October 10, 2009

20 YEARS AGO TODAY: WE ARE THE PEOPLE

I know, I know ... it was Ronald Reagan who brought down the Evil Empire, all on his own, well, him and maybe the Pope, yes. and if you believe that, I have a wall to sell to you. Today is the day, 20 years ago, that people in East Germany began to rise up. Today is the day when in Leipzig people began to march in protest. And they were afraid. After all, they had seen what China did to their protestors on West German television...

(And here's a funny thing, with today's digital cable and digital terrestrial HD, they wouldn't have been able to get West German television at all behind the Iron Curtain, but analogue signals, well, they don't give a damn where they're going, and there's no state and no corporation that could have stopped them. Brave New World, isn't it? New? Yes. Brave? Not so much)

...but still, they marched. A few hundreds at first, then a few thousands, then more, and their shouts became a rallying cry "We! Are! The! People!" Bet that didn't sit too well with those in power in the German Democratic Republic (See? It was a republic! It even said so in its name. Ah, well. What's a name, eh?). What? Those unwashed masses who wanted... well, what exactly did they want? It's been 20 years, and the official version is still that they wanted freedom and democracy, but that's bullshit. With relatives in the GDR at the time that my family and I had visited a lot during the 70s and 80s, I knew exactly what they wanted. They wanted a Volkswagen. They wanted decent food. They wanted bananas. Bananas? You sure as hell believe it. Bananas. They wanted the summer vacation in Spain. They wanted decent housing. They wanted, what, democracy? Nah. They wanted what they saw on German television. They wanted the Good Life (TM). What did Freddie Mercury sing? I want it all. I want it all, and I want it now!

In that, capitalism won that year. Or rather, consumerism won. We, the people, thought it was our inalienable right to shop til we drop. Freedom? We wanted that, too. But if we look around and what pretty much all Western states are doing right now, the constant surveillance of their populus, let me ask you. Did we gain freedom 20 years ago? Or did we merely gain a credit card on democracy that is running out far too quickly as we are being squeezed between the Goldmann Sachs', the Haliburtons, the Nestl├ęs, the (insert your name of a global corporation or bank here) of the world and the politicians that bow to their collective will?

We are the people. Not them. And the next time the bubble bursts (and it will), remember that moment, that time twenty years ago when for a month or two, maybe a whole year, the world indeed was audacious enough to hope. We are the people.

And to those Germans who are reading. You know this one.