The United States of Enron

By Greg Ellis

“America is the only nation in history which miraculously has gone directly from barbarism to degeneration without the usual interval of civilization.”

-Georges Clemenceau

Before the balloons drop on the next U.S. political convention the world we live in will have irrevocably changed. Not in a philosophical sense, not metaphysically, not in essence or recognition, but quite literally. I am not sure if you, me, your mother, anyone you know will recognize it. A culture changes insofar as its members allow it, and as we stand as outsiders looking in to an increasingly bleak picture, the apathy should give way to depression.

The thesis takes its support here and there and no shortage of nonsense strengthens the premise. A cartoon in a Danish newspaper sparking a holy war, hundreds dead, threats launched to and fro, intolerance and bitter division. The intolerance and the subsequent violence holding hostage the fundamentals of freedom of speech–the very such material it was designed to protect. Satire, sarcasm and humour (even in bad taste) may not constitute the most beneficial outputs of man but surely the violence has no justifiable explanation. Really, as the calendar carries forward to 2007 who needs to justify their actions? If you don’t “knee jerk” what do you do?

In last month’s Harper’s magazine, Editor-in-Chief, Lewis H. Lapham called for the immediate impeachment of President George W. Bush, citing, amongst other things, President Bush to have been the only active president to have unconditionally admitted to committing a felony. Specifically, Lapham’s cited that Bush spied on his own citizens, violating the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (a felony punishable by five years in prison and a $10,000 fine).

Bush’s current approval rating is in parity with the general approval of herpes and no need to look any further than to the American people who have witnessed their glorious and otherwise revered name being dragged through the mud along with the administration. The grumbling on the network news has subsided. Was there anything else more newsworthy? Britney Spears drives with her baby on her lap, uh, run with that.

Last week I watched “The Smartest Guys in The Room” the breakthrough documentary that outlined the rise and fall of Enron. As I watched the effrontery of Jeff Skilling and Kenneth Lay advising shareholders to purchase more and more Enron stock, two weeks before its assignment into bankruptcy I was reminded of George W. Bush standing in front of a press corps in Washington D.C. assuring reporters that despite the complete absence of weapons of mass destruction, mounting American casualties, Osama Bin Laden still on the run, and the almost trillion dollar price tag–everything was going as planned, everything was going just fine, nothing to see here.

A country is not only what its administration does, it is also the reality reflected by its citizens. Like father like son and like country like citizenry. The parallels draw themselves–U.S. government debt at an all time high, consumer debt at an all time high of $2.2 trillion. An administration that favours the rich and entitled, a citizenry that could barely take care of its own in light of Hurricane Katrina. A government with an underfunded social security system, a citizenry with the lowest savings rate since The Great Depression. A government abusing human rights standards across the globe, an American citizenry all too willing to have its civil liberties trampled upon and held hostage via The Patriot Act. America, it’s time to pay the ransom, rent is due, and the going rate for a government pimp is high. But the devil is in the details and the numbers are but ones and zeroes, in bank accounts or in credit card processors. America will once again be home of the brave and the land of the free. It’s just business.

Thousands of columnists and pundits write thousands of articles providing prenty of abuse for a country gone awry, a country we can barely recognize. But two four-year terms is testing even the most difficult of us all. Maybe Fox News is right and Bush is not that bad after all. What Bush has achieved is to progressively lower the standards, to provide not even a glimmer of hope so his actions become not only acceptable but expected. Before the balloons drop on the next U.S. political conventions who knows: war with Iran? World War III? Police state? Ministry of Propaganda? War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength. Big brother loves you.