The Two Terrors of 2008: End of Year Post

Posted on 31 December 2008 by


This year seems to have ended on a very different set of notes than how it began, and the theme might be that “two terrors are better than one.” The first terror, the one we have known since this new imperial rampage poorly/ironically named the “global war of terror” began in 2001, accompanied by neoliberal triumphalism, is being met by a new terror: global financial and economic meltdown. The two terrors are directly at odds with one another, and one of the benefits of the second terror is that it may seriously undermine the progress of the first. Borrowed money for expensive wars is borrowed time. More money for the military is less help for the domestic economy. The choices are getting starker as the crises accumulate, as the sparks of social friction light a global bonfire, as every action seems to have a greater weight and impact than it did previously.

If the year began once again with the familiar institutionalized villain of U.S.-dominated geopolitics, Osama Bin Laden, it ends with a new face, that of the new martyr whose face launched a million Molotov cocktails: Alexandros Grigoropoulos, until a couple of weeks ago just an unknown kid somewhere far away in Greece. The false promise of hope, Obama, seems to exit as irrelevant to real change, before even beginning his journey of a thousand “missteps.”

What is very encouraging is that social and economic issues are coming back in. Anti-globalization protests of the late 1990s are seeing a strong revival. No longer can states, media, and the typecast dissenters, the Bin Ladens of the world, continue to hijack September 11. Some might have forgotten that s11 (September 11) was, until 2001/09/11, a way of referring to the anti-corporate globalization protests centered around the World Economic Forum. (The old s11 website has been archived here.) Riots in Japan, in Greece, protests at the Republican and Democratic National Conventions in the U.S., university occupations, and the emergence of what appears to be a new-new left, recombining the lessons of 1968 and 1989, raise a challenge to the everyday authoritarianism of liberal democracy and the gaping social inequalities engineered by states and corporate elites. Lessons in the limits of power present themselves.

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foTaking complexity and representing it succinctly is a talent that few have, and that some do not even recognize as a talent (at least not those who will try in vain to draw maps to be more like the territories they map). Analytical power rests in the genius to see the central operating principles, the core mechanisms, the pivotal forces, the key concepts at play. And this is what Dario Fo, the 1997 Nobel Laureate in Literature, an artistic giant who should need no introduction, does in all his work, and even in the short video below. (I have known Fo since I was a child in Italy in the 1970s, when I would watch him regularly perform on television.) The video is in Italian, so I will translate some of its key points.

Fo says,

“…Finally, a new terror! We no longer have the problem of that kind of propagandistic ‘terror’ erected by certain parties who used it as a war horse…everything accrued to it….nothing else was of interest, not the unemployed, not the deaths of workers on the job, the problem with schools, the problem of people who still find themselves doing the CO.CO.CO [Collaborazione Coordinata e Continuativa, a short term job contract], youths who cannot get work, the mess that universities are in — none of it mattered! All that mattered was the key, foreigners, the buzzword was fear.

“But now, finally, there is a new fear. A new terror that smashes everything….so what is the buzzword now? Trust. Immense trust. We must all have trust now we are told, trust in the banks. Even if the banks have no trust between them, as you see they do not even lend to one another….The only one left trusting the banks is Berlusconi, especially his own.”

We move from fear to trust, or so we are being prodded, at the end of 2008. Let’s hope that in this shift, we see more attention to the real problems afflicting humanity, whether HIV, cancer, unemployment, homelessness, and so forth, and not the minor episodes of struggles between competing lunatics, the states and orchestrated pseudo-dissenters like the so-called “Islamic fundamentalists.” Let’s say goodbye to that old, tiresome, decrepit calculus of fear. As this shift occurs, I promise to place this blog at its service.

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Thanks to all readers and visitors for this past year, as this blog is now just over a year old and reaches the 100,000 visitor mark, with nearly 20,000 visitors for this month alone, to my amazement. Some of my top posts for this month were, in chronological order from first to latest:

See you next year!

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