Originally published in The Source Magazine during the deep dark Bush years.

Fakes on a Plane

All good things must come to and end sometime.  Great civilization rise and fall like the tide of the oceans.  The Roman Empire had a good innings; they brought the world aqueducts and toga parties.  Just like America who has gifted to us McDonalds and reality TV.  It’s easy to over simplify the state of the world today and look to America as the Roman incarnate of the modern age.  It is the country that dictates both the cultural and political climate of the world today.  It would seem that when the States coughs the rest of us catch the cold.

Between the debacle that Iraq has become and the general instability of the Middle East, everything that America has to do with at the moment turns to shit.  Add to that, one year on from Hurricane Katrina and the domestic situation could only be described as dire.  Thousands of people within New Orleans still live without running water and power, while the rest of the country is more concerned about the offspring of Brangelina and Tomkat.

The Vice President shot some guy with a 12-guage, 50 Cent style right in the numbers, Rumsfeld walks around like Franco or Mussolini and Dubya is still trying to figure out how to pronounce Hezbollah.

It would be easy to sit back and think how great it is to be way over here in Aoteroa away from all of that madness.  But, as I said, America has a bad case of bronchitis at the moment and it’s doing a shitty job of covering its mouth.

Instability in the Gulf has caused oil prices to go beyond what we thought was possible.  It now costs a hundred bucks to fill the tank and the idea of winter road trips are blown out of the water when the petrol bill to drive to CHCH is $200.  With the chaos in Iraq showing no signs of slowing and the inevitable standoff between Iran on the horizon, it’s fair to say that the era of cheap fuel is well behind us.

The conflict in Lebanon is no different, although America isn’t directly involved it’s no secret that they really are directly involved.  Their outward and continued support of Israel is the definition of destabilization.  As Israel drops American-made bombs on Lebanon and refuses to back calls for the end of violence, it’s plain to see the tough road that lies ahead.  In America’s all out offensive to hunt down terrorists, they have become the terrorists themselves.  They have terrorized the whole world into a perpetual state of fear.

A few weeks back just after the big liquid explosives-cell phone terror plot, the madness reached a new level.  A plane headed from the UK to the States had to make an emergency landing because of a suspected terrorist on board.  Turns out that one of the passengers who was described as “Asian” was having a panic attack brought on by claustrophobia.  After they were dealt to with a very loving choke hold, it was decided by the braincases on the plane that this person must be a terrorist.  Then they looked in her handbag to discover that she had, gasp, hand cream!  And wait for it, a book of matches!

Needless to say they grounded that plane faster then you can say “Jihad!”  The SWAT team helped the nice little old lady, I mean terrorist, leave the plane and they searched every inch of the airliner to discover that there weren’t in fact any bombs on the plane.  After CSI-style lab testing, it was determined that the hand cream was, in fact, hand cream.

This had a knock on effect that changed air travel the world over, carry-on luggage became plastic bags and you weren’t allowed to even bring a book on that 14hr flight.  And for some reason, nobody stood up and said, “Hold on a sec, this is crazy.”

What is scarier than this level of hysteria, is the global acceptance that it is better to be safe than sorry.  This is a frightening conclusion.  We are being terrorized by the idea that we must sacrifice our basic freedoms and civil liberties because of the overwhelming threat.  But what threat?  Five years on from 9/11, the supposed threat of terrorism has become a part of our daily lives.  Whereas the actual, direct violent effects of terrorism have only harmed a micro-portion of the world at large.  Sometimes it feels like we are the baby about to go down the drain with the bathwater. You have to ask, “Has it all gone too far?”

It’s so easy to look at the world and be full of pessimism.  In so many ways it has become one oversized downer especially when you look to America.  It looks like the lunatics really are running the asylum.

If September 11 proved anything, it is that the reality of terrorism is nearly impossible to detect or stop, once it is in motion.  My doctor always told me that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  Confiscating hand cream, toothpaste and iPods is reactionary at best.  What about listening to people?  Listening to why they want to blow up airplanes, why they hate America and what we can do to bring both sides closer together.

It’s hard to know if the world has gone too far down the track to bring sanity back into the equation.  Maybe the horse has bolted and a peaceful resolution and a sense of harmony has become the drams of fiction.  But, maybe not.  Maybe all it will take is a fresh perspective in the Presidents chair, someone who sees the people of the world not as adversaries, but as family.

The modern Rome may be falling, the regime change may be on its way, and where Nero played the fiddle, America will be treated to the sound of Britney Spears and latest winner of American Idol.

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