Sunday, May 25, 2008

Of commies and crystal skulls

The latest installment of the Indiana Jones quadrilogy is very creepy. Its central message seems to be that only communists and other assorted enemies of freedom insist on asking meaningful questions and seeking knowledge to answer them. Decent folks, meanwhile, are quite content with merely following instructions beamed directly into their brains by unknown external agencies.

Here are some of the other lessons I learned while watching this disjointed series of improbable action sequences. First, it is ok for academics to work for the military and for intelligence agencies. More than that, it seems to be part of their civic duties. What a coincidence that Anthropology is currently in the grips of a debate about whether the discipline should facilitate relations between the US military and local power structures in Afghanistan and Iraq. Disturbingly, the 2008 debate on this topic is much less controversial than its 1973 counterpart on the role of Anthropologists in Viet-Nam. If all Anthropologists followed Dr. Jones' example, there would be no controversy at all.

Second, and this follows the overall theme of the film, asking questions is dangerous. Asking too many questions and seeking too much knowledge will get you nothing but an exploding head and a hellish case of spontaneous combustion.

Third, thank goodness the FBI and other agencies breached civil rights and restricted free speech and free thought in the 50's, because the Red Menace was absolutely real and very immediate. Dangerous communist infiltrators were capable of entering the most secret facilities in the US at will, and carting off its most powerful secrets. But never fear, the G-Men were on the job, and even at the price of suspending tenured professors or forcing them to resign, they kept us safe.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I learned that next time I drive through the Amazonian plain at a high rate of speed, I must absolutely watch out for that thousand foot cliff beyond the next bend in the road.

No comments: