(May 2003 - March 2007.) Tama's thoughts on the blogosphere, podcasting, popular culture, digital media and citizen journalism posted from a laptop computer somewhere in Perth's isolated, miniature, urban jungle ...

A Break in our Regularly Scheduled Pondering in which Tama desperately tries not to sink into a deep depression about international politics

Thursday, November 04, 2004
For those of you who tune into Ponderance regularly, you'll know I rarely write blog posts that are purely personal emotional tirades. I tend to think of the blogosphere as a space which has more than its fair share of personal rants, and I don't really feel the need to add to that mass. There are very few people who manage to talk about their emotional life and academic interests in the same breath without marginalising one, and I've always reserved my emotional outbursts for my close friends who tend to be pretty good at listening and helping me get through crappy times. However, I know that my own emotional landscape colours what I'm thinking, so be warned that this has been a spectacularly crap week in several respects and I've been in the bad place somewhat.

So, with the clouds already looming, I have to ask: WTF is going on in the world of Western politics? The Bush victory has left me stunned. When John Howard was returned as Australian PM, I could at least pretend to myself that most Australians genuinely believed that Howard hadn't known that we followed the US into a war based entirely on false pretences (he blamed misinformation from the US security agencies, among other things). I know that's pretty optimistic (it's far more likely Howard knew how "fuzzy" the intelligence was), but I find it very hard to be comfortable in a country which will vote in a leader who has clearly deceived the public at large and whom the public in turn have let get away with it. I do understand that Howard and the Liberal government made a strong case for their continued economic management of a country, but surely voters couldn't elect a leader who has obviously lied to them just because he might give them a few more dollars in a given week? Or would they?

However, the US election has no such grey area. Bush clearly and unambiguously has lied through his teeth to the US populous; he has committed what--in strictly legal terms and moral terms--are war crimes against Iraqi peoples, and, in effect, against the US citizenry as well through that irony of ironies, the Patriot Act. Listening to exit poll reports this morning, I heard strong arguments that Bush won on the basis of his religion, which worries me even more. I've tried to not pigeon hole the occupation of Iraq as Bush's Crusade (when shrubberies attack…), but such a reading seems almost inevitable. So, how do you get past the fact that the so-called "free world" of the US could return a war criminal to the most powerful job on the planet (next to Bill Gates, of course).

To avoid sinking into a stupor, this is what I remind myself of: in March 2003 I was in New York City. On Monday 17th I was on a tour of the United Nations building and everyone who was working there seemed to realise that the UN was about to become a toothless giant; there was an air of despondency that was slowly wafting slowly through the place which had a dusty League of Nations smell to it. In front of the UN building there is a picture of a gun with the shaft twisted in a knot, symbolising peace; that irony word popped into my head for some reason.

That night (I think) George W. Bush declared war on Iraq on "behalf" of the American people. Every news channel was suddenly filled with pictures of US marines, tanks and planes bombing the crap out of a small country and its people, complete with reassuringly sterile computer graphics which made the whole invasion look like a Nintendo game. At that moment, pessimism was easy to find and hard to dispel.

The next day as I was attempting to forget the twentieth century I was in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I enjoyed the Met's amazing ancient Egyptian section, perused an entire scroll of the Book of the Dead and admired a whole Egyptian temple transplanted into the centre of New York City. (I managed to repress the nagging question as to exactly how these works had been "donated" to a US museum). On the way through Central Park, I was handed a pamphlet which was printed in English and Spanish, which announced an anti-Bush, anti-Invasion rally in Times Square that following Saturday. Even though I flew out of NY on the Saturday, I did have time to have a quick look at the "die in" protest, where thousands upon thousands of people joined arms and lay down blocking all of Times Square and dozens of adjoining roads. It was a peaceful protest and galvanised people as far as the eye could see when standing in the Neon Shrine that is Times Square. Even though the current US election has me more dismayed than I have words for, I keep reminding myself about the protestors in NY. They might not have even been in the majority (well, we know they weren't now), but they did passionately care about other human beings. I remind myself today the US citizens aren't all completely insane (at least 55 million people actually voted against Bush which, after all, is more than double the population of Australia). I remind myself that democracy, while flawed at times, is still the best system we've found so far. And I remind myself that if I ever meet Murdoch of any of his underlings at Fox News, I'll probably have to be excused for the colourful string of words which I ennunciate. I could go down the Herbert Marcuse path from the early 1960s and write something like One Dimensional Man, but I remind myself that four years after Marcuse argued that there was no hope left and we were all media dupes, 1968 happened and he took a lot of his pessimism back. I also was reminded by the radio today that Richard Nixon was elected for a second term ... but didn't see the end of it. I shan't pretend that I'm happy with world politics, but I have enough reason to be hopeful that it can't possibly stay this bad. In the meantime, I can but concur with Stewart's message from Bush to Bush.


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