Wish of Tomorrow

by Fredrik Haerne

July 20, 2002

"This is unbelievable!"


"Think we'll see the same thing here?"

Erik let the question go unanswered. He was still mesmerized by the news on the TV screen: that American troops were beginning to withdraw from Spain, only eight months after they had arrived. Spain would be returning to its civil war; he was sure of that. He was not sure how to answer Thomas' question about Sweden, however.

Instead Erik was now more interested in the reason for the withdrawal. Thomas lacked his interest and skill in economics, but to Erik the latest news from the United States was stunning. It was announced, contrary to all earlier promises, that the United States would be cancelling its debt payments temporarily, thereby for all practical purposes declaring itself bankrupt.

"It finally came," he said, to no one in particular. None of the three other people in his livingroom really heard him, as they were still watching the news. To the right of Erik's armchair, in his couch, were Patrik and Thomas, munching potato chips. Next to them Jenny, the wife of Thomas, currently cuddled up with a large cup of tea in the second armchair. The "gang." They were Erik's closest friends, and like him members of the Swedish People's Party. All of them now probably saw greatly increased chances for recruitment; and perhaps they were right, but increased countermeasures from the government was also a factor to consider seriously.

The United States had cancelled its payments . . . that meant the global economy was down for the count. If they would not be able to revoke the decision soon, thousands of American corporations would go bankrupt -- along, perhaps, with several small countries Erik could think of -- and global trade would be brought to a near-complete end. The ripples on the water could easily become a tidal wave, for the American economy was still the biggest rock in the lake. The effects were really too profound for Erik to be able to explain to his friends, but they would see them with their own eyes soon enough.

How could this happen? The reasons were clear, of course, but his mind was not yet able to truly grasp the scope of the matter. Up until now the United States had seemed invulnerable, immense, and victorious. The "American Empire" had become a catchphrase in politics, used positively by some, negatively by others. There had been the wars in the Middle East, of course, where armies of millions had fallen. The terrorist attacks following them had led to even more wars, until the entire region was cowed, and a third of it reduced to rubble.

There were the Asian wars, which were still going on, and then the European conflicts. Spain and Italy in particular had caught headlines in recent years. Both countries announced their secession from the European Union, when the open borders to Turkey and North Africa had threatened to destroy them. The secessions had been followed by economic isolation, political turmoil, and finally "peacekeeping" troops arriving from the United States. Erik had always supported the coup in Italy; they were right in taking action, since the electorate there was not dominated by Italians anymore. The arrival of American troops, and then the images of rioting Turks and Arabs on the streets of Rome, had saddened him deeply.

He had hoped for a better outcome in Spain, and for a while it seemed like they would succeed where the Italians had not. The civil war had erupted only eight months after the coup in Rome, and America had been preoccupied with Indonesia at the time. Despite that, however, they still had enough troops available to land on Madrid and Barcelona, forcing the Nationalists on the defensive. The war stalled, both countries moved back to the Union again, and the Blacks and Arabs continued to pour in. The European "President" praised American contributions to the continent's stability, drawing bombastic historical parallels whenever he got the chance.

Oh, all that talk about "stability"...such a ridiculous Newspeak word. Did people even remember now that it had only come to use about ten years ago? Yet it had quickly become the new light at the end of the tunnel, the new idol to worship. "We must achieve stability in Spain," the American and European politicians parroted each other. "We must protect the stability in Indonesia." To talk about "democracy" was inconvenient now, because the United States had installed both democracies and dictatorships all over the globe. Stability was better. You could find an excuse for anything by using that word -- and by accusing your opponents of supporting terrorism. Instability and terrorism were linked to images of starving children, burning buildings, and ruthless criminals exploiting the chaos they caused.

Spain had been cowed, and with it most of the European nationalist movement. Its parties were banned one after the other, because of their "links to terrorism" in Italy and Spain. The Swedish People's Party was not really a party anymore, only a semi-clandestine movement, that still retained its old name. The price its members paid for their idealism was always high. Thomas and Jenny had lost their house, and had been forced to live with Erik for six months until they had found a new home. Patrik had lost three jobs, and had little hope of finding a fourth. Erik had so far escaped most persecution, but his price had nevertheless been terrible. His work for the movement had cost him the woman he loved.

Thinking of this he looked at Jenny and Thomas, envying them. They didn't notice him, but listened attentively to the TV, and Erik finally noticed the images of burning buildings. His interest rose.

"...the streets of Barcelona. Bands of terrorists have entered the suburbs, and the police are retreating." The masses of normal Spanish citizens did not look like terrorists to Erik. He noticed a burning Jeep in the crowd, and he wondered how many of the American conscripts remained. For eight months now they had been the law in Barcelona and many other Spanish cities, and their sudden withdrawal posed a huge problem for the government in Madrid. Erik wondered if they would risk bringing in even more Blacks as a counterweight to their own people, or if they would be too afraid to lose the last of their domestic supporters. It was always a double-edged sword for them; the Blacks and Arabs were good to have in elections in peacetime, but there was no telling what they would do in a violent situation. Often they proved just as difficult to control as the White citizens they were supposed to be fighting, and Arabs tended to attack synagogues when that happened.

Erik's thoughts drifted from the violent images, and once again he wondered how the American economy could have crashed so abruptly. Then again, when you thought about it clearly it was surprising that it had lasted this long. Yes, there always seemed to be more money to spend on the military, always more money to give to allied governments, like those now in charge in Spain, Italy and the Middle East. There was always the projection of complete self-assurance -- but it had really just been a veneer of strength, an illusion that step by step had exhausted the country.

This should have been clear to all when the global recession started, long and intense like all changes in a global economy. He remembered what had led up to it: the last world-wide surge in production, when a glorious tomorrow had been declared. It had been little more than a huge, inflated bubble; the natural result when your economy includes countries with even less responsible investors than your own. When the bubble burst it was back to good ol' Keynes: borrow money and spend them, run a deficit, get the wheels moving. Unfortunately, this time the gamble had failed.

It wasn't just the Federal Reserve in America that had been gambling, it was the European Central Bank as well. There was a time when they had proclaimed they would never fuel the economy with lower interest rates, or by printing more money, to bail out the member states. That was back when the board of directors in the ECB had not been staffed by Jews.

Recession, inflation, Keynesianism...words that he heard every day at work. Just words, when it came down to it. Behind it all was a grim reality: in a White world, the economy works. In a dark world, it does not, no matter what you try. Switch from high interest rates to low ones, from subsidies in one field to subsidies in another, and you are really just switching the positions of broken wheels on a burning car. The Barcelonians were paying the price for that now. One more of them fell before the cameras, as the police, most of them Arabs, opened fire on the masses. Erik watched in silence.

* * * * *

An hour later Patrik left, and Erik and Thomas went back to planning the distribution of leaflets the next week, which they had been working on before the breaking news. Jenny watched some more TV, and then took the car back to the apartment she shared with Thomas; her husband would walk home when the work was finished.

It was already late at night when they had everything organized, having decided who would go where and when. Their area was large, half of Gothenburg, and they had to arrange for cars and backups to avoid having their people arrested or worse. Sometimes Erik wondered whether these leaflet campaigns were worth the risk. But on the other hand, they had to do what they could.

They decided to have a cup of coffee, and Thomas went to the room Erik used as his home office, to search for news on the Internet. Erik turned on the stereo meanwhile, and Tchaikovsky's Arabian Dance started its melancholy message. How ironic. He wondered if the Arabs in Barcelona had ever heard this piece, if they knew who Tchaikovsky was at all. He switched to Andante Semplice instead, a calm, soothing melody...so soothing...

The melody reminded him of Sandra, who used to play it often. As always, thinking of her saddened him. He wondered what she was doing now, and where she lived. Still in Northland, with her parents? They had been so good together, he and Sandra...they had been happy....

Erik looked at a picture standing in his bookshelf, of the two of them together with friends outside a summer cabin. He remembered canoeing together with her in the summer, and skiing in the winter. He remembered them playing cards and drinking wine late at night. He remembered trips to her parents in Northland, and plans on moving there. But in the end she couldn't live with his ties to the movement. She understood all his arguments, and had dutifully read parts from the books he had given her, but she just couldn't share his dedication.

It hadn't taken much pressure for her to break down. The phone calls from the police, Erik's name in the newspaper, her friends knowing...the embarrassment had been too much for her.

The end had come, finally, ten months ago. She had been walking home late one evening and been attacked by a gang of Blacks, and she had escaped by pure luck, when a car stopped and the driver helped her flee from the scene. It was nothing new in Gothenburg these days, but it had depressed her terribly, and every problem after that, big and small, only made it worse. Somehow she came to blame Erik's movement for the attack, for "stirring up tensions" as she called it. A few weeks later Erik had come home around midnight, after working at the party's local headquarters, and had found that the police had called again, to ask questions about where he had been the night before. Someone had torched a store owned by Arabs, and even though they must have known he would never be involved they seemed to enjoy forcing him to come down to the police station to argue about alibi.

"I can't take this any longer," Sandra had cried, and he tried to comfort her. It had worked in the past, but not now, and it made him wonder just what the police had said to her this time.

"They keep calling and showing up here, and the neighbors ask me what they are here for, and I have to lie all the time. Why aren't you home? Why are you never home when they come?"

"I have been here several times when that has happened, you know that. But there is work to do...."

"Don't give me that!" Her sudden anger told him this was going to be one of those talks. "You don't have to work with those people, you just choose to. You are at your office at day and in that place in the evening, and when the police come, I tell them to go there and stop asking me questions. I don't know what to say to them, you never tell me anything."

"You never want to know. And there are things -- "

"Yeah, sure!" She seemed to be gathering strength, and then it came: "Thomas and Patrik and the -- you're always with them. They are just a bunch of terrorist supporters!"

And then he had snapped. He knew he shouldn't have, but he couldn't hold it back. He had been tired, and he was in no mood to have Newspeak labels thrown at him, especially not by his own girlfriend who knew better than that. But she heard the label on TV every day, even though he had asked her not to watch the government's news broadcasts. He knew it would affect her. It did. And because of that, their relationship had ended that night.

"Are you awake?" Thomas' voice made him open his eyes again, and he realized that he had been dozing off. He was sitting in the armchair, and his cup of coffee was in front of him, untouched.

"Yes...I think so." He picked up the cup and drank. "Found anything?"

"Oh, yes." Thomas sat down on the couch. "Martial law all over Spain, again. And noone seems to know just what is going on in Barcelona anymore. Seems like the Nationalists had supplies hidden nearby, and now that the Americans are moving out they hit in full force, before the government has time to reorganize the city defenses."

"Really? So the Americans are gone, completely?"

"Not completely, but they aren't intervening. They are moving out through the docks, and there is no fighting there. I bet the grunts are pretty tired by now. Okay, what else...the Spanish government is cursing at Washington, calling them cowards, and some Congressman is mouthing back. The troops are definitely going."

"Good! Perhaps Spain could become a bit Spanish again now." Erik smiled, but without much humor.

"Yeah, perhaps. Jenny thinks it will spread to Portugal and France. I talked with her on the computer."

"She's awake?"

"She was just going to bed now." Thomas listened to the music, drinking his own coffee.

"Do you think it is going to spread? To us?" he said at last.

Erik thought about this. He didn't know what to answer. On one hand, the government was still not wavering, and people were being locked up left and right. On the other hand, people's hopes for the future were at an all-time low, and unemployment was rising every day.

"I don't know," he finally said. "Right now doesn't seem likely. Not here." "It didn't seem likely in Spain either."

"I know...." He sighed. "I sure hope we can do something, otherwise we'll become another Greece. Now that the Americans are pulling back -- did you read anything about Indonesia? Or Pakistan?"

"They are pulling out there too, it seems. Perhaps everywhere. I saw one journalist who wondered if they even had enough fuel for the trip home." "Unbelievable."

"Yeah." Thomas nodded, waiting.

"Well, with all of this, I think we will have an economic crash here as well. Yes, definitely. And not just here. There will be millions more unemployed all over Europe the coming weeks."

"That will make people react, if it happens. That is how it started in Italy."

"True." Erik put down his cup, listening to the music. "You know, we don't ask for much, really. Listen to this...." He turned up the volume, just a little. "I just...want a society where we can have...we can create beauty like this again. And I want a Gothenburg where women can walk on the streets at night without fear. That is not too much to ask. Not at all. It just takes so much to get back to that...."

Thomas was silent for a moment, then replied in a quiet voice: "You are thinking about Sandra again?"

"Yes...again. You know, the ironic thing is that she moved away because she believed I didn't think of her enough. She didn't understand...that everything I did, I did for her. And that hasn't changed." He looked back to the photograph in his bookshelf. "I just wish things could be different."

Hundreds of miles away, on the dark streets of Barcelona, people fought and died for the same wish.


Tell a friend about this article:

Back to VNN Main Page