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<nettime> the war has already started
calin on Fri, 28 Feb 2003 22:28:41 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> the war has already started

A few disparate thoughts about the latest collective fantasies.

I happened to be in Madrid on that Saturday of February 15 in what 
turned out to be THE place if one wanted to enjoy the anti-war global 
party. Around 2.000.000 people attended a huge manifestation, that went 
on with the inevitable flags, banners and drums, but also with fliers, 
posters and distribution of protest post cards, already filled with the 
address of the prime minister, ready to be signed, stamped and sent. On 
the wall of the hotel where I was putting myself, a graffiti was saying 
"Aznar, if you want oil, go to Galicia!" - a foot note sending to the 
ecological disaster brought by the crash of a (allas) Dutch tanker, 
where the government played a pathetic part characterized by 

The crowds, merry-happy and having an obvious pleasure at the 
performance, were an interesting mixture of very old survivors of the 
peak times of the leftist politics (the Civil War from the 30s, that 
is), and the descending line of their children, and grand children. 
After the event, the performers invaded the tapas bars, and got down to 
the regular business of eating and drinking, while peeping from time to 
time at their own image on the TV inevitably hanging in one corner of 
the room. The protest march got a lot of coverage; the images of the 
human river flowing among majestic government buildings was alternated 
(through zapping by a person behind the bar, I suspect) with a talk show 
where the prime-minister Aznar was performing with his eternal slightly 
disgusted facial expression. A fat bald man pointed at the screen his 
fork filled with "jamon" and said in mutual disgust: "I cannot recognise 
myself in that man, nobody here can".

In Amsterdam the protest was held by something in between 50 and 70 
thousands. The reactions were mixed. Some media outlets found the 
numbers good, considering the scale of everything Dutch. Some compared 
the event with the anti-missiles protests from the 80s, and pointed at 
the recent absenteeism of the Dutch citizens in matters of broader 
interest. Fact is that the society here is exhausted by what I suspect 
was a bigger than acknowledged effort to maintain prosperity. As De 
Volkskrant was pointing out, the real disease of the Dutch society now 
is not a new lust for rightist values, but the obsession with consensus. 
The most mind-blowing scenarios, like coalition governments between 
(say) US Reps and Dems are right now in the works in Holland. If the 
precedent elections saw a sad coalition between centre right (CDA) and 
far right, now, after the very anticipated ones held last month, the 
centre right and the social-democrats (PvdA) are in the process of 
painfully giving birth to yet another coalition. And that despite 
delicate innuendoes from the last that the solid options that the former 
have for the US policies are not really.. hm.

A sociologist advanced the idea that the country has made a choice for 
provincialism against internationalism, focusing on its own problems and 
dilemmas. But if one looks at the long years when no one bothered to see 
that the educational system is going down the drain and so is the health 
system, the public transportation etc., one cannot really see how the 
provincialism compensates for anything. Fact is that during the famous 8 
years of purple coalition, when the Netherlands became a pillar of 
successful liberalisation, no social outcry was generated by what is 
proven now to have being a serial killing of social democrat values 
under the cover of tolerance.

Today I open the newspaper and see what I was expecting already from 
some time: globalism hits back and the save haven of European 
accountability goes to the junkyard. The Ahold concern, counting as main 
subsidiary the most aggressive supermarkets chain of the Netherlands 
(Albert Heijn - expensive and mediocre, don't bother), was reporting 
(through its US and South American divisions) wins doctored up with some 
500 million for 2001. Of course the Amsterdam stock exchange is in 
shatters. Swell, that is gonna bring some more job cuts in a market 
where one bankruptcy after the other and one restructuring after the 
other are the staple news. Well, after KPN (Royal Dutch Telekom) and A. 
Heijn having trouble, we wait for the two other pillars of Dutch economy 
- KLM and Heineken. Prosit!

And it all gets back and turns around the WAR, of course. In private, 
people in the Netherlands are worried and slightly confused. A good 
friend, mother of two, was saying with amazement: "I do not know what I 
believe anymore, really. I understand that all that looks wrong, but 
deep inside I feel that it should just happen, quickly, so that we can 
get over it and go on with our lives. I might be egoistic, but I fear a 
deep recession if all this continues." We all fear the deepening of 
recession in a country that was for too long getting used to a too good 
life, and learn to spend over the income, make debts, get high loans 
etc. On the other hand nobody REALLY believes that once the war is over 
things will get better. Five years is a minimum term that most of the 
people (with more or less expertise) put to the recession to reach its 

Somebody visiting from Israel tells me over a coffee the latest gossip 
from the front line. People there tend to think that military operations 
already started in Iraq, secretly, far from the media and under the 
cover of the desert. I do not know in whose hands is the satellite 
system, but if it is in the hands of the global stewards, as it should, 
then the hypothesis might become interesting. Israelis seem to know 
something about surprise invasions happening far from the media, and 
actually they extrapolate this theory on Iraq to alleged actions of 
their own military in Southern Lebanon. Well, it would be a nice 
symmetry, to have the 2nd Golf War beyond the media.

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