John Voigt as Milo Minderbinder in the 1970 film adaptation of the novel.
Milo Minderbinder is Yossarian’s well-connected mess officer, who controls an extremely successful international black market syndicate called M&M Enterprises. Throughout the events in Catch-22, Minderbinder’s sole priority remains the pursuit of profit, fully embodying the ruthless, capitalistic values of American society. In his quest to make money off of the war, Minderbinder basically discards morality, which already holds very little weight on Pianosa and is of no use to him in his free-enterprise ventures through the sky. Minderbinder’s total disregard of any set of morals puts in a long line of post-modern characters whose lives and choices are governed only by their eye for profit. He then cements his abandonment of morality when he bombs his own base and men in order to carry out a business deal with the Germans. Minderbinder’s ultimate act of betrayal demonstrates that his interests in the war hold no loyalty to any country or ideology, only to his own capitalistic goals. Through Minderbinder’s disregard for his own troops’ lives, Heller provides a new picture of a military officer that readily discards the values of responsibility, patriotism, and loyalty in order to better his own private business. His ethic of profit above all else is best evidenced when he paints the M&M Enterprises logo on his planes over “such laudable ideals as Courage, Might, Justice, Truth, Liberty, Love, Honor, and Patriotism” that had been painted on previously by the US Army (Heller 253). Minderbinder fittingly paints the trademark of his capitalist pursuits over the very values that he and every other authority figure within the military bureaucracy on Pianosa openly reject. Heller’s inclusion of a military officer who uses the war both as a smokescreen to hide his monetary exploitation of both sides and also as a means through which to profit expands his critique of war by satirizing the ruthless capitalistic nature of post-modern American society. Like Minderbinder, he paints the bold colors of capitalism over the traditional values of war and service to one’s country emphasizing the permanent arrival of the private business sector in warfare and its influence on military bureaucracy. Heller breaks new ground in the canonical landscape of the war novel calling into question the tie between capitalism and warfare by demonstrating its potential to corrupt those in positions of authority.
CONTINUE: Analysis of Colonel Cathcart
RETURN: to Absurdity and Corruption