Having watched countless hours of coverage on the American Presidential campaign, including the televised debates, I have come to the conclusion that I am really none the wiser. I feel a strong sense of anticlimax, and frustration, of being let down somehow. Although I am not an American. I was, and am nevertheless, deeply interested in the political process not to mention machinations, on the other side of the Atlantic. I have an awareness that what happens in America has some impact on me and mine and the rest of the World and therefore it behoves me to inform myself. And if what America does impacts on my life, then I feel I have a right to express my views, even if I do not have a vote. What I am less sure about however, is whether this perception of America’s impact on my life and those of people round the globe is real or illusionary. Let me try to explain.
I am sure what happens in China matters but the fact is, I simply don’t know what China is up to, so I am not touched by it in the same way. Ignorance is bliss, so to speak. I have no emotions about what is going on in China because there is little or no catalyst to spark those emotions. As far as the British media is concerned nothing is happening in China that matters to us. We do know that the Chinese economy is growing at a phenomenal rate and that they are consuming an ever greater proportion of the world’s resources. This must have an impact on my life. As the price of fuel soars along with the cost of steel, aluminium, copper, diamonds and much else besides, I become poorer and the balance of economic power shifts away from the west to the east. However, I only know this because I read the financial press. If it were left to the editors of television current affairs programs and the national press, I would barely know where China is let alone what is going on there. As far as the general media is concerned, China is not a news item. I also know that China’s human rights record is less than perfect but without substantive stories and horrific images of prisoner abuse, my mind is concentrated instead on the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by American and British troops which our press seems to revel in publishing.
Whilst I am looking at these pictures, I am led to overlook or forget that the Iraqis have brutally tortured their fellow citizens for decades and even centuries. Instead, my attention and subsequent vitriol is focused on the unacceptable behaviour of some American and British troops, rather than the heinous crimes of others elsewhere. In the cold light of day though, I know this is an extremely biased and unbalanced view of events and one I know to be deeply flawed. It puts me in mind of that journalistic expression that one should never let the truth get in the way of a good story.
So, whilst the world’s attention has largely been focused on Iraq and the events that led up to Gulf War II, it is unsurprising that we should get the feeling, that America has a deep and pervasive influence on our lives. Events in our own countries appear almost as by lines in our national media and this has been going on now for more than two years. With the media scrutinising and highlighting every move, car bombing, kidnapping, political and social impact of the war in Iraq, so our guilt, anger, angst and psychological temperature is driven up by the media like mercury in a thermometer.
It’s as if the rest of the world barely existed. People continue to die by the tens of thousands in Sudan, Zimbabwe, and the Congo, almost without comment. Corruption and torture continue unabated in many countries, unseen, forgotten and ignored. Corrupt and despotic regimes still sit, legitimised as equals in the United Nations and nobody dares or cares to challenge this paradoxical flaw at the heart of the body politic that is the guardian of international law. Nobody protests in Britain or America, Germany or France, China or Russia on behalf of oppressed peoples living under despotic regimes but the cameras will be quick to televise the demonstrations against Bush and Blair who at least tried to do something. For thirty years or more the entire world including Iraq’s neighbours did not lift a finger, demonstrate or burn a flag in protest at the suffering of the Iraqi people under Saddam Hussein and the silent complicity of his neighbours in that suffering. It was a case of hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil. That which is left unsaid cannot harm nor influence us nor be televised.
Returning to the Presidential elections neither candidate demonstrated to me that they had a better vision for the world. Neither spoke of fundamental shifts from the stale and sterile politics of the last 200 years. Instead they spun stories, distorted figures, and spent millions of dollars creating false illusions about the lack of qualities and leadership abilities of each other. This was a bitter, destructive, sterile campaign that had little to do with making a better world and everything to do with maintaining the status quo. This was a dirty, grubby incestuous struggle for power played by the rich and the powerful above the heads of the poor, the abused and the disenfranchised. This was an election about power and who holds it. It had little to do with power of the people, by the people for the people. This was an election singularly lacking in any concrete vision as to how to take the world forward to a better place. This was an election about nightmares rather than dreams. More is the pity.