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Feature Story April 17, 2003
 
The Bums Will Always Lose
By John Dolan Browse author Email
 
Page 4 of 5
 
But if that theory really applied, America would be rising in revolt right now, because the Bush-ites have managed to do more to rob and crush the middle class than any administration in history. They're cutting billions from Veterans' benefits; they've turned a huge surplus into a multi-trillion deficit and handed over the money to their richest friends; the market has crashed and burned since they took power....and no one minds. No one's angry. So much for Lenin. He must not have been thinking about America. In our case, the rule would seem to be that we'll forgive a president anything, as long as he can "squirt a few" about God now and then. So those of us who hoped for a revolution of some kind to drive the oligarchy from power...well, forget it. They're here to stay. It will never get better, no matter how much "worse" things get.

5. Geopolitics: "The 20th c. was American, the 21st will be Chinese" or "The counterweight theory"

Chirac, Putin, Schroeder

The last hope is the greatest one: even if you've proved that there's no hope for the US to get any better, maybe another country or bloc of countries will just take over and push the US out of the way. Then the world would be run by a kinder master, at least.

This is an old, recurrent idea. Every time the US stomps on some small country's hopes, the victim raises his bloody face from the pavement and shouts, "You'll be sorry when the Chinese get you! Then you'll know how I feel!" The problem is that victims have been shouting this sort of thing at the US for more than a century now, and none of the challengers have even come close to ending American hegemony. The Chinese are only the latest in a long list. Fifty years ago it was Russia which was supposed to be just about ready to roll over the neocolonialist Americans. Back then, when Krushchev threatened to "bury" America, everyone except the Russians took him seriously. Americans trembled over scare stories like "Are We Losing Idaho to the Russians?" even as the USSR was wheezing on life-support. The rest of the world believed in the Russians just as much: every night in the slums of Paris, Bombay, Cairo and Mexico City, millions of people prayed desperately that soon America would wake to find Soviet tanks rolling through its cities.

Of course, the dream collapsed when Russia revealed itself, in 1990, as a country so weary and demoralized it couldn't have threatened a rabbit, let alone the US. When Russia collapsed, a new challenger stepped up: Japan. Yes, kids, back in the 80s otherwise intelligent people actually feared that Japan, a crowded little resource-poor archipelago, was about to crush America with its unstoppable economic might. Images of the Rising Sun zapping the American eagle filled Europeans' dreams and Americans' nightmares. Once again, it took the outright collapse of the would-be contender to end the fantasy. Japan crumbled like a pyramid scheme, suddenly revealed as an aging, neurotic little country with no prospects except a long slide into consumerist self-indulgence and malaise.

Now that Japan's out of contention, the writers of airport scare-books have adopted China as the Next Big Thing. This in itself is further evidence that the field of America-challengers is even weaker than heavyweight boxing, because this is China's third or fourth time into the ring as the great non-white hope. A hundred years ago American maidens had fevered dreams of slant-eyed white slavers and opium-peddlers. Fifty years ago, their granddaughters scared themselves with images of fierce Maoist cadres waving little red books. Now their granddaughters pale before the prospect of China's vast Capitalist potential. China's a very flexible boogie-man. Whatever you want to fear, it will be: sex fiend, Commie fanatic, or gung-ho entrepreneur.

The only people who don't share this eager terror are those who actually know something about China. They tend to laugh quietly at the notion of the coming "Chinese century" so dear to the hearts of bitter America-phobes and masochistic Americans. All China has actually managed to do in the course of its alleged economic miracle is to raise its standard of living from zero to something like that of working-class Mexico: a huge sweatshop where the multinationals can buy their semi-skilled labor cheap. The Chinese miracle will end the way these sweatshop "miracles" always do: as the standard of living rises, labor costs increase and Nike goes somewhere where ten-year-olds still do a sixteen-hour day for ten cents.


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