Obama’s PlayStation

Published: January 23, 2013

The writer is a Canada-based editorial cartoonist and his work has appeared in several international publications

In a recent interview, Prince Harry has not only admitted to killing targets in Afghanistan but has likened his job as a helicopter co-pilot gunner to that of playing a video game. He says, “It’s a joy for me because I’m one of those people who loves playing PlayStation and Xbox, so with my thumbs I like to think I’m probably quite useful.” War is not a video game and is certainly not suited to those that trivialise the revulsion of killing. It is sad that the never-ending conflict in Afghanistan needs some celebrity glamour — becoming what it should never become —— the personal theatre for the rich and famous. War is an ugly solution for the world’s ill. It should be kept as such. The ardent pacifist, Albert Einstein, so rightly put it by saying, “He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would suffice.”

‘I Am Rich’ was an iOS application that used to sell on Apple’s App Store. When purchased, the screen displayed a glowing red gem, that when pressed, displayed in large text the following refrain: “I am rich; I deserve it; I am good, healthy and successful.” The application’s only purpose was to show other people that they were able to afford it. The ‘I Am Rich’ application used to sell on the App Store for $1,000 — the highest price Apple allows for App Store content. Seven ‘I Am Rich’ Apps were sold before Apple removed the application from the App Store on August 6, 2008.

Veblen goods, like the ‘I Am Rich’ application, are valued fundamentally as symbols of social status. The term has its origins in an economic treatise from 1899, The Theory of the Leisure Class that is a social critique of conspicuous consumption. The treatise describes how the ‘lords of the manor’ employed themselves in the economically useless practices of consumption and leisure, whilst the middle and lower classes were employed in occupations that support and benefit the whole society. Wasteful activities are those that do not contribute to the economy or to the material productivity necessary for the effective functioning of society. British singer-songwriter Morrissey has been an outspoken critic of the British monarchy. He thinks of Prince Harry as an ‘absolute idiot’, while the monarchy itself lives off the British public who “continue to finance the excessive luxurious lifestyles of the now quite enormous, wasteful and useless royal family”.

All of this stood in sharp contrast to President Barack Obama being sworn in for his second presidential term this week — at least on face value. President Obama’s speech acknowledged the problems Americans faced. Here was a man from humble beginnings, who has assumed the most powerful role in the world. Here is a president who wants to raise the tax rates for the top two per cent of earners to better distribute resources and reduce inequality. But in many ways, President Obama is no different from Prince Harry. It may actually be Prince Harry who is the more honest of the two. Targeted killing, using drones, is now so regular that the Obama Administration has spent much of the past year streamlining practices to sustain it. President Obama’s legacy may well be known for institutionalising kill lists. Extrajudicial killings were once considered extreme acts warranting serious discussions. Now, the Obama Administration has legitimised killing people, barely suspected of anything, on a routine basis. It appears that killing has become a much sought after Veblen good.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 24th, 2013.

Reader Comments (9)

  • Arindom
    Jan 24, 2013 - 1:04AM

    …..well, someone has to take care of the undesireable elements in the Pakistani badlands as the Pakistani Establishment is either unwilling or unable to take them on. If not America, who will? Obama just happens to be the President at this time.

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  • Something Clever
    Jan 24, 2013 - 1:38AM

    If I play video games, end up in that position and find the workings of it to be very similar to a game I played, do you know what it means? It means I’ve played a game that is actually very similar to killing a terrorist from an aircraft.
    How that is a judgement of my morality is well beyond me just because I made a comment on how the two are similar.
    By the way, the royals disgust me. You guys are being whiny because it’s what you do. The Taliban are whiny because they think they’re big bad holy warriors and it’s hard to reconcile with the idea that if you’re compared to a game, you’re not scary and have absolutely not been in the position of winning by any significant margin because it’s a little hard to laugh at people and trivialize them when they’re a real threat.

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  • Wasil Arien
    Jan 24, 2013 - 1:57AM

    President Obama is doing the job which your own security establishment is either incapable or unwilling to do. The killer list consists of those barbarians who are beheading, killing and maiming mostly innocent Pakistanis or military or para-military personnel.
    I think author should have thanked Obama instead of talking ill about him.

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  • Mirza
    Jan 24, 2013 - 1:57AM

    Hail to the chief and his Drone use to protect Pakistani civilians from the terrorists much to the annoyance of Taliban apologists. War is a dirty business but there is no better and safer way to go aginst the terrorists living in safe havens in Pakistan.
    Pakistan has death penalty and it takes life away from the accused. Most of the accused are poor and some are innocent (rich people seldom get death penalty) yet we have no hesitation to put them to death. That is the US drones are doing. Going against the accused terrorists with laser accuracy. The Drone attacks are not possible without the ground support provided by our men in uniform. That is why there is a tacit understanding about that all these years.Recommend

  • numbersnumbers
    Jan 24, 2013 - 2:13AM

    Wow, you say that “the Obama Administration has legitimised killing people, barely suspected of anything!!
    I would wonder if you would also “barely suspect” the various TTP/militant groups (so-called Bad Taliban) having anything to do with the near 30,000 plus Pakistanis slaughtered over the last decade or so?
    Team Obama is going after Pakistan’s beloved “Good Taliban” who openly reside in their Safe Havens in the FATA region, and “barely suspected of anything” is hardly the case!
    I

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  • John B
    Jan 24, 2013 - 4:41AM

    Except Obama’s playstation is high-tech, needs several levels before you put the hands on the button, needs two players on on the ground and one behind the button, and it is doing the job well around the world and it is here to stay as long as Jihadis exit.

    The author conveniently forgot to mention that PAK also wanted the play station but the US said no. I wonder why it is okay if PAK gets it but it is bad if PAK does not have it.

    Welcome to the digital generation where a ride to Abbottabad can be monitored 40,000 feet high in real time, and coordinated from across the world with the precision of an atomic clock.

    Drones are 20th century technology and so is the play station. Obama is playing with Mach 8+ propulsion.

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  • Sane
    Jan 24, 2013 - 11:35AM

    Dear ET,

    Thank you for allowing this article to find its place in your space.. but where are all the comments in support of this article..?

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  • Gratgy
    Jan 24, 2013 - 6:59PM

    What surprises me is that about a year ago most Pakistani commentators here were overwhelmingly against drones. Now with all the beheadings and killings of innocent civilians and soldiers, the taliban seem to have overplayed their hand and are badly losing the PR war.

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  • MK
    Jan 24, 2013 - 10:18PM

    @numbersnumbers:

    Talking of numbers, there are more than 30K deaths in One year alone in USA, that are related to gun and drug violence. I do not see drones flying over US rough neighborhoods known for their Drug gangs and firing missiles at them. There are no go areas in almost all large US cities. Wonder why all due process is set aside when it comes to citizens of other countries?? What would be the repercussions if US president personally orders killing of gang leaders, murderers, drug dealers in major US cities and send drones to level city blocks??

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