Monday, December 1, 2008

The Great Juxtaposition of 2008

There were many contenders this year, but with only a month left before the first of January, I'm pretty confident last week's news cycle takes the cake...To recap:

11/26 India's upper classes suffer terrorist attack - When poor folks get massacred, it's not news; when the wealthy get killed, it's international news, and hot damn if the corporate 4th estate isn't quick to decontextualize this tragedy and start branding it "India's 9/11." But the real issue here is two rival nuclear powers staring each other down - Is an Asian Bay of Pigs scenario unfolding? Probably not, but Condoleeza Rice ain't taking any chances.

11/30 Thailand's Government Crippled by Democracy Protesters - Whether you regard the protesters who've effectively shut down not only government buildings but the international airport as well, as a misguided rabble or as freedom fighters, you have to admit, from an activist perspective it's pretty impressive. Personally, I view the protesters like I view the Pakistani lawyers who rose up against Musharaff, or the teachers of Oaxaca Mexico - That is, a powerful testament to the resilience of the human spirit in the face of oppressive state power.

but here's where the newsreel gets weird. cynical. dystopian...

11/21 American Teenager Commits Online Suicide, viewers keep watching - Only a nation of lonely, spiritually warped voyeurs and exhibitionists could create a situation where a 19 year old invites people to watch him die, broadcasts it online, and garners a crowd to look on through the dehumanizing portholes of cyberspace. In our desperate search for the real, viewers found themselves unable to tell if what they were seeing was legit. A few folks with some semblance of moral duty contacted the police. The kid died anyway. And now it's news.

and finally...

11/28 Low-Wage Temp Worker for Heartless Immoral Corporation Dies in Stampede of Vacant-headed Propertarians. Yeah, it's a long headline but it tells like it is. Black Friday has taken on a whole new meaning. And like, wow, while the poor and working class from Port Au Prince to Cairo riot for bread, America's working class will actually stomp someone to death in order to get a flat screen TV. It was bad enough when the dominant culture would pretend that standing outside a big ugly box store for 24 hours for a sale was something to be proud of, but damn....

....and there's so many ways to break down this week long hallucination - Like, the utter lack of public spaces for people of all classes, ages and creeds to interact in America; the inability of Americans to come together in mass for non-state/corporate sponsored causes and experience the wonder of independent collective action. At least, that's how I'd explain why people get so worked up over after-Thanksgiving Day sales or political campaigns - The rush of involving yourself in a larger movement is really exciting, it's just a shame it's been completely co-opted by the Matrix.

(Good examples of Americans bucking this trend would be the Dia De Los Muertos celebration in the Mission District of San Francisco OR the Last Night DIY parade in Santa Cruz, which, might I add was infiltrated and surveillanced by the ever-watchful/suspicious authorities).

This is to say nothing of how horrifying and embarrassing these two last bits of American "news" fit into the context of India's tragedy and Thailand's democratic uprising. It is, in effect, the ultimate juxtaposition of 2008. If there's any silver lining to this ongoing hysteria, it has to be the fact that shopping malls - the killers of proper downtowns and free speech, are going out of business.

that news made me laugh.

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