December 4, 2010
This past week, over at World School some nerdy kid snuck in and yanked the principal’s pants down around his ankles, stole his secret journal and released its contents to the editors of the World Town Courier.
It couldn’t have come at a worse time. For, while the principal bends over to retrieve his pants, the World Town police chase after the nerdy kid and try to ferret out his accomplices, the editor of the Courier gloats over the increased sales in newspapers resulting from his scoop and the citizens of World Town laugh and point fingers over the more salacious revelations from the journal, a cluster of F5 tornados is bearing down on the hapless town and the tornado warning system is broken.
I’m referring, of course, to the latest Wikileaks release.
Even a cursory glance at the news over the last couple of weeks should remind us of the dangers World Town faces and that seeing the leader of World School with his metaphorical fanny hanging out is probably the least of our worries.
North and South Korea are having another go at each other, which – if they’re serious abut it – has the potential to start a nuclear war. The International Energy Agency acknowledged, for the first time, that conventional oil production peaked four years ago and the world is now increasingly dependent on ever more expensive unconventional energy sources for its energy “fix” as supplies of the cheap stuff dwindle. Despite occasional news of a “green shoots” truce, the world economy is still lost in no-man’s-land under heavy artillery fire. And, almost 200 nations met in Cancun, Mexico this past week for another UN conference on climate change that is expected to accomplish even less that the one held last year in Copenhagen. This, in spite of constant signs around the world that the climate is indeed changing, more rapidly and in ways more dangerous than even the most alarmist climate change reports predicted a decade ago.
While all of this took place, the Press entertained the world populace with the more disreputable details of the massive Wikileaks release. We learned, for example, that Mr. Kadafi, of Libya, travels everywhere with a “voluptuous” blonde nurse, (if you were old, rich and ailing, might you not prefer voluptuous to pug-ugly?) We heard that Mr. Karzai, of Afghanistan, is paranoid, (look at his poor country, what’s not to be paranoid about?) Prince Andrew, of Britain, was portrayed as sometimes rude and profane (Really? Royals do that sort of thing, too?); Mr. Putin, of Russia, has been undiplomatically referred to as an “Alpha dog” (What else is new?) and other such nonsense.
Yet – just as was done with the massive release of Iraq and Afghanistan war documents – while world leaders publicly wrung their hands and decried the “damage” to world diplomatic relations from the leaks, behind the scene the US spent the week with willing world leaders papering over any inconveniences to Business As Usual the leaks might have caused. It is our way, just as it is the way of all crumbing Empires in the face of threats to their remaining power.
With all due respect to Julian Assange and the precarious occupation he has chosen to pursue, this is what the various Iraq/Afghanistan papers and the two hundred or so examples of diplo-speak from the last ten years that I managed to read this past month reeked of to me – the musty odor of decaying Empire.
As with the Roman Empire of old, this colossus whose centurions once overthrew world leaders, toppled governments and rebuilt huge swaths of the world in its own image has been reduced to gossip and its own brand of paranoid interference around the globe. While the old order crumbles, it manipulates and plots against allies and enemies alike, engages in wars – literal and metaphorical – it cannot win, while seeking out the most private biometric and DNA information on those it purports to trust, for what reasons one can only imagine – all to maintain the illusion that it is still young and healthy. And since 9/11, the paranoia has even extended to its own people while we gaped and giggled and were entertained by a complicit media with our own version of bread and circuses.
Whether the Wikileaks project will make any lasting difference, I can’t say. It seems dismally probable that it will not. The Empire and its allies seem all too willing to maintain illusions in the face of reality, whatever the cost.
In the meantime, that cluster of F5 tornadoes draws ever closer to World Town and in their scurry to get back to business as usual, none of the principal players has thought to fix the tornado warning system.