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Terrorist sell 

Editorial by Kyle Shaw

The day after September 11, Rudolph Giuliani spoke to his fellow Americans from a news conference. "Show your confidence," he said. "Show you're not afraid. Go to restaurants. Go shopping." President Bush offered a similar message on September 27, talking about those 19 hijackers: "When they struck, they wanted to create an atmosphere of fear. And one of the great goals of this nation's war is to restore public confidence in the airline industry. It's to tell the travelling public: Get on board.... Get down to Disney World in Florida." This advice —when the going gets tough, the tough get spending—sounded bizarre at the time. Six years later, however, the meaning is clear: To the American government, its own citizens are a bigger threat than any terrorists.

From the undergrad buying more car than she can afford, to the commander in chief launching an unjustified war on Iraq, America is a nation of unbridled consumption. It produces less and less—outsourcing messy labour to where the living is cheap—but consumes ever more. Workers earn their keep by dreaming up ideas for more stuff to buy, and use that money to buy the junk other ingenious Americans are hawking. "In case the point isn't clear: Chinese workers making $1,000 a year have been helping American designers, marketers, engineers, and retailers making $1,000 a week (and up) earn even more," wrote the excellent James Fallows in an Atlantic article—"China Makes, The World Takes"—published this summer.

The situation is unsustainable, in part because China's affordable workers are fast learning how to do, and so compete for, those white-collar Yankee jobs. Then there's the other threat that's arisen since 9/11: Al Gore and his environment. It's hard to miss the message that pure consumption is no longer a viable business model.

On Tuesday, Halifax city council modified the garbage laws so a house can put out just six bags of trash, rather than the previous limit of 10 bags. This is designed to get Haligonians thinking about waste—and opportunities for composting and recycling—which could lead to people being more careful about what they consume. Six bags is still an awful lot of trash, but with this change, council's made a bolder move to prepare for the future than George Bush has made in his entire presidency, at a cost far below the hundreds of billions spent on Vietraq.

The great strength of Bush's America is its citizen army of mindless shoppers, racking up staggering personal debt to fuel the economic engine. If a traumatic event—a death in the family, say, or an ice age, or an attack by a handful of guys from caves in Afghanistan—ever caused this army to question its role in the grand scheme, or helped awaken it to the fact the world is a small and interconnected place after all, that would be bad for business. So Bush issues the orders to blindly march.

"As we work with Congress in the coming year," he said in December 2006, "to chart a new course in Iraq and strengthen our military to meet the challenges of the 21st century, we must also work together to achieve important goals for the American people here at home. This work begins with keeping our economy growing.... And I encourage you all to go shopping more." As we mark the sixth anniversary of 9/11, the terrorists aren't exactly winning under Bush, but neither is America.

If you don’t send an email to, then the terrorists win.


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