“What will this whole world be like in the year 2000/ how old do you think you’ll be in the year 2000?” These are the opening lines from the hit “Year 2000” from the world famous American trio, The O’Jays. The song captured, in some way, the curiosity of how life would be at the turn of the century, if indeed there would be life at all! After all, there were certain religious voices that were punting the idea of an Armageddon when the clock struck 12 on December 31st in 1999. It is a natural occurrence for humans to have some sense of wonder regarding the future and what it holds. In many ways it is that craving to know that keeps us wanting to strive to live on through the rollercoaster ride of the present and hopefully experience a tomorrow different from yesterday’s miseries and joys, as scarce as the joys may be at times. People couldn’t be blamed for being hopeful that the new millennium would have heralded a more sober approach to the manner in which human beings conducted themselves and treated each other because the 20th century was by far one of the most blood drenched centuries in recorded history. Two ‘World’ Wars, anti Colonial Wars, the Bosnian War and the longest and most brutal, the Cold War that began in 1946 until 1989 with the fall of the Berlin Wall and subsequent capitalism triumphing, as it were against communism.
Unfortunately the then-new century would find it hard to shake off the conflict thriving traits of its predecessor. Old habits die (the irony) hard. We truly had wished and hoped for a different approach to global dialogue at the turn of the century. In South Africa, we had just bed farewell to the Nelson Mandela administration and the pragmatic and rather unpopular, as history would show, Thabo Mbeki administration had just settled in at the presidential helm a few months earlier. Thabo Mbeki along with other like minded sought to imbue African politics with a sense of renewal It would that gave attention for credible governance and peer critiquing that would be based in Africa and more importantly overseen by Africans themselves. Programmes such as Nepad and the launch of the African Union in 2002 sought to achieve those ends. It would be in the early years of the new century that Nigeria would hold its first democratic elections and two more elections devoid of militarisation would follow and the decade progressed. The ability of Nigerians to demonstrate political and democratic maturity during their respective polls would was a paragon of sorts to those parts of the continent that still refused to accept electoral results when they didn’t go as ‘expected’. Ghana also proved its democratic credentials under President John Kuffor and now under John Mills. In Zimbabwe the land redistribution programme took a radical turn in 2000 when farms owned by the white people were invaded and taken by force. Zimbabwe would be ostracized by the Anglo American alliance for taking such measures and the economy of the country would devalue with the passing of every year. The land question is sensitive issue and was at the heart of the struggle for popular governance. The British government ,itself, was to blame for the event that led to the eventual ‘land grab’, in the same breath Robert Mugabe’s administration must also account for its lack of democratic ‘fair play’, so to speak.
Eleven months into 2000 the American population went to the polls to elect the person who would succeed Bill Clinton. George Bush was running against Democrat candidate and vice president, Al Gore. The elections were so intense that it required a Florida High Court to ‘decide’ who, between the Republicans and Democrat, had won the state and therefore the presidency. Needless to say, Republicans ‘won’ the elections and that victory would prove rather lugubrious as far as America’s relations with the rest of the world was concerned. One Tuesday, on September 11, the World Trade Centres in New York and the Pentagon were attacked by ‘terrorist’ (read Muslim). It was at the juncture that the political tone for the decade would be set. With the American public angry after experiencing what its country had been putting other through for decades, they were induced with ‘ the war on terror’ mantra until it stripped them of their logic and conscience and okayed Bush’s vendetta against the Arab world. An ultimatum of “with us or against us” was issued by the Anglo American led NATO as Afghanistan and later Iraq were invaded in ‘search’ of Osama Bin Laden and the elusive ‘weapons of mass destruction’ (dis)respectively. In the same 2001, Argentina’s economy had just collapsed and American companies had an influential role in that catastrophe that received minimum news coverage, if any.
The George Bush presidency gave impetus to Israel’s continuous dehumanisation and slaughtering of Palestinians in Gaza. With Bush in the White House, Israel’s Arial Sharon was assured of an ally as the kills ensued and the media coverage that given was censored so as to portray Palestinians as nothing more than terrorism personified. And this is not to say that the Palestinians didn’t kill Israelis but in terms of military disposition, they played, sadly, second fiddle to the Jewish state.
In the ‘back yard’ of the US, communist Cuba had continued on its road less travelled and was admirably viewed by countries of Latin America as an example of independence and persistence even after the fall of its communist sister state, the Soviet Union had died. It was at the beginning of the past decade that we saw a strong and popular left centric sentiment ‘sweep’ through Latin America. At the helm was Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, an unapologetic student and admirer of Fidel Castro, with his ‘21st century socialism’, who ends were realized in the nationalisation the country’s oil, cement and other key industries. His policies resonated so well with the greater populous to such an extent that he was able to amend the constitution and run for presidency, again much to the irritation of Washington. Chile followed suit in entrenching a leftist government when Michelle Bhacelede was elected president and as a result becoming the first female president in South America. Evo Morale, another politician of the leftist persuasion, became Bolivia and thereby joining the rising left in Latin America. It hasn’t all being smooth sailing particularly given the historical leftist governments’ inability to tolerate dissenting voices.
Many people have said that by the end of this century the language of trade will come from China. Such has been the dominating power of China in world politics. China along with India, Brazil, Mexico and possibly South Africa made strong claims to be included in the Old Boys’ Club of G8 and trading policies. China with its permanent seat at the UN Security Council, along with Russia, ensured that the Nato affiliates (US, UK, France and Germany) don’t do as they please by vetoing resolutions that they felt were only in the service of a few’s interests. The United Nations has, in the first decade, being reduced to a toothless lion especially in its kitted glove approach with western countries, particularly the US. It did very little beyond its verbal conduct. The US got away with murder and all the UN did was issue statements of ‘condemnation’, but was very assertive when it dealt with Africa and the greater developing world. The UN’s International Criminal Court at The Hague comes to mind. It seemed rather obsessed with prosecuting people of either the developing world or those of former Soviet Union provinces. One is not asking for atrocities of Yugoslavian, Serra Leone, Rwandese and Sudanese conflicts to be overlooked but for all atrocities to be tried, including that of the Bush’s administration. But with UN headquarters being in New York, one finds it very improbable for kills made in sustenance of the dollar to be even mentioned. Such is the political arrogance of domineering countries of the debilitating world.
The first decade has seen women step up to the presidential challenge. Joining Michelle Bhacelede were to be Germany’s Angel Merkele, Liberia’s and Africa’s first female president, Ellen Johnson Selliff, Christina Fernandez de Kirchner as Argentina’s president. Bangladesh also has a female president. There are still too few women leaders in politics but those that are in office show the maturity with which the ‘teething’ phase of the 21st century has come. With more females going to school in many developing nations perhaps the tide of gender inequality may be ameliorated, if not uprooted entirely.
The past decades’ latter years will certainly be remembered by the economic crisis which began in America, as a result of reckless and profit pursuing credit lending, and latter infested the rest of the world. The crisis also proved that the so called globalisation was actually a hegemony that is lead by vulgar capitalists who create problems and then run to the state demanding to cut jobs if bail outs are not made available.
The conflicts that characterized the latter years overlapped into the 21st century. It seems that it will take a lot more than the parading of America’s first black president, Barack Obama as a sign of ‘change’ to convince the world that a fresh, and collective driven, day has dawned for humanity as we usher into our 2nd decade of the not so new century. History will continue to record all achievements and failures to learn from its repetitive nature and will judges on that.
I think that The O’Jays have satisfied curiosity that made them pen those lyrics to their song. They, too, must have realized that what is hoped for and what manifests, is sometimes decided by those who give order of execution and those who share in the spoils of blood split in the pursuit of Mcdonaldized democracies!