Newspapers can seem like a rude intrusion into the Christmas holidays. We celebrate peace, goodwill and family – and then along come the headlines, telling us what’s going wrong in the world. Simon and Garfunkel made this point in 7 O’Clock News/Silent Night, a song juxtaposing a carol with a newsreader bringing bad tidings. But this is the nature of news. Whether it’s pub gossip or television bulletins, we’re more interested in what’s going wrong than with what’s going right.Judging the world through headlines is like judging a city by spending a night in A&E – you only see the worst problems. This may have felt like the year of Ebola and Isil but in fact, objectively, 2014 has probably been the best year in history. Take war, for example – our lives now are more peaceful than at any time known to the human species. Archaeologists believe that 15 per cent of early mankind met a violent death, a ratio not even matched by the last two world wars. Since they ended, wars have become rarer and less deadly. More British soldiers died on the first day of the Battle of the Somme than in every post-1945 conflict put together.The Isil barbarity in the Middle East is so shocking, perhaps, because it comes against a backdrop of unprecedented world peace.We have recently been celebrating a quarter-century since the collapse of the Berlin Wall, which kicked off a period of global calm. The Canadian academic Steven Pinker has called this era the “New Peace”, noting that conflicts of all kinds – genocide, autocracy and even terrorism – went on to decline sharply the world over. Pinker came up with the phrase four years ago, but only now can we see the full extent of its dividends.With peace comes trade and, ergo, prosperity. Global capitalism has transferred wealth faster than foreign aid ever could.
It must be the season or perhaps the added soma to our water supplies, but when I read titles like the two enclosed I find it hard not to run to the bathroom or reach for the nearest trashcan. Besides the scary similarities to times past, just prior to major global disruptions, sentiments such as these, though they may contain elements of truth, are just plan propaganda and bullshit. As Emiliano Zapata said, “Prefiero morir de pie que vivir de rodillas.” I would rather die on my feet than live on my knees. Zapata is also quoted as saying “Ignorance and obscurantism have never produced anything other than flocks of slaves for tyranny.” A rather well educated peasant, no? Perhaps, more so than the vast majority of the “educated” elites that we have allowed to rule us?
One must assume then, that if it is not in the mainstream media–it does not exist?
Good news! The U.S. economy grew at a rollicking 5 percent rate in the third quarter. Oh, and it added 320,000 jobs in November, the best of its unprecedented 57 straight months of private-sector employment growth. Just in time for Christmas, the Dow just hit an all-time high and the uninsured rate is approaching an all-time low. Consumer confidence is soaring, inflation is low, gas prices are plunging, and the budget deficit is shrinking. You no longer hear much about the Ebola crisis that dominated the headlines in the fall, much less the border crisis that dominated the headlines over the summer. As Fox News host Andrea Tantaros proclaimed earlier this month: “The United States is awesome! We are awesome!”
This pure, blinded jingoistic hubris makes me gag! Yes, we are awesome–in the lies, death and destruction we have sown in the pursuit and maintenance of the fascist American Empire. And, over the post 9/11 years, we are also awesome in the ability of the Federal Coercive State of America to remove our freedoms, our rights and our national humanity without opposition, without even a whimper from an emasculated people.