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Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Assembling the War Machine: The Feeling of a New Security



Large pipe elbows for the Army are formed at Tube Turns, Inc., by heating lengths of pipe with gas flames and forcing them around a die, Louisville, Kentucky: photo by Alfred T. Palmer, 1941

For the individual, life is made easier through capitulation to the collective with which he identifies. He is spared the cognition of his impotence; within the circle of their own company, the few become many... The feeling of a new security is purchased with the sacrifice of individual thinking... At the present moment, no higher form of society is concretely visible... Whatever was once thought, however, can be suppressed; it can be forgotten and can even vanish; but it cannot be denied that something of it survives. For thinking has the momentum of the general. What has been cogently thought must be thought in some other place and by other people. This confidence accompanies even the loneliest and most impotent thought.


Bessemer converter (iron into steel), Allegheny Ludlum Steel Corp., Brackenridge, Pennsylvania: photo by Alfred T. Palmer, 1941


White-hot steel pours like water from a 35-ton electric furnace, Allegheny Ludlum Steel Corp., Brackenridge, Pennsylvania. The finest quality steels and alloys are produced in these furnaces, which allow much greater control of temperature than other conversion furnaces. The proportion of electric furnace steel is rising steadily, even though this process is the most expensive. "The furnace is tilted for the pouring." The flying sparks indicate the fluidity of the steel: photo by Alfred T. Palmer, 1941


Slag run-off from one of the open hearth furnaces of a steel mills, Republic Steel Corp., Youngstown, Ohio. Slag is drawn off the furnace just before the molten steel is poured into ladles for ingotting: photo by Alfred T. Palmer, November 1941


An experimental scale model of the B-25 plane is prepared for wind tunnel tests in the plant of North American Aviation, Inc., Inglewood, Calif. This plant produced the B-25 bomber
: photo by Alfred T. Palmer, October 1942


Assembling B-25 bombers at North American Aviation, Kansas City, Kansas
: photo by Alfred T. Palmer, October 1942


Transformer at TVA's Chickamauga Dam near Chattanooga, Tennnessee: photo by Alfred T. Palmer, June 1942


Barrage balloon, Parris Island, South Carolina: photo by Alfred T. Palmer, May 1942

Theodor Adorno, Resignation, 1978 (translated by Wes Blomster), edited excerpt, from The Culture Industry, 1991

Photos by Alfred T. Palmer from Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Collection, Library of Congress


manik sharma said...


'What has been cogently thought must be thought in some other place and by other people'.....beautiful....the title of this post says a lot...maybe says everything....that defines our todays and tomorrows....
we have beccome beastly creatures.....either we create our own fire(the bigger,the smokier,the fearsome the better....) or we constantly look for ways to put out others'....this will end when all hands burn...

TC said...

Manik, it's perhaps naive yet still hard not to feel regret, at this late date, for that special ability or skill, whatever it was, that first allowed one tribe or group or pack of primates to win out by violence over the others -- whether this was the invention of fire as a weapon, or something else. Indeed Jane Goodall, who has spent her life studying chimpanzees, concluded latterly, and with great sadness, that the original and decisive instrument which allowed the apes to set up night patrols and ambushes to intercept and kill individuals of other groups, was language.

And when we see either verbal language or what is perhaps an even more effective language, the picture-language of photography, being used as an instrument to these ends, there are unavoidable senses of manipulation and perversion.

But of course by now we have learned to expect this sort of thing from virtually all media, in any case.

"Security", that terrifying buzz-word of the epoch, is rarely attained without taking it away from someone else.

manik sharma said...


precisely....u said it in the last line....u actually has to be sheer greed or something along those lines that would have prompted man to use a tool that he first envisaged as helpful and not it it the rocks carved to slit flesh....and u cannot argue there wasn't enough for everyone at that time....if there was ever a time when enough was actually enough it would be then....

and now as u say....we have become used to this...expectant perhaps....too a level that any discontinuity would be disappointing...and that is maybe what it is....when we are hit closest to the heart ....we march...we protest...and we demand...that we return to what i guess we do best...raise has become unbelievably easy to destroy...than create....

Curtis Faville said...


Do you still draw, paint?

Anonymous said...

I wasn't aware that Jane Goodall had said that and I guess my reaction is that I'm "shocked but not surprised".

What you say about how language (including picture-language) can be and is put to manipulative use is, of course, true and we all reflect on it and suffer because of it individually and differently.

"For thinking has the momentum of the general. What has been cogently thought must be thought in some other place and by other people."
This confidence accompanies even the loneliest and most impotent thought."

This is what I'm going to take away from "Assembling the War Machine: The Feeling of a New Security".

TC said...

Curtis F.,

Thanks for asking. From crayon days onward, drawing and painting were a central delight. Much of the time, in my adult years, the bumbling and largely futile attempt to earn a feeble living prevented drawing and painting from occurring on anything but "borrowed" (more like stolen) time. Anyway, I nonetheless eventually succeeded in making a great many paintings. In later years these often remained unfinished, as the reality sank in, that spending two hundred hours on something you will never sell is even crazier than spending a mere one hundred hours on it. And then came a phase in which, finally totally unemployed, my time could be put into painting since it had no value whatsoever in any other domain. But at that point it also became apparent that the accumulated contact with resins, over the years, had caused a substantial tumor on my right thumb. Finally, about two years ago came the unhappy realization that painting had become physically impossible. It was at that point I took up blogging... which I expect will prove far more injurious to my welfare, in the, I'd better say, short run (no more long runs in the forecast), than painting ever could have been. The dim chambers of the collapsing domicile are meanwhile stacked with my Works, which I expect will go down with the ship, to the Davy Jones Locker Collection.

Curtis R.,

Yes, that seems to have been the saddest moment of Jane's life, when her ongoing observations of chimp behaviour finally forced that conclusion upon her.

"While fully admitting the major role that warfare has probably played in shaping our uniquely human brain," she wrote in the magisterial culmination of her life's work, The Chimpanzees of Gombe, "I submit that until our remote ancestors acquired *language*, they would not have been able to engage in the kind of planned intergroup conflicts that could develop into warfare -- into organized, armed conflict."

Sad, nay desolating to so conclude.

But one must say, from observation of the continuing evolutionary developments, it feels accurate enough, at least to this benighted non-scientist.

Ed Baker said...

my roof only leaks when it
rains... so, pots and pans catch the drips... just two days ago I climbed a ladder crawled over a portion of the roof spread roof coating around... and

WOW rain rain rain yesterday and NO LEAK! one down, three to go...

as for my "art" it has taken over my house... had to throw out most of the furniture to make room for my "priceless" ....crap..

most things done in wood... so, now that I am too feeble to split wood have a stash that I can burn for heat when needs be...

as for the 4 million sheets/drawings/water-colors... of notes... ahhhh my priceless poems stacked and waiting .... for Houghton Michlian Publishers up in Manhattan? I can use to get the art burning!

I mean uh-tell yuh... my 5 "readers" and they WHERE every-word "readers"
are now dead.... so ..

between THAT and the phacht that my poems and/or art no longer "get girls"...

and NOW that my Medicarecane has of a sudden developed a limp

I gues no sense training for that Ironman Triathlon... I would have "blown 'em away... in my new age-group.... 70-74

with a projected time of under 16 hours...!

TC said...


You've been reading my mind. I was just thinking that the best way to dispose of all those art works is to let Nature get at them. That should do the job.

We did that sort of ersatz home roof repair you speak of for the better part of thirty years until finally all that's left up there are broken and rotted rafters, dryrotted external plywood, sedimentary layers of shredded and rotted tarps with mould and fungus growing out of them, and raccoon shit.

Nothing between us and outerspace, in short, except a whole lot of clouds and pollution.

In two hours a gang is coming to rip the whole thing off.

An hour after that my partner departs once again into the cold steel arms of oncology.

Yes, some things are not yet made of plastic.

The future is therefore a vast unknown.

But it's been a pleasure, in a way... so do take care.

PS. In case we miss each other in the afterlife... good luck with those girls.

billymills said...

That's some walk, Ed Baker.