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Brought To You By The Numbers Nine And Eleven

Andrew Feltoe



As expected, last week we were all cringing under the weight of the numbers nine and eleven. Even though we’re at the opposite side of the globe, there was plenty of red, white and blue on our telly. You get the feeling they’re ripping off Sesame Street. That or Big Bird’s getting a cut from the racket.
It was enough to make you feel sorry for yourself. We stand to suffer from even more political verbiage than the usual trash that comes from the Beehive. It was all meaningless abstract nouns, regurgitated into your ear-hole. Revolting lines like “the harrowing heroics of the brave patriots, who faced fear with courage and conviction.” I felt dirty.
So I’m going to pass up the opportunity to mention that we now have a 9/11 industry, bringing a new low to the notion of profiteering from tragedy. Instead I want to focus on two words that make me want to claw my ears off. Two measly words that make my stomach-curdle and my heart turn to lead.
Greater good.
Not much to look at, eh? It uses alliteration to slide off the tongue easier, although any decent individual would find those words should stick in their throat. It’s a curse, an invocation. From the pits of hell, Satan and his army of lawyers and accountants are whooping with glee at every utterance. The sky will darken. Mothers will clutch their little cubs to their breasts and grown men will swoon. You don’t believe me, do you? It sounds so, well, good. Not so fast buddy. Let’s peer under the hood and see what’s wrong with this gal.
Pope Urban II believed in greater good, kindly offering to pull strings between him and the man upstairs for services rendered. Those bloody Jews and Arabs were causing problems in the Holy Land and needed to be tamed. The cost: 60,000 lives in the first battle alone – so many they stop becoming people and turn into digits. It was the first Crusade, an on-again off-again campaign that lasted seven hundred years and took over a million lives. A millennia later and Christians still struggle to convince us theirs is a religion of love.
And just to show it’s not just a religious thing, my mate Joseph Stalin wanted to make his place into a new utopia, a land of plenty. It only took about twenty million bodies to lubricate the gears and bring about his Soviet Union. For his efforts, he gets an A+ for creating one of the greatest bloodbaths we have on human record, and a D for execution (bad pun, I know). We’re now left with a Russia in poverty, cheers Joe.
I’d like to see some of this ‘greater’ part of the greater good. It’s pitched like it’s some kind of long-term investment. Trouble is we don’t happen to be around when it supposedly cashes in. The list of casualties is so long it even gets boring. I dare you: wikipedia ‘Death toll’ and look through it yourself.
Check out Godzone, and you’ll find we have plenty of greater good juice in our tank. Thankfully, none if it compares to the goings on overseas. The easiest to pick on is Destiny Church, who were rooting for ‘God’s Kingdom’ to arrive on the shores of Aotearoa via their political party Destiny NZ. God, it seems, believes in democracy, and would only deal with New Zealand if elected via MMP. In the scheme of things, however, these guys are small fry. There are more sinister forms, rearing their heads under the oxymoron ‘politically correct’. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realise our country’s top-heavy on administration, and treating us more like children everyday. But enough of that. Let’s rewind to last week’s theme: 9/11.
In the khaki corner, we have Osama. Livid that the West has pissed on his backyard by throwing up their Starbucks chains and drowning his homeland with Britney Spears, he concocted a message that would have, he imagined, a similar impact on the West. He would be so right. His greater good was a Middle East without the cultural invasion of what the East calls the Shaytan Bozorg, the ‘great Satan.’
It’s a cause identical to the opposition to imperialism faced centuries earlier in India and Africa, and yes, New Zealand. It’s a pretty ideal you can’t help but be attracted to, however peel away the cover and it boils down to nothing more than “let’s fight to make peace!”
Ditto to Dubya. He ain’t no saint either, stealing Mel Gibson’s line from Braveheart, which roughly translates to “we’re better than you cos we treat our bitches better.” He calls it ‘freedom’. Perhaps so, it’s one of those things that appear fundamental to us all. Could Bush be using the same greater good line to justify mass-murder and cultural imperialism? Yeah, we already know the answer, but let’s rather let George tell us like it is, with no spin, innuendo, political rhetoric, or warmongering:
“Great harm has been done to us. We have suffered great loss. And in our grief and anger we have found our mission and our moment. Freedom and fear are at war. The advance of human freedom – the great achievement of our time, and the great hope of every time — now depends on us.”
God, no.