Tales From a Troubled Year, Colltalers
We’ve done this for 51 weeks in 2013, sending Colltales editorial commentary to our friends every early Monday. At one point, the Newsletter fused with the weekly Curtain Raiser, so now everyone receives it too. That’s why we’re doing something different today and next week.
Out of four or five these monthly ‘letters from the editor,’ we’ve picked the ones that best encapsulate each of the 12 30-odd days in the life of this planet, circa 2013. Despite such arrogant quarterbacking, what emerged was indeed a full picture of a time one hopes was not completely lost.
We’ve started off the year already fearing for President Obama’s lack of environmental resolve (which continues), as the oil and gas industry set strong footholds on his policies. As a result, fracking for gas and the Keystone oil pipeline are now all but at an official ‘go’ for this administration.
In January, we’ve laid our best hopes for the president’s second term, as well as traced parallels between Brazil’s Lula, and the late Venezuela’s Chaves, and their oversize role in reshaping Latin America, but the main theme of the month was one to also dominate the year: whistleblowers.
We were still six months away from Edward Snowden’s crucial NSA revelations, but the looming trial of Pvt Bradley Manning, later, Chelsea Manning, and wholesale persecutions of a variety of whistleblowers by the administration, got us to seriously doubting the president’s sincerity.
Immigration was, and still is, a fundamental issue that’s been handled by a coalition of self-interests and racism. As they fail in February to reach a fair agreement, the now-profitable U.S. prison system had everything to celebrate from such indecision: jails have been full of illegal immigrants.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday prompted a meditation on the role of leaders bringing about change, but the unexpected meteor that hit Russia brought everyone back to the same sobering page: to errant sky rocks, we’re fair game and the whole civilization may be just another hit away.
That sinking feeling that we’ve been lied to got aroused once again with multiple reports of U.S. drones killing innocent civilians, worlds away from American shores, and worst, deflagrating a race by other nations, to build their own so to retaliate, possibly, but surely to spy on their own citizens.
Manning and the military culture of covering up rape suffused our first March Newsletter, while also pointed out to the media obsession with the search for a new pope, and deliberated minimizing of the real, transcendental piece of news during the period: climate change.
A staggering research about how we’re now living with the highest temperatures ever registered on the planet in at least 4,000 years deserved no meaningful debate and fell straight into a deep well of silence, likely because causes for the warming are too damaging to the fossil fuel industries.
Before the month was over, we’ve discussed what’s driving elephants to extinction, and how hard may be to laugh with late night talk shows, given an increasing income gap, an out of control defense military complex, and an obscene resolve not to restrict gun sales to unstable people.
With unemployment and hunger being no laughing matter, and Congress wasting taxpayers’ money on budget talks, we wonder how well are we doing, really. And concluded it with an interesting sentence: life in America may serve well comedy, but it’s better fit for tragedy, these days.
April events in Greece reminded us the many tax havens spread out around the world, and how the wealthy and corporations easily keep their riches away from governments and common citizens. For a moment, we were happy Mitt Romney, with his offshore deposits, was not the president.
It didn’t last long: when the Obama administration finally got the funds to keep the government functioning for the rest of the year, it also accepted an almost hidden provision, the so-called Monsanto Protection Act that effectively keeps the giant food producer shielded from any legal action.
That’s serious because, first Monsanto has control over the growingly profitable genetically-modified food market. Secondly, the clause, which rode the appropriations legislation undetected, assures that, even if its goods are proven to be a health hazard, it won’t be forced to halt their production.
The horror in Boston, and the coming First of May completed our book of the month, with the required asides about the actions of the police hunt for the suspects of the attack, which all but closed down a major U.S. city, and the meaning of having a Labor Day stripped of its raison d’etre.
May was highlighted by the public demoralization of two eminent economists, Kenneth Rogoff and Carmen Reinhart, ardent defenders of the theory that austerity, not government investments or job creation, should be the way to coach an embattled economy back to prosperity.
But what caused their demise was not their theory’s complete failure to provide us with proof that it was sound; quite the opposite, judging by the U.S. and European economic downward. As it turned out, just like any backwater bookeeper, they had all but cooked the books too. Shame.
Millions suffered by the kind of rhetoric their work inspired, and many won’t ever recovered from their governments’ mistakes, made while enticed and fooled by the myth of austerity. And given the arrogance displayed by the two so far, no forthcoming apologies should be expected either.
At the end of the month, Brazilians showed signs that they were about to awaken from a long slumber about their past, the dark years of the military dictatorship that started in 1964, and their current predicament, as highly indebted hosts of next year’s World Cup.
Following a few processes put in motion to identify and possibly bring to justice some of the participants of torture and human rights violations during the military rule, there was an explosion in the streets of Brazil’s main cities, with a mass movement not seen in over 20 years.
Brazilians had finally realized that the dream of bring the cup, and the Summer Games two years after, would cost too much, not just in public funds for dubious, multimillion dollar sport complexes, but to the majority kept insulated from the capital being poured into a few pockets.
It was a truly inspiring, if somewhat rude, awakening of a populace mistakenly known for its sunny, nonchalant approach to reality. That movement, dormant for end-of-the-year and carnival follies, is expected to rise again before the games start, six months from now. Time will tell.
June also marked the court martial of Pvt. Manning, which expeditiously dispatched a courageous and patriotic young man to rot in jail for the rest of his days. The victory of obscurantism and the forces trying to mute the conscience of idealistic Americans wouldn’t last long, though.
Along exploded the powerful revelations by Snowden about how the NSA has been spying on regular citizens, governments and foreign companies for years, how deeply troubling such activities are to the Constitution, and how little they produced in terms of real intel.
The leaks, which are still going strong, have had enormous repercussions and are bound to reset the U.S.’s moral compass, bringing it back from the ideological wilderness of killing drones and privacy violations, to the true unwavering north of a country that respects its own laws.
June was also the beginning of the end of life for late great Nelson Mandela, who agonized for six more months, before finally expiring in Dec. It was the first bracket marking the final throes of a giant warrior whose arguably greatest legacy was that of infinite tolerance and reconciliation.
His comeback of sorts, to close the year’s proceedings, will also wrap our next Newsletter, covering the other half of 2013. We hope we haven’t lost you on the way, as we relived some of the great themes of our time: climate change, immigration, the environment and extinction of species, income disparity, hunger and political corruption, along with the right of citizens to hold power and governments in check.
As many of these themes continued to be present as the year rolled by, will revisit them if only to try to extract some lessons out of an apparent random succession of highs and mostly lows, and what it means to be alive at this day and age. Have a great holiday season.