Lost: An Allegory for the Military-Industrial Complex

Today I read Chalmers Johnson’s article, Going Bankrupt: Why the Debt Crisis Is America’s Greatest Threat on alternet.org.  His main idea is that the military-industrial complex is going to catch up with America imminently unless we rapidly enact several measures:

reversing Bush’s 2001 and 2003 tax cuts for the wealthy, beginning to liquidate our global empire of over 800 military bases, cutting from the defense budget all projects that bear no relationship to the national security of the United States, and ceasing to use the defense budget as a Keynesian jobs program.

If you’re clueless about the “Keynesian jobs program,” don’t worry.  Johnson coined the term and spends much of the article explaining it.  For an in depth study of the military-industrial complex and how America has been stuck in it since Columbus landed, see Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of The United States.

It’s pretty clear that this complex is a problem and that American’s should understand it, so I began to ponder how I could address it my own work as a theatre artist.  Since documentarians have done well at addressing the historical and factual elements of the complex (see The Fog of War for one of the best examples), I thought that theatre would do best by utilizing an allegorical approach.  Suddenly, I realized that a very popular allegory already exists in Lost.

The survivors of Oceanic Flight 815 become so preoccupied with defending themselves against The Others that they lose sight of their primary objective: to get off the island.  This condition sounds eerily similar to the condition ascribed to The US by two key quotes in Johnson’s article:

It is often believed that wars and military spending increases are good for the economy. In fact, most economic models show that military spending diverts resources from productive uses, such as consumption and investment, and ultimately slows economic growth and reduces employment.

-Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research


From 1946 to 1969, the United States government spent over $1,000 billion on the military, more than half of this under the Kennedy and Johnson administrations — the period during which the [Pentagon-dominated] state management was established as a formal institution. This sum of staggering size (try to visualize a billion of something) does not express the cost of the military establishment to the nation as a whole. The true cost is measured by what has been foregone, by the accumulated deterioration in many facets of life by the inability to alleviate human wretchedness of long duration.

-Seymour Melman, Pentagon Capitalism: The Political Economy of War

Looking at Lost through this lens makes it suddenly much more interesting.  Maybe I’ll pay attention to the new season after all.


~ by jaredran on January 23, 2008.

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