It seems every generations are promised a ‘war on cancer’ by political leaders scrapping for a fight they feel people can get behind. Cancer is great for politicians for one simple reason: no one is pro-cancer. Well, apart from population reductionists who believe that the only way we are going to survive is if masses are wiped out, and that things like cancer are just the eco-systems way of re-balancing itself. But those people are not a big voting demographic, they are more of the ‘what is the point of choosing which member of the illuminati rules over you’ bent. So we are regularly told that one leader or another is declaring a ‘War On Cancer’.
But, is this #war really so great? So virtuous? Is it maybe as misguided as the ‘war’ on terror or the ‘war’ on drugs? Also, does everything have to be a war? Is that really the only way we can conceive of problems in our society? As a simplistic other that we must bomb till its stops being a problem? Because that is a terrible misrepresentation of the truth. The reality of many of the ‘wars’ declared by political establishments is not so much that they are misguided but that they are actually guided quite effectively to achieve the politicians goal, it is just that their goal is not the one the final word of their battle cry claims. As 2 pac said:
“Instead of war on poverty,
they got a war on drugs so the police can bother me”
2Pac, from ‘Changes’
The real problem in drug ridden communities in America is poverty, but that is a problem so embedded in the very cogs and machinery of American capitalism that it cannot be confronted by those whose job it is to maintain these very structures for the benefit of those who ride its waves and convulsions to a world of privilege and wealth. So the war on poverty, one that requires a genuine examination of America’s dark soul, is put off and replaced with a war on drugs, a perpetual war that does little to help the effected communities or counter the drug trade, but rather escalates the militarism and violence of this trade and aides in the criminalization of poverty, especially for the black and poor (‘I’m tired of being poor, and even worse, I’m black. My stomach hurts so I’m looking for a purse to snatch’). A key thing to understand about elitist political structures, that is structures that are predicated on the fact of mass political inequality by pooling the peoples power into a tiny minority, is that decisions are only made and causes only taken up when they are in the interests of the elite. In modern western capitalism, where political and economic elites intertwine so seamlessly a Venn diagram of the two would leave a single circle, this means that governmental causes are causes because they do not threaten the embedded powers.
“I will also ask for an appropriation of an extra $100 million to launch an intensive campaign to find a cure for cancer, and I will ask later for whatever additional funds can effectively be used. The time has come in America when the same kind of concentrated effort that split the atom and took man to the moon should be turned toward conquering this dread disease. Let us make a total national commitment to achieve this goal” Richard Nixon in 1971, State of the Union Address
‘Concentrated effort’. That is what they are looking for, something to concentrate the nations gaze on, a moral cause we can all get behind, a moral cause you’d have to be a terrible person not to support, a moral cause that is ‘non-ideological’. In a neo-liberal world, it is the ‘non-ideological’ that is the most politically insidious. It is the ‘non-ideological’ that provides the biggest pillar to the ruling class. It is the ‘non-idealogical’ that best feeds the false consciousness that twists reality out of shape, turning healthcare into a war, destroying our natural equality and enforcing mass inequality, and telling us to hold up our rulers as heroes, because they have promised a war on cancer.
Well, leaders, I don’t want your war on cancer. I don’t want your war on drugs. I don’t even want your war on poverty. I want a war on you.
When you peel it all away, it is the only war that exists.