nur der direkt ökonomisch Erwerbstätigen -- , mit überwältigendem Zwange bestimmt und vielleicht bestimmen wird, bis der letzte Zentner fossilen Brennstoffs verglüht ist. Nur wie "ein dünner Mantel, den man jeder Zeit abwerfen könnte " sollte . . . die Sorge um die äußeren Güter um die Schuldern seiner Heligen liegen. . . . Aber aus dem Mantel ließ das Verhängnis ein stahlhartes Gehäuse werden. . . . Auf dem Gebiet seiner höchsten Entfesselung, in den Vereinigten Staaten, neigt das seines metaphysischen Sinnes entkleidete Erwerbsstreben heute dazu, sich mit rein agonalen Leidenschaften zu assozieren, die ihm nich selten geradezu den Charakter des Sports aufprägen. Niemand weiß noch, wer künftig in jenem Gehäuse wohnen wird, und ob am Ende dieser ungeheuren Entwicklung ganz neue Propheten oder eine mächtige Wiedergeburt alter Gedanken und Ideale stehen werden, oder aber -- wenn keins von beiden -- "chinesische" Versteinerung, durch eine Art von krampfhaftem Sich-wichtig-nehmen verbrämt. Max Weber, Die protestantische Ethik und der "Geist" des Kapitalismus,Weinheim: Veltz Athenäum, 2000, pp. 153-154.

[2] President George W. Bush. State of the Union Address. NYT 29 January, 2002. Online. All quotations from "Plutos" are from this source.

[3] Statement of Michigan's Democrat Congressman John Conyers at a Congressional briefing. "Aids Groups Cautiously Welcome Bush's Boost for Aids Programs." January 30, 2003. Online.

[4] Washington, Feb 6, 2003, PRNewswire. Online.

[5] "Interview with Chomsky" ZNET. Online.

[6] Norman Solomon. "Playing the Terror Card." ZNET, February 13 2003. Online.

[7] John Le Carré, "À Predatory and Dishonest War." Open Online.

[8] Douglas Kellner. Grand Theft 2000: Media Spectacle and a Stolen Election. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2001. Introduction. Online.

[9] "Purported Bin Laden Message on War Infidels." CNN. Online.

[10] My translation, with kind advice from my colleague Mary Ann Gosser-Esquilin. "L'aspect le plus écoeurant de cette surréaliste guerre annoncée est peut-être la tartuferie religieuse qui enverra les troupes américaines au combat. Bush a la mainmise sur Dieu. . . . Et Dieu a des opinions politiques bien précises. . . .Dieu a confié à l'Amérique le soin de sauver le monde par tout moyen qu'elle jugera bon. . . . Dieu a fait d'Israël la clef de voûte de la politique américaine au Moyen-Orient . . . Dieu a aussi de méchantes relations. En Amérique, où tous les hommes sont égaux à Ses yeux sinon aux yeux les uns des autres, la famille Bush compte un président, un ex-président, un ancien chef de la CIA, le gouverneur actuel de la Floride et l'ancien gouverneur du Texas." John Le Carré "Confessions d'un terroriste", Le Monde diplomatique. 19 January 2003. Online.,5987,3232--305931-,00.html

[11] My translation. Wenn der Entschluss einmal gefasst ist, das Ohr auch für den besten Gegengrund zu schliessen: Zeichen des starken Charakters. Also ein gelegentlicher Wille zur Dummheit. Friedrich Nietzsche. Beyond Good and Evil [Jenseitsvon Gut und Böse], sec. 107; Kritische Studienausgabe (KSA), ed. Gorgio Colli and Mazzino Montinari, Berlin: DeGruyter, 1999, vol. 5, p. 92.

[12] CNN Headline News, Februrary 15, 2003, paraphrased; clips of the protest signs appear, city by city, online at; also see Alicia A. Caldwell, "Orlando Peace Movement Swells," Orlando Sentinel, 16 February 2003, online,

[13] NYSPC Statement on Iraq, Nov. 26, 2002. Online.

[14] Gravity's Rainbow (New York: Viking, 1973), p. 760.

[15] These are the closing words of President Bush's State of the Union Address, as cited above. For Mr. Bush's specific response to the massive global anti-war protests of February 15, 2003, see "Rice: Bush Won't Back Down on Iraq," in which National Security Adviser Condloeezza Rice relays the President's reaction. CNN, Sunday, Feb. 16, 2003. Online.

[16] This phrase comes from the literary ecological voice of the Santeria deity, ZOBOP, created by Thomas Sanchez. See his Mile Zero, New York: Knopf, 1989, p. 88.

Daniel White is Professor of Philosophy and the Humanities at the Honors College of Florida Atlantic University. His books include Postmodern Ecology: Communication, Evolution, and Play and Labyrinths of the Mind: The Self in the Postmodern Age (both published by State University of New York Press, 1998).