* 200 articles. Two years. Whelk. The best of Upsideclown. Might be reprinted.

What Never Happened

9 January 2003
Dan's universe is wrong

It was a terrible decision, and many of the pilots involved have subsequently complained bitterly about the absence of counselling services available afterwards. They signed up to protect America against its enemies, not to fire on their own citizens.

But, as the President later admitted, it was a matter of pure luck that the planes were even in a position to fire at all. And it was indubitably the last possible moment; a moment longer and the planes would have been inside New York airspace, where any attempt to bring them down would have endangered potentially thousands of lives.

As it was, hundreds of people - fathers and mothers, children and lovers - died that day, leaving many more bereaved. There were no survivors. A month after the sky exploded in flame, USAF pilot John Lee, who had been the first to obey the order to fire, ended his own life.

His suicide note read May God forgive me. I cannot forgive myself. You have heard that slogan a thousand times since, perhaps more, on T-shirts and rap records and commemorative plates.

Once guilt was established, revenge was swift. The bombing order saw the communications network of the rogue state destroyed. And then the winter came early, and as plans for land operations and infrastructure development were shelved Gore saw his second term drip away as body after blameless body was hauled in front of the cameras. Every one a victim of a war that never happened. Without a shot, half a nation was sentenced to death.

We Europeans like to sneer at Americans. To condemn them as an abusive father scorns successful offspring. But, once the true horror of the desolation sank in, not one of us could dare to deny the role of the U.S, first as the greatest contributor of cash and manpower to the UN rescue efforts and subsequently in the series of summits, peace treaties and aid packages that did so much to create our world.

It was the U.S that became the first nation in history to decide not to pursue its own technological advantage. The TV channels buzzed with speculation about the drop in the standard of living required to forestall fossil fuel dependence, and in the streets and suburbs of Los Angeles riots erupted as professionals fought for the privilege to get 8 miles to the gallon they had worked their whole lives for.

Los Angeles still burns, but now with the furnace and the forge. The SUVs have become sculptures, sources of raw materials, furniture and shelter. The roads buzz with buses, trams and broadband conferencing. The skies, for most of the minutes in an hour, are silent.

It turned out that it wasn't the end of the world. But even in Europe, where the changes were hard indeed, we must never underestimate the sacrifices they made to limit their consumption. We can only hope that, in the long term, the gamble pays off.

So far, so good. Without the same demands for energy and production, the fear of losing control over those energy sources has lessened, weakening interest groups without the best interests of the U.S at heart. It has also given us all, I think, a new perspective on needs and rights. We need freedom; Freedom to act, and freedom not to be acted upon. We have a right to live lives without fear, and on obligation to help others to do the same.

Easier written than done, of course, but diplomatic breakthroughs in recent months give us all cause to hope. This is not the end of resentment - the gap between haves and have-nots remains incredible - but it is the start of something.

It feels somehow disgraceful to suggest that anything truly good could come from the horror of that day over New York, but, as ever, ultimately we can only speculate on how things might have happened otherwise. And, as we enter 2003, let us redouble our efforts to ensure that not one of the many deaths that served as the foundation of this new age has been in vain.

May God help us. We can help ourselves.


This is the fucking archive

Current clown:

18 December 2003. George writes: This List

Most recent ten:

15 December 2003. Jamie writes: Seven Songs
11 December 2003. Dan writes: Spinning Jenny
8 December 2003. Victor writes: Rock Opera
4 December 2003. Matt writes: The Mirrored Spheres of Patagonia
1 December 2003. George writes: Charm
27 November 2003. James writes: On Boxing
24 November 2003. Jamie writes: El Matador del Amor; Or, the Man who Killed Love
20 November 2003. Dan writes: Rights Management
17 November 2003. Victor writes: Walking on Yellow
13 November 2003. Matt writes: Disintermediation
(And alas we lost Neil, who last wrote Cockfosters)

Also by this clown:

11 December 2003. Dan writes: Spinning Jenny
20 November 2003. Dan writes: Rights Management
30 October 2003. Dan writes: My only goal
9 October 2003. Dan writes: The Knot
18 September 2003. Dan writes: The Engelbart Elephant
28 August 2003. Dan writes: The Amity Index
7 August 2003. Dan writes: This Sporting Life
17 July 2003. Dan writes: Touch
26 June 2003. Dan writes: Metadata
5 June 2003. Dan writes: Street Mate
15 May 2003. Dan writes: Usher's Well
24 April 2003. Dan writes: Medicamenta
3 April 2003. Dan writes: Weapons of Mass Construction
13 March 2003. Dan writes: David Sneddon, Bukake Secret Agent
20 February 2003. Dan writes: Mary Sue
30 January 2003. Dan writes: Bait and Switch
9 January 2003. Dan writes: What Never Happened
19 December 2002. Dan writes: Sermon on the Mount the Face
28 November 2002. Dan writes: Ballroom Blitz
7 November 2002. Dan writes: The Photographer
17 October 2002. Dan writes: Diaphragmatic
26 September 2002. Dan writes: A life in the day
5 September 2002. Dan writes: Different Class
15 August 2002. Dan writes: Story and sequel
25 July 2002. Dan writes: Fellatious
4 July 2002. Dan writes: Skin Mag
10 June 2002. Dan writes: The Ibizan book of the Dead
16 May 2002. Dan writes: The Sissons Situation
22 April 2002. Dan writes: UpsideClown and Out in Hollywood
28 March 2002. Dan writes: Nereus' Daughters
4 March 2002. Dan writes: Diomedes
7 February 2002. Dan writes: Text Only
14 January 2002. Dan writes: Civil Engineering
20 December 2001. Dan writes: Nativity
26 November 2001. Dan writes: The Wedding Band
1 November 2001. Dan writes: what dreans mecum?
8 October 2001. Dan writes: Stop me if you've heard this one before
13 September 2001. Dan writes: Mother of the Muses
20 August 2001. Dan writes: I say I say I say
26 July 2001. Dan writes: Bigger, Better, Brother
2 July 2001. Dan writes: Hecatomb
7 June 2001. Dan writes: Dispassionate Leave
14 May 2001. Dan writes: Small Town Boy
19 April 2001. Dan writes: Maintaining the Driving Line
26 March 2001. Dan writes: Cut and Paste
1 March 2001. Dan writes: Redemption
5 February 2001. Dan writes: Blyton the Face of the Earth
8 January 2001. Dan writes: Smoke Signals
18 December 2000. Dan writes: The Loa Depths
23 November 2000. Dan writes: The Limits of Melissa Joan Hart
30 October 2000. Dan writes: Shiftwork
5 October 2000. Dan writes: Dawson
11 September 2000. Dan writes: Testing Times
17 August 2000. Dan writes: Onanova
3 July 2000. Dan writes: Roboto il Diavolo

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