Year of the Monkey


First in a monthly series of Political Blogs about the US of A by

Emer Martin
Feb 2016

Everywhere they celebrate Chinese New year, as I stroll through a sunny and warm Chinese Village in Cupertino, California. After a delicious lunch of dim sum, I’m walking, with my young daughter and her Korean American friend, by stores selling Piggy Buns, fried turnip balls, Buddha’s hands, stinky durian fruit, and placenta facemasks, when we stop to see the progress made on the new Apple headquarters across the road. It will be a vast circular space ship monumental structure here in an innocuous, bland suburban Silicon Valley that is not accustomed to architecture of any note. The year of the Monkey is beginning. They say the monkey is a smart, naughty, wily and vigilant animal. I was born in the year of the monkey. Suddenly, I get a phone notification that Supreme Court justice Scalia is dead. It makes me smile and we celebrate with taro bubble tea as K-pop tunes blast out from a screen. As my kids talk, I realize they know who is who in the K-pop world.

Scalia was one of Regan’s nominees and now Obama has the chance to nominate his third Supreme Court justice. This changes everything. There are three more Supreme Court Justices that will die or retire in the next eight years. I feel a surge of hope. Though the senate will try to block any nomination, it could backfire on the Republicans in an election cycle if they reveal themselves to be too mean and crazy.

Why pay attention to the U.S. presidential election? Actually, it matters to everyone; it doesn’t just affect the people who live on this part of the continent. The U.S. election affects the world. We are not all separated neatly by our own artificial borders. What happens in the U.S happens to all of us on earth. The bad news is is that the world can’t vote. It matters! Why should we who live here vote? Two words and one reason should be foremost on your mind – Supreme Court. They make decisions every day, which impact our lives and the life of the planet.

After a coup, the Supreme Court chose the 2000 election. Imagine a world in which Gore, an environmentally conscious somewhat stiff dude was in power for those 8 years instead of the bewildered, inept puppet Bush Junior. Who was holding the Presidential strings? Why, only the billionaire oligarchs that run this country. What did they want? War without end. It makes them rich. It makes them happy. Furthermore, the Supreme Court brought in ‘Citizens United’, the single most damaging decision of recent years. It lifted limits on campaign funding so the Koch brothers and other billionaires can donate what they want and thus get full control of the political process. Recently, I had been feeling despondent that democracy had been gobbled by the Oligarchy.

So why am I not weeping and trembling in a corner? Because, in the year of the Monkey, something strange is happening. A cranky old man who calls himself a socialist and wants to bring in a system of democratic socialism to the U.S. is giving the Clintons a run for their money. Surprisingly, people have stopped laughing at him. Some are even listening.
“Socialism” was the most searched world on the Internet in 2015. A new generation, who did not grow up in the Cold War, is actually interested and open to change. Sanders is always quick to stress that he’s a democratic socialist, he points to many European countries which tax the rich and provide services for everyone—he pleads us to remember that this is not an alien concept in the U.S. He is not really a socialist at all, but part of a tradition started by Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson, with the New Deal and the Great Society. Even stranger, the irascible Bernie Sanders is being supported by the young. The young love Bernie.

This new generation of young Americans has been dismissed so often as vacuous, over pampered, screen addicted millennials who have no struggle. This was a convenient patronizing lie. They were told everything was set for them, they were born with a cyber spoon in their mouths, the world was at their squeaky-clean fingertips that hovered over their keyboards. On the contrary, young Americans might be the first generation whose parents can’t afford to send them to college. If they do go they will get crippled by toxic student loans, with sky rocketing interest rates that paralyze them, and thus make buying houses, or cars, or moving out of home impossible.

Climate change is not an abstract for them; if it is merely a liberal conspiracy to destroy the fossil fuel economy then those pesky liberals sure have a long reach. They are living in droughts in the West, being spun dizzy by tornadoes in the Center, and hit by monumental unprecedented hurricanes in the East.

Six corporations control 90% of the media they consume, it has never been more consolidated, but this generation of Young Americans can get around that and find their own sources. Moreover, they are creating their own sources for each others consumption through blogs and online publishing and YouTube channels. Sure Sanders was drowned out by the buffoonish antics of Trump, but the Millennials got his message anyway.
I really wanted to like Hilary. I’m a feminist and long dreamt of a female president of the U.S. However, Millennials know that Wall St and the banks have stolen their future, and Monsanto wants to control their food sources. They know that Hilary Clinton, at around $700,000 a speech, all but works for Goldman Sachs. Also, according to financial disclosures by the Clinton Foundation, Monsanto gave the Clintons between $501,250 and $1 million. Another top GMO company, Dow Chemical, gave between $1 million and $5 million. Hilary is a woman yes, but ultimately the agenda of the corporations that fund her does not give us the kind of world we want. Women too need a planet to live on, and feminism is intertwined with environmentalism and socialism and all the equality movements.

As I stroll through Cupertino Village, I am cognizant that this part of the world is a protean place. Thirty years ago this was a sleepy area where European Americans planted orchards and traded in cherries. Traditions change from one generation to the next, in a mere 200 years the land I am walking on has gone from First Nations, to being part of the Spanish empire, to Mexico, to the U.S. Currently, I am walking by the spacey Apple headquarters through Asia and the year is 4714. It is more benign and banal than Bladerunner, maybe except for the fried turnip. According to the Chinese Five Elements Horoscopes, Monkey contains Metal and Water. Metal is connected to gold. Water is connected to wisdom and danger. Therefore, we will deal with more financial events in the year of the Monkey. Metal is also connected to the Wind. That implies the status of events will be changing very quickly. They are changing as I’m writing. The racist homophobic Scalia died peacefully in his sleep, he was in Texas hunting with his friends. He had a brilliant mind but he wasn’t a good person.

He used to go hunting with his friend Dick Chaney. It always struck me that, when they took breaks in perpetuating the Oligarchy and funneling all the earth’s bounty to the rich and powerful, they went off and killed more innocent things. Being a good person means that you have to look at the larger picture and sometimes ignore your own immediate interests, personal enrichment and privilege in order to create a more equitable environment for as many people as possible. It’s not complicated; being a good person is like being a good child. You must learn to share even when it hurts.

This new much maligned millennial generation are sharers, they share statuses, they share pictures, they often work for free when they are passionate and they know what’s at stake. They know that they have to make sure that the earth’s limited resources are shared in a more equitable fashion than is currently happening. They are looking up definitions of the word socialism without fear. Because that’s really all it means, socialism means sharing.

When the world is an unequal violent place it is a dangerous and dark world. To most reluctant children there is a moment when they realize that they have lost nothing by sharing but have gained more than they imagined.

It is probably inevitable that the right wing of the Democratic Party will ensure Clinton’s nomination. I will have to hold my nose and vote for her in order to keep those mad fascists that the Republicans have paraded before us out of power at all costs. Scary monsters, super creeps each and every one of them. I will console myself that at least we get a woman president, and that’s a beautiful thing. But Hilary Clinton is not aligning herself with the sharers in this culture. She will serve who is paying her now. But for this brief moment I know that the Monkey is a tricky unpredictable year. And I have an admiration and trust in this new generation of voters who are voting for the cranky old unpolished unapologetic socialist Bernie Sanders. The Millennials are just starting out their voting life. They are proving everyone wrong about their generation, they want change, and they want peace, and they want a future, and a planet that is not so depleted that their own children will not be able to sustain themselves. They want democracy not Oligarchy. They will also be around for the next sixty years of elections. That’s why I have hope.

I will sign off with a quote from one of my heros, the great activist and writer Howard Zinn,

“To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness.

What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.

And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.”

Emer Martin writes a monthly column on American Affairs for The Bogmans Cannon