I have been nursing a dour notion about what we’ve seen happen to the public mood, since 2000. To me, it seems as if there has been much more going on than myopic commentators perceive. Indeed, I suspect a traumatic reaction to Y2K... that the arrival of a new century has rocked many of our countrymen far more than they allow themselves - at surface - to admit.
How else to explain why a happy, rich, successful and scientific society - one that accomplished miracle after miracle through pragmatic negotiation and ingenuity and neighborly good will - would swing about and choose to dive into nostalgia, spooky romanticism, infighting recrimination and cynical, short-sighted despair?
(Not ONLY from the right, but from every style and variety of indignant dogmatism.)
Is this to be the tone of the 21st Century? A slide away from the Enlightenment and the Great Experiment, shying back when we are on the verge of our supreme triumphs?
Certainly, if we do not wake up and reinforce the experiment, there will be elite powers who attain an array of truly daunting powers, such as real lie detection, personality profiling, and omni-surveillance tools that would make Big Brother look like an amateur. They know that if the people became adept with such technologies, tyranny would automatically vanish forever, so this is their one chance.
On the other hand, if they succeed at monopolizing these tools, the new tyranny could become pretty much permanent. No wonder they are making their big move now.
Is this the way the century... even the millennium... will be? Allowing the experiment to fail, because of a general malaise and failure of nerve? Perhaps.
And yet... I am cheered by a contrarian thought (a trademark habit the will always send me careening from optimism to pessimism and back again, like a bipolar shaman). The thought that centuries tend not to show their true theme until at least ten years in.
More like twelve or fifteen year. Take, for example, significant milestones in the last three of them.
1712 - The first steam engine and harbingers of a rising scientific Enlightenment.
1815 - The Congress of Vienna seals the end of enlightenment revolutions and locks in a century of European crowned consensus.
1914 - This consensus shatters, along with royal rule, as we dive into the savage Age of Ideologies.
If this rhythm holds, then we still have a few years before some great confluence of events will shape Century 21. Perhaps around 2015?
Yes, I have already mentioned one frightening literary coincidence... that Robert Heinlein foresaw the year 2012 as ushering in the reign of Nehemia Scudder “Prophet of the Lord.”
On the other hand, perhaps it will be a time when the momentum of vast increases in prosperity and education and mass internet-propelled access to knowledge and “sousveillance” will reach a critical threshold... literally... and the creative POWER of criticism - citokate - will shine into every dark corner, bringing on an era that Ben Franklin spoke of and yearned for. An era of light.
Ah, well. I told you that - deep down - I am the thing I fear most. A romantic.
----- AND NOW, POLITICAL RIFFS ------
Russ Daggatt is back: “1348 Days: That's how long it took from the declaration of war in World War II to the Japanese surrender. And that is, as of today, how long our Iraq war has raged. (On the other hand, it took Bush only 14 days to prematurely ejaculate "Mission Accomplished" on May 1, 2003. But W. is not know for his attention span.) In other words, as of today, the Iraq war has lasted longer than World War II.
“Certainly Bush and his Republican apologists have never treated the Iraq war anything like WWII. War is one thing. Paying taxes to finance it is another thing altogether. There are limits to the sacrifices Republicans are willing to make for their "generational struggle." Who ever heard of cutting taxes -- multiple times -- during wartime? And even chaos and civil war could not provoke Rumsfeld and Co. into increasing the size of our armed forces -- even by a couple of divisions. Rumsfeld's ideology dictated technology over manpower and damn if this Iraq messiness was going to interfere with his Own Private Reality.
“And then there is Karl Rove. In the Bush White House, all policy is ultimately dictated by politics. And the Rove game plan was always to seek "wedge" issues to "draw contrasts" with the Democrats. Why strive to unite the country to prosecute a war when war can be used as a partisan cudgel to pummel your opponents? Is there is any historical precedent for the president of the United States actively, intentionally seeking to use "national security" to DIVIDE the country during wartime, I haven't heard of it. Either it is damn near treasonous or the war isn't particularly essential to national security. It's hard to imagine FDR accusing the Republicans of aiding and abetting the Nazis. “
Ah, but as Time Magazine reported: “If this week’s announcement that President Bush is to meet Iraq’s Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in the capital of neighboring Jordan raised eyebrows, by Friday it was abundantly clear why the meeting couldn’t be held in Baghdad — the Iraqi capital is under siege. After a day of open sectarian warfare on the streets had claimed more than 200 lives, the city’s airport is closed and its residents are forced to remain indoors under a curfew.” Um, weren’t we told that we were “winning”?
Daggatt resumes: “Everything seems to be staked on training Iraqi forces to take over from the US military. The problem is that we are trying to train an Iraqi army when there is no such thing as Iraq anymore. A united Iraq is increasingly an American fantasy. In reality, we are training a Shiite army that will probably eventually butcher Sunnis (as the Shiite militia and police are doing already). In all likelihood, it will also become an ally of Iran and, in the end, turn on us. Sort of like when we trained and armed the "freedom fighters" -- the Muhajadeen -- of Afghanistan to fight the Soviets. They morphed into the Taliban and al Qaeda. That didn't turn out too well. And then we backed Saddam against Iran. Now Bush and co. are asserting that the answer to our problems in Iraq is training the army of a pro-Iranian Shiite government in Iraq at the same time Iran is supposedly the new "Nazi Germany".”
------- AND ALSO THIS------
Keith Olbermann: Lessons From the Vietnam War - comments upon the grotesque statements made by President Bush during his visit to Vietnam. http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/112106K.shtml
"It is a shame and it is embarrassing to us all when President Bush travels 8,000 miles only to wind up avoiding reality again."
Let me reiterate: In Hanoi, President Bush acknowledged that America's unsuccessful war in Vietnam three decades ago offered lessons for the US war in Iraq. Among those lessons: "We'll succeed unless we quit."
Seriously. That is the lesson Bush takes away from the Vietnam war. The standard right-wing narrative. We would have "won" if anti-war types in the US (i.e., the majority of the American population) hadn't forced us out prematurely.
As Russ Daggatt puts it: “Let's see. We spent "only" 10 years in Vietnam. Our peak force levels were "only" 520,000. The war resulted in "only" 58,000 US dead and three million Vietnamese dead and a large portion of the countryside poisoned for generations.”
(And our purpose there was...? To “help the people of Vietnam”, right? No wonder the right only talks about "why we lost" but never about what "winning" would have been FOR.)
Okay, so the party line is now that we lost Vietnam because we "quit too soon."
In other words, we never really gave the thing a fair shot at "success".
Ah, but notice something very interesting... how the right wing has dropped one part of their standard litany about failure in Vietnam!
"Quitting early" is still part of it. But do you ever hear any mention of the biggest and most consistent excuse that they made, for decades, blaming the loss on "outrageous meddling in military decisions by clueless politicians who never served in combat themselves" - hm?
Not a word.
SO MUCH FOR COMPARISONS WITH OTHER WARS. NO WONDER THE BUSHITES CLAIM THAT “COMPARISONS ARE IRRELEVANT. “ THEY ARE, AFTER ALL, BASED UPON ‘FACTS.”