If you look at the political climate in 2000 then compare it to the political climate in 2020, you would scarcely believe they are the same societies. From Y2K to Covid19 it has been a wild ride and I think I speak for us all when I say everything feels much worse now than it did 20 years ago.
The question is why? How did everything become such a mess?
Well, no matter which string you pull on, eventually it leads back to the same place.
September 11 2001. This was the day everything began to go horribly, horribly wrong.
That’s not to say that it was all great before then, it wasn’t. Many of the societal issues that are front and centre today, are consequences of the same issues being unaddressed for decades.
But 9/11 ushered in a new age. An age of anti-science and pro-racism. An age where profit growth is both the justification and the ends. An age of cruelty, despair, oppression, and the most corrupt governments this world has likely ever seen.
To understand how the nightmare world, we now live in happened, we need to understand how 9/11 changed the world.
It starts with the beginning of the 24-hour news cycle. 9/11 created an environment that almost necessitated it. We were all hungry for news. And at first that is what it was, just the facts, or at least what we thought were facts.
Even as facts started to disappear from the news, like the bomb found in front of an FBI building or the bombs on the George Washington bridge, those reports emerged the same time as the planes, but they disappeared completely from the news not long after.
I remember seeing those reports myself. I don’t know why they were removed, and I am not going to speculate now. All I know is this was a precursor to what the news would eventually turn into. A news cycle of very selective reporting and opinion.
After a while, the news started reporting less about Ground Zero and the rescue effort and began talking about AL-Qaeda and Osama-Bin Laden. Always the same 15 second clip of him test firing an AK74. The repetition of that clip was endless, it was the first sign that the media was starting to turn into something more. It wasn’t quite propaganda yet, but it soon would be.
This was the beginning of our Islamophobic indoctrination. It was the beginning of a concerted, public attempt to demonise Muslims. To make them the scapegoat and bogeyman of all western fears, and they wanted us to believe that there was always another attack just around the corner, that could strike anytime anywhere. It was total fabrication, designed specifically to inspire fear.
The demonisation of Islam led to two massive wars (more on them in a minute) it led to the emergence of the police state, it saw the rise of real regular terrorism in the shape of white supremacist mass murderers, and led to the now infamous saying that paved the way for our age of authoritarian neoliberalism, “the war on terror.”
The war on terror is an absolutely nonsense saying. It literally means nothing. How can you have a war on an abstract concept? But that’s the whole point. When you keep your war goal generalised you can fill in the blanks with whatever you want it to be, the enemy can become whoever you need him to be for whatever ends you desire.
And that is exactly what happened. The war on terror never accomplished anything that was in the national interest of any of the countries that participated in it. It was a con, specifically it was a heist, and the global consequences of that heist and the very real perpetual wars it created, completely shaped the world we live in today.
The ‘war on terror’ was never meant to be won. It was designed to be perpetual. And it all started with a corporation named Halliburton, a conglomerate owned by then US vice president Dick Cheney. While the ruins of the World Trade Centre were still warm and people were in blind rage, it was effortless for propaganda to start a war. But as I said, this war had nothing to do with winning, it was, when you break it down, a heist.
It basically played out like this, the American government started a war, one of the most vocal supporters of this war was Dick Cheney, who in a coincidence that should shock no one, was then given the contract to ‘rebuild’ the war zones as they were destroyed.
So American warplanes begin flattening areas and the contractors that work for Halliburton start rebuilding them. They look around and estimate that rebuilding this area will cost about a million dollars (Not a real figure, just an example). They then report back to Haliburton. Halliburton then goes to US Treasury and says “Yeah the contractor reckons it’s a $1.5 million contract.”
Halliburton is given the money and is solely responsible for its distribution. Then the contractors start building with half that amount and Haliburton pockets the rest. Haliburton then reports back to treasury saying…
“Hey you know what? There have been issues” (it is a war zone after all, so who is going to argue?) Halliburton continues by saying they need more money to finish the job. They get it, because there is practically no government oversight since all the work is done by private contractors that essentially report straight to the US vice president, who is the one leading the heist.
Now multiply this scenario by every weapons manufacturer involved in the war… Raytheon, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, General Electric… all of them see their net worth skyrocket after the ‘war on terror’ is announced.
This goes on for over a decade, and suddenly the cost of the war is revealed to be over 6.4 TRILLION fucking dollars in taxpayer money! And most of it is untraceable because all those contracts are mixed up in munitions usage, private security, materials spillage, and top-secret mission folders that money essentially just disappears into.
There is no other word for it, it was a heist.
But you can’t pull off a heist without a getaway car, and this is where the infamous Patriot Act enters the story.
The patriot act basically loosened all the laws around what police could do, from suspending a lot of personal freedoms in the name of national security, to things like the right to detain without charge, and searching houses without warrants. It essentially created the modern police state. And everything from Guantanamo Bay to ‘operational security’ as a legal defence to criminal corruption investigation (I wonder why the corporations would want that?) was covered under its mighty umbrella.
But its biggest impact was on the political culture, it basically threw away freedom as the most important part of democratic society and replaced it with ‘security.’ As a result a new culture emerged, one of jingoistic public patriotism. Think about those little lapel flag pins everyone started wearing, all the way to the militarisation of public holidays, and expecting everyone to stand for the anthem.
Of course the people who really suffered from 9/11 are the people who live in Iraq, Afghanistan and eventually Syria, Yemen, Palestine, Libya, Oman, Tunisia and Egypt… I don’t think you can overestimate how much damage was caused to the people in these countries, as a result of the wars killing hundred’s of thousands of people, displacing millions more, and completely destabilised the entire region to the point that groups like ISIS and the Taliban actually became stronger.
The destruction of these countries will have consequences that will last at least another century. All to make military corporations and corrupt politicians richer. And the worst part is, it completely worked. All those shattered lives, and the people who orchestrated, organised, and executed this ghoulish heist, all got rich and all got away with it.
And now we live in a world that is a direct consequence of not just their actions, but their attitudes.
The national security state that was created from the war on terror still exists today, and our current generation of politicians learned that corruption really does pay.
The war on terror destroyed our political ethics and the police state destroyed political accountability, and that is why we now live in a nightmare dystopia where our governments embrace the limiting of freedom, and the secrecy of government, all the while working toward pushing the limits of their corruption.
And this culture has no end in sight.
This combination of governments that live to serve only themselves and the constant threat created by their total dereliction of duty in the face of multiple crises (like COVID, global warming and massive wealth inequality) has put the whole world on the edge of global catastrophe.
The first 20 years of the 21st century have taken us down a very bleak road, and we have travelled down it for so long now that it is impossible for us to go back, but that doesn’t mean we need to stay on this path.
The crises we face are unavoidable now, what we need to decide, is whether we let our leaders keep us down the same road of despair and collapse, or whether we take the opportunity to finally fight back against this neoliberal hellscape and bring our society back to a path with a future.
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