"If Margaret Thatcher wins on Thursday, I warn you not to be ordinary, I warn you not to be young, I warn you not to fall ill, and I warn you not to grow old."
The above quote is from the then UK Labour Party MP, Neil Kinnock, shortly before a humiliating loss to Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative Party in the 1983 general election. The defeat to Thatcher occurred despite the country suffering record unemployment figures, record bankruptcies, a rising rich-poor gap, and a systematically eroded social safety net. As almost certainly happened last night with George W Bush, Margaret Thatcher won that election on the back of an unnecessary war that stank of empire ideology, but to many people on the left of politics in the UK, Thatcher’s victory was proof that those who benefitted by the neo-liberal policies of the woman, who infamously said that there was no such thing as society, had voted with their ever fattening pockets.
As the impending election disaster became evident, Neil Kinnock, who was later chosen as Labour leader as a compromise candidate with the best chance of defeating the Conservatives in the next elections, was moved to warn the people of the path they had chosen for their country. Little did he know that it would be another fourteen years before the Conservatives were elected out of office, by which time the Labour Party - the Party of the working people for as long as anyone could remember - had been killed off and replaced with a neo-liberal doppelganger in the form of Tony Blair’s ‘New Labour’, complete with backing from Rupert Murdoch.
After having watched with horror from my home in Ireland the electoral map of the United States of America turn blood red over the past nine hours, I feel it necessary to repeat Neil Kinnock’s warning to those across the Atlantic, only with the added warning: After this disaster for the world, I warn you not to be American.
According to recent opinion polls, a majority of people in the USA actually believe that most of the world favoured the re-election of George W Bush as president - this despite several surveys that suggest that support for Kerry over Bush in the wider world was something between a 2:1 and 10:1 ratio. However, unless the president does something unexpected, like becoming a Christian, or starts believing in freedom and democracy over the next four years, I feel it safe to predict that after another term of George W Bush et al, Americans will be under no such illusion in 2008.
The facts of the matter are that, apart from a few million followers of Greater Israel, the vast majority of the world’s six thousand million people have been desperate to get rid of the neo-con cabal now ruling the world. While democrats, liberals, radicals, and traditional conservatives in the USA have been debating the virtues and vices of the ‘Anyone But Bush’ campaign, the people living in Iraq, Palestine, Haiti, and a host of other vulnerable places around the world - people who rightly fear being next on the list to experience ‘liberation’ corporation-style via the barrel of American made guns and rockets - have long ago made their minds up.
Many of these people would have been delighted at a third party win, whether Nader, Green Party, or someone else on the left of America’s psychotically narcissistic right-leaning political society, and surely only a radical change in American foreign and economic policy will be enough to save a planet teetering on the brink of a century of barbaric resource wars. But they knew full well that they may as well hope for Ariel Sharon to turn in penitence to the Grand Ayatollah of Iran. As so many Iraqi resistance fighters, who want nothing more than to be able to go back to driving taxis or growing dates, have been forced to acknowledge, the people of the world know that, when you’re losing blood fast, you’re hardly likely to worry about the cancer developing in your internal organs.
At this stage of the night (actually, its after ten in the morning here, and I’m so emotionally exhausted I feel like throwing up), it seems utterly pointless to speculate over what it was that sucked the late flicker of life out of the Kerry campaign. Some have speculated that bin-Laden’s weekend sermon on the mount was a poorly disguised ‘October Surprise’ endorsement of the neo-cons in Washington. Such a conclusion would certainly explain his unexpected admission of complicity in the 11th September 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, so conveniently combined with his tacit ostensive endorsement of Kerry.
For all his many failings, in successive opinion polls before the election, USA citizens expressed a clear preference for John Kerry in domestic affairs, whether in the economy, health care, social security, or the environment. The only unchallenged lead that George W Bush had over his rival was in relation to the oxymoronically termed ‘war on terror’. Fed a daily diet of lies, misinformation, and insinuation - bullied by emotional blackmail, racial profiling, and the ever-present but unspoken threat of being labelled ‘un-American’, the American people were understandably full of fear and loathing after four years of John Ashcroft and Dick Cheney. Osama bin-Laden’s appearance on every TV station throughout the final weekend undoubtedly served to sway many thousands of voters to stick with the leader with the nastiest reputation.
However, as with the various theories about who was behind the terrorist attacks that day, such preoccupation with one event, however crucial in the Project for a New American Century, is entirely superfluous for people on the other end of the American Imperial project. The undeniable evidence - from Bush’s abandonment of the environment and his neglect of the poor within his own country, to his flouting of the United Nations and his rejection of hard won international human rights law - is that the world would be better off with almost anyone but Bush. And the world knew it.
But a majority of the people of the United States of America, whether they were unaware or just disdainful of the opinion of the largest number of people in agreement in world history, took no notice. Those people living on the periphery, and especially those who are unfortunate enough to be born on top of oil fields, and those living within striking distance of Ariel Sharon’s venomous ambition, will have to suffer and die for that neglect of our shared humanity.
And, as everyone living through days of empire have learned, from the days of Nebuchadnezzar down to Adolf Hitler, those living on the fat of stolen land and resources are not to be trusted. There will always be those with the least to lose, those who have already seen family members sacrificed to the ‘might makes right’ ideology of the sword and the gun, those who have watched as their meagre livelihoods have been taken away to feed the bloated appetites of foreigners. And these people will always be the first to die the martyrs death.
And while the majority will wave flags when the invading armies arrive on their streets, they are only ever waiting for them to move on. They know that sooner or later decadence will set in, and when that day comes - when the sheer weight of debauchery corrupts the monster from the inside out - they will come out of their hiding places in hordes to evict the usurpers with all the hatred that enforced silence engenders.
The United States of America has become the Roman Empire of the 21st century. But while the decadent Romans merely fiddled as empire crumbled around them, the new Romans have shown a desire to masturbate while the world burns. Those unlucky people that survive the coming storm won’t forgive them for it.
I have many friends in the USA, and after having been brought up on a diet of American culture, like millions of people across the world, I have an admiration for what America used to stand for. Many times during the past night of horrors, I’ve thought kindly of the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have worked tirelessly over the past four years against the policies of the Bush presidency. Every time a new state was called for Bush, my heart has fallen to the floor at the thought of the bitter disappointment such results will cause for my friends across the water.
To those people I must ask forgiveness for my siding with the world outside America. It is they, as well as the people who voted for Bush, who will have to bear the shame of belonging to a society that democratically elects war criminals to office, and I feel nothing but solidarity with these privileged unfortunates, as they wake up to the reality of what their country has become. However, not all the world’s people will feel the same way. Many will see the election of George W Bush as a signal that America as a whole has chosen a course of confrontation and greed, and for a generation or more afterwards these people will teach their children to hate all that American society stands for.
To my friends most of all, and with heartfelt compassion, if as now expected the election is won by Bush, I warn you not to be ordinary, I warn you not to be young, I warn you not to fall ill, and I warn you not to grow old. But above all, I warn you not to be American.