Monday, April 20, 2009

It Was 20 Years Ago Today...

No, 16, er 11 and 10 years too. On the 17th of April in 1989 the Solidarity trade union was given legal status and allowed to contest parliamentary elections here in Poland. This small victory in the decade long struggle by the movement helped bring about the end of Soviet domination in Eastern Europe and ultimately helped precipitate the crumbling of the USSR. Today, Poland is held up as an economic miracle, having made the transfer from state control to market economy swifter than most of the other former Soviet satellites. Today, the streets are increasingly filled with newer model god cars, shopping malls keep springing up in the suburbs and there are banks on every corner. So why is it that I can't get this nagging feeling out of my head that the Poles have gotten to the democracy capitalism party too late?

It's impossible not to argue that Poland has fared better than another country abandoned 20 years ago by the Soviets. While Afghanistan is perpetually mired in warfare, last week (April 17th) Poland announced they would increase their troop contribution there to 2000. Poland's economic success didn't come without a price, it was a guinea pig in the so called "shock therapy" transition to a market economy. This meant some pain, but not that of the last Soviet puppet leader between the Hindu Kush, puppet, no, Ox, Najibullah. Whereas General Jaruzelski, the last communist leader in Poland, is sometimes forced to shuttle to court from his state pension home to defend himself against whatever charges to present day government thinks up, Najib was hung by the Taleban in the centre of Kabul. Najib managed to hold onto power for a couple of years after the Russians pulled out, Mujaheddin waiting and shelling from the mountains of Pakistan as they tried to divy up the country, with money pouring in, then slowing to a dribble from America. Many Poles look upon Reagan, Thatcher and John Paul II as their saviours from the red menace. In Afghan reality, Reagan's Mujaheddin morphed into the Taleban as American support slowly withered after the Russians left.

The United States they have been for getting on 233 years if my reckoning's right. Well, wrong grammar, but they declared independence in 1776 and welcomed Hawaii and Alaska rounding out the number of states at 50 in 1956. The last war of succession was the Civil War from 1861-1865, marking a low that they bounced back from to become the world's dominate power. The corporate/government monster has grown, a couple world wars have been fought, the banksters have taken over, now an 'internal' leaked document from the Department of homeland security warning that "The economic downturn and the election of the first African-American president present unique drivers for rightwing radicalisation and recruitment". Becomes especially relevant (well in the whole coincidence way) when you consider timing of events - today, April 20th marks the ten year tragedy at Columbine, April 19th 1993 was Waco, oh and the Oklahoma bombing was the same date 1998, now 16 and 11 years away from us! Time flies when you've got other terrorist threats to worry about. Of course this same department was created in response to the 9/11 attacks, used as justification for attacking those same Taleban in the 'good war' started over 7 years ago, now been ramped up in numbers and intensity. At least they provided training grounds for some of those responsible for the 2001 Bin Laden organized craziness making them somewhat more responsible than Saddam Hussein, who many Americans still believe played a part. Throw in a governor of a large state, say Texas, alluding to secession and you've got trouble.

Instead of worrying about American threats of extremist movements, as this is somehow unamerican, we can always count on the right wing sideshow to wind up the masses. Well, at least enough to admit to being teabaggers in thousands of events across America last week. Every propaganda trick criticized by the right over the last few (well 8 to a million it feels like) years when the anti-war people mentioned that war might be a bad idea was used by 'Faux' News and friends for anti-tax demonstrations. From what I can tell, there were a few legitimate libertarians at these teabagging events, but most of the attendees consisted of Ted Nugent fans, octogenarians and deluded mechanics (get to the 1:50 mark). I always find it strange that people get angry now when they live in a country that has been the richest in the world for a century yet still can't pay to care for or educated its people. Well now that the banks are truly getting all the money to start again it'll be easier to keep the people stupid.

Makes it all the easier for people like Hitler, born 120 years ago today (oh yeah April 20th), to control the people. Propaganda works best with stupid people in times of financial stress which helps make conspiracies ring true to many. Well, maybe not the fascist part, but it really seems surreal. The bankster give aways giving the Federal Reserve a bigger and bigger balance sheet, lowering the value of dollars held by the tax payers footing the bill can look like a Bernanke Bildeburg plot. Maintaining a world where the 18 and 17 year-old boys who planned on blowing up the cafeteria, killing early lunch eaters and hopefully bring down the library (where the ultimate carnage took place after the explosives failed to detonate) were and still are popularly portrayed as oppressed geeks taking a vendetta on jocks and Christians. If they had survived the first wave of carnage, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the perpetrators of those 13 Littleton deaths (12 students and a teacher) hoped to bring the death toll up to 2000 by ramming their cars filled with propane explosions into the arriving cops and Denver press. Glamourized violence, access to guns, weak minds...

Fitting the leaked administration profile perfectly, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols were both disgruntled army vets. Of course there are millions of army vets, both disgruntled and non-disgruntled (merry?) who don't blow up buildings killing 168 and injure over 800. Um, well, there are hundreds of millions of Muslims who don't blow up people either, however they're being profiled. Unfortunately, many view it as unamerican to mention the real threat posed by the thousands of returning war veterans, veterans who fought in a racially motivated war. Any kind of self-questioning in America, from gun control to religion, is portrayed as hating the US. When torture victims are waterboarded, they freak out. When a winner-take-all economy tortures society, should we be shocked that a few lunatics go over the edge? Spring has arrived in Poland but a chill is being felt from the corporatist world that it so wants to emulate. Many here cling to an ideal image of Reagan, Thatcher and JP2 bringing down an evil empire 20 years ago but it had as much or more to do with the Solidarity movement. In a world of dwindling resources, it is inevitable that some countries will win and some will lose, especially if we don't change our conception of what winning is, and soon.


Troy said...

Perhaps a bit off topic, but maybe not...

What about another poster child for economic free for alls?


Yes, that country you know well that has repaired one road in the 18 odd years since the fall of the Soviet Empire. Now there's a place to hold up as a glorious example of the 'free market'.

But as long as everyone has a new God Car, all is grand, isn't it?

Shane said...

Ah yes, Azerbaijan. That champion of democracy and oil, I mean capitalism. Coulda touched a lot of other countries in the post, but it was meandering a bit too much for my liking already...Cuba? Ukraine? The list could go on forever.