Can you remember where you were when you realised that the future had arrived? For me it was 2002, and I was in the third floor of a building in Nicholson St, Carlton, when one of the new white, Star Wars stormtrooper transport trams clanked its way through, its first day on the tracks. As it pulled up to the stop, you half-expected people to shoot out propelled by jet-packs, munching food pills. What’s really weird is that just as I was thinking this, the person beside me said, Stephen Hawkingishly, “wow – isn’t it great to be in the future!”
Why was it such a general moment? The short version is that visions of the future, accumulating for so long up to the mid-90s, had nevertheless been stalled since the early 1970s, by what was in effect a 20-year stagnant economy in the western world. Seven years before the new robot trams came in, the old 1930s W-class rattlers (which I prefer) were still running, not for heritage, but simply out of prolonged under-investment in infrastucture. Though there were hi-tech developments – the PC, Mac etc most obviously – the bases of these had been developed in the early to mid 60s. If the economy hadn’t crashed in ’71, ’72 we would have got them a decade earlier.
When things took off in the latter 90s, the shape of everyday life changed faster in three years than in the previous 20. The difference between VisiCalc on a Mac classic and a pocket calculator is big, but it’s dwarfed by the difference between the web/email/Google etc, and letters and libraries.
All of which is a long lead in to saying that on Good Morning America today, Hillary Clinton promised to obliterate Iran. I’m still kinda reeling from it – like a scene from a dystopian satire from the 70s about the cheesy media surface hiding a barbarity, maybe 2020 seeded some process of thinking about time and how it passes, but as habituated as one is to a post-911 world, the spectacle of someone talking about the genocidal extinguishing of a people amidst the coffee mugs and weather warnings, is still – I am somewhat relieved to realise – actually horrifying.
The question was of course framed in the entirely spurious fantasy-world of American foreign policy in which Israel – with a 100 or so submarine-mounted nukes – needs protection from Iran, which appears to be buying centrifuges off eBay. It also appears to have been seeded as part of Hills’s last-gasp Pennsylvania strategy of going big on fear, with a new ad more or less saying it’s Hillary or McCain as far as dependable leaders in a crisis go, all kinda connecting her old pappy dun taught me to shoot stories with the idea that she might irradiate a section of west Asia.
Noticeable also is that the question wasn’t about a direct threat to the US – it was a question in which Hillary could establish that she was willing to pretty much kill millions on someone else’s dime. Pennsylvania is no big Jewish state, voter-wise, so it wasn’t the Israel angle per se. It was the sheer willingness to commit mayhem without even thinking twice that Hillary was hammering home. She’s trying to take the debate into directions that Obama just can’t follow. Though he’s tried to establish a sort of inner-city boutique wantonness – going into Pakistan to get Bin Laden, as a sort of alt-imperialism to the chain-store Iraq version – he’s positioned himself as a “last-resort, after much sorrow” sort of guy.
Hillary is angling to make Golda Meir look like a Geelong regional office special needs coordination program conflict resolution officer and part-time reiki masseuse, with an incredible ad which appears to suggest that Bin Laden started the War in the Pacific using Hurricane Katrina against Pearl Harbour, and the only person who can stop him/them/it is a pants-suited terminatrix from the future. There goes, presumably, John Birmingham’s fourth volume and his 2009 renos.
The pure desperation of it is beside the point. With Michael Moore coming out for Obama, and Jimmy Carter rumoured to be about to, even 1 or 2% would help Hills to cling to the side of the ship she’s helping to sink. Moore’s endorsement would be easy to underestimate. Seen outside the US, he’s purely an emblem of latte liberalism etc. In the US, he has a big grassroots presence, especially among trade unionists.
Sicko was a big part of the health debate coming to the fore in the last year or so – the basic suggestion that things could be different was enough – and Moore has crafted a canny populism, a left patriotism, by running an anti-Iraq campaign almost solely on the basis of the suffering inflicted on US troops by the conflict. He even looks and dresses like a steel worker – or better like an unemployed steelworker. He is in other words, a bridge between the worlds, certainly worth more than a dozen sleeker Hollywood figures.
With Hillary set to feature in the WWE (the old wrestling WWF) Raw! Primetime hour tonight, will she be on the ropes tomorrow? The campaign appears to be running on fumes financially, and drawing down more of the Clinton fortune is an absolute last-resort – simply because it makes her look like another Romneyesque vanity candidate, compared to Obama, who’s still getting ten bucks in envelopes, from old ladies in Dubuque, by the snowdrift, and now has a $40 million plus war chest.
“Had she known how it would turn out Hillary would have aimed to quit in January,” the joke goes, “January 09”. However, after tomorrow, she simply may not have a campaign underneath her. Core staff might be the ones to pull the plug, especially if she wins by less than a certain figure – 7% being the one bandied about. Between 7 and 10% it will be an agonised and fractious choice. Over 10%, would be the real torture – enough to be going on with in a scenario of almost certain defeat.
“We are all interested in the future” the great Criswell remarked at the start of Plan Nine From Outer Space, “because that is where we are going to spend the rest of our lives.”
However much time we, or 80 million Iranians, have got.
Just be thankful she’s not running for re-election or by now, something would be toast.