December 16, 2002
The pain of 2001 was not felt until 2002. That September morning's horrors
numbed us, and over the course of 2002, the anesthetic wore off bit by
bit, exposing us to the raw pain. I've always wondered what adrenaline can
do to make intense pain bearable. Coping mechanisms were set off like
wildfires across the globe, and the Western world coped by empowering
their governments to become both philosopher and practitioner. Americans,
deflated, allowed George W. Bush a flattering reputation. He was our
Commander-In-Chief, and they would, regretfully, permit him to command.
It is difficult to see this year as a continuum of events. Like Steven Jay Gould's evolutionary theory of punctuated equilibrium, 2002 was punctuated by extremes. Sadly, the celebrated paleontologist's own death this May was symbolic of the sense of loss that has been setting in. For most people, however, the unbearable loss -- the biggest punctuating event of the year -- was the devastating plane crash of October 25th. Paul Wellstone's death meant so much to so many people, but most of all, it underscored the drastically different world we found ourselves living in. Perhaps not different in actuality, but different, for certain, in our perception of reality.
The rosy circus of life as presented by Madison Avenue -- the one in which love, happiness, and understanding were always just around the corner -- was beginning to fall apart. To borrow an analogy from another promoter of fairy-tale-envy, Hollywood, consider September 11th as the first notice of "the glitch" in The Matrix. That cat, walking two times across the same doorway, led to a fairly instantaneous recognition that something was off. In contrast to Hollywood's typical exaggerations, we have taken a much longer time to comprehend our glitch, or even acknowledge it.
While Enron filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on December 2, 2001, Enron The Phenomenon did not occur until 2002. The Dow Jones industrial average opened at 10,021.70 on January 2, 2002, and closed at 7,286.27 on October 9th. Enron, in the form of Arthur Andersen, WorldCom, Global Crossing, Tyco, and ImClone, did not "go down" until 2002. The sheer scandal surrounding all of it was difficult to fathom for many, while Ralph Nader and the Greens were made to be prophetic. A hopeless Congressional corporate reform bill, sponsored by Senator Paul Sarbanes of Maryland, became a bandwagon to jump on or get run over by. George Bush signed it proudly, as though its very essence didn't curdle his insides.
But I never knew just how cunningly brilliant those neo-conservatives were. They didn't care about Lewinsky -- they just used it to shame a Democratic President into an ineffectual legacy. They have even duped real conservatives, though before the year's end, ideological conservatives are waking up and smelling the police state, their perpetual war, and their corporate-welfare state. Bush's signing of the grossly hypocritical Farm Bill in May exemplifies the shrewdness of his Administration. The rhetoric of "free trade" and "small government" is just that -- rhetoric. The Bush Administration is nothing more than a front for the corporate elite, and accordingly, his policies do nothing more than shill for special interests. As the Food First/Institute for Food and Development Policy demonstrates, the 2002 Farm Bill is plainly "welfare for corporate agribusiness." The now-little-reported genius of it, however, is that it benefited swing-states in the midterm elections.
Bush's entire Presidency, and even the elections and legal battles that got him there, run counter to the philosophies he sets forth in mere words. He talks nicely about democracy, peace, and even compassion. But his actions are beginning to carve out an uglier likeness -- unmistakable in its moral bankruptcy. His inability to string a compelling sentence together on his own (he reads a script well, but then so did the entire cast of Saved By the Bell) will come back to haunt him. The hotter the hot-seat becomes, the more frigid his lips will get.
Some good actually does come out of the new ultra-cockiness of the Bush Gang. They think they're invincible. They think they can outsmart and outwit the world. Forget about the shamefully useless Democrats (apologies to Democratic voters, but I think even the Democrats admit to being irrelevant these days and are engaged in bickering over how to undo that). This Rove-powered, Cheney-driven Administration thinks it can outmaneuver the entire human race -- at least those who don't hold a share of the IMF/World Bank and World Trade Organization. Thankfully, the rest of the world ain't having none of it.
Basically united against Bush, a few hundred thousand people marched in London. Half-a-million protested Bush's war throughout Italy. Bush's own backyard was swamped with 150,000 protesters on October 26. All before war has even begun. Indeed, the burgeoning anti-war movement will not be silenced by rhetoric and propaganda. Religious groups -- one of Bush's supposed strongholds -- are becoming increasingly vocal in opposition. The more Bush postures for war, the more transparent his desires become.
Where the midterm election season was a tumultuous time for many Americans, with the war drums blaring, fake debates roaring in Congress, the shocking death of Paul Wellstone, and a landslide Republican victory, an incredible poverty of spirits was transformed into the only remaining human option... hope. The extreme depths we reached between autumn 2001 and autumn 2002 fortified a movement. It is a movement based on questioning all that has been spoon-fed to us. It is a movement of many fronts, and it is yet-undefined. The history books will acknowledge it, but not for a while. We are living it now, and we may never live to reflect on it. But I see it in the opinion pages -- columnists who thought they knew it all reaching for drastically different answers than they once offered. I see it in the turnout to local Green Party meetings -- post-election enthusiasm and new blood. I hear it in the shrill voices of protest marchers -- angry, scared, and determined, determined, determined. The creativity of the handmade signs -- Dick Cheney Before Cheney Dicks You. The lyrics of popular musicians -- wake up and rebel, open up your eyes, over and over again, as if trying to break through a calcified shell built up over time. The gloves are off.
"Niggaz with knowledge is more dangerous than niggaz with guns. They make the guns easy to get and try to keep niggaz dumb." This might be something so-called "hip-hop activist" Talib Kweli would have sung in the past. But in the context of The Proud, off his new album Quality, Kweli is building something that will resonate. Finding its natural frequency and increasing its amplitude, this movement will build a resonance of ideas that cannot be constrained by borders, by governments, or by CEOs and their think-tanks. Based on actions and deeds in addition to ideas and words, a people-powered globalization will overcome the vacuous lies of the WTO-engineered globalization.
We SHALL overcome. It's just a matter of time. But go ahead and mark 2002 as the beginning.
· · · · · ·
Eli Beckerman was born and raised in Queens, NY. He graduated from the Bronx High School of Science and Wesleyan University, with degrees in Physics and Astronomy. He is currently an astrophysicist and computer specialist at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (since June, 1999). Beckerman is a member of The Mystic River Greens (MRG) in Somerville, MA, a group that focuses on Green issues and is affiliated with the Massachusetts Green Party. He is a regular contibutor to Swans.
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This Week's Internal Links
More Of The Same - by Gregory Elich
A Fading Vision Of The USA - by Philip Greenspan
2002 Has Been A Grim Year - by Edward S. Herman
And So Goes 2002. . . . - by Milo Clark
A Case For The Defense - by Aleksandra Priestfield
Whadda Mess - by Michael Stowell
2002: Still Hope For The Future - by Jan Baughman
Reclaim The Dream - by Alma Hromic
If You're Happy And You Know It, Bomb Iraq - by Deck Deckert
A Pivotal Year? - by Gilles d'Aymery
Café Espresso - Poem by Sandy Lulay
Empty-Handed Women - Poem by Sabina C. Becker
Letters to the Editor
Eli Beckerman on Swans
I Vote. Therefore I Think. Therefore I Am. - 11/8/02
Political Expediency, Media, And Democracy - 11/4/02
Self-Defeating Prophecy? The Tenuous Rise of the Greens: it's in their Hands - 7/29/02
Remember What Makes Us Great - 10/1/01