Saturday, January 17, 2009
MacBush: that play
Macbeth points out at some stage in his journey to destruction that he is too much in blood to retreat again to any moral position. Shakespeare’s point being that once an individual or nation embarks on a murderous course, only the intervention of external or occult powers, can halt it. There is something in the nature of our species that becomes gorged on the flesh of our enemies so that the belly expands and must be kept fed by more deaths. We are beyond helping ourselves and need someone else to step in and halt the crimson fountains and pools, to put us in prison or out of our crazed misery. The United Nations ought to fulfil this macro role but its lip-serving members won’t make unanimous decisions that inhibit their own capacity to inflict war crimes or go after the mineral wealth of theose unable to defend themselves.
I was thinking this as I watched President Bush make a goodbye speech to the people of the United States. In a sense he paraphrased Sinatra’s (and Sid’s) rendition of My Way. All that he had done had been the result of interrogating his own conscience, he said. Everything from the Middle East to Guantanamo, from the deregulation of the banking sector to the pursuit of enforced democracy worldwide. His regret was not finding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and plastering victory notices after initially downing Sadam. It was a fittingly unheroic, miserable presentation from a man at sea, never waving, always drowning.
What is difficult to swallow is that the eight years or so of his presidency limped bloodily by as he conducted foreign and national policy and all we or his own people could do was sit it out. As if we were all bit players or extras in MacBush, the play, and were never given meaningful lines that might change the dialogue’s imperatives. Rather like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, we sat at our dinner parties or around pub tables, discussing our impotence, conspiracy theories, the evils of capitalism and trying to make sense of being in the dark, so far away were we from the shadowy doings in the Oval Office. That’s the thing about democracy. Those that are elected have a term of office or two to impose their ideology on their people. Now that the US has had their eight years of neocon liberalism, the global markets are drowning in the effluent that is still coming in sewer loads from their excesses and the economy is on its knees. Will the US head back to some kind of social democracy, where people can afford health care and housing? It is doubtful. They revile any sense of socialism there because they see it as a constraint on an individual’s freedom to ‘screw thy neighbour’. Even Obama will be hard put to soften the inbred adage of the survival of the fittest.
Bush and his lieutenants were a nasty lot and they did very nasty things. The world did not take one step towards being a safer or better place for its inhabitants as a result of their tenure and the United States is not an emblem of democracy but of capitalist greed and imperialism. Let us hope its people deserve Obama and begin the long haul towards international sensitivity and internal and external social justice.