The Best Opening Line
After hours of deep thought, I have decided that the best opening line in all of hiphop is that which opens Public Enemy’s “Fight The Power”: “NINETEEN! EIGHTY! NINE!”
In my unpublished work of pop theory, Twilight of the Good Times (2002), this is what I wrote about the remarkable year of 1989.
The 80s were the end of a world. Its hours and days detailed the sunset of the 20th century, which opened in 1917. The 19th century, which ran from 1789 (the French Revolution) and closed with the end of the First World War and the birth of the Soviet Union, was the platform from which the dreams and nightmares of 20th century were launched. These dreams and nightmares, rocketed by the militarized and mobilized super powers, each imagining itself to be “the legitimate heirā€¯ of the 19th century, came to end in 1989 with the fall of the Berlin wall—an event that was accompanied by other great events of that astonishing year: after 27 years of imprisonment, the releasing of Nelson Mandela; the first bursts of the Japanese bubble; the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan; the Tiananmen Square massacre; the assassination of King Tubby in Kingston, Jamaica; and much, much more.
When people say that we entered the 21st century on September 11, they are gravely mistaken. Despite the scale of the destruction, 9-11 was just that: mass destruction. It was the collapse of two massive structures but not the collapse of the prevailing ideological edifice of our new times. The buildings went down but the ruling ideology remained erect. 9-11 was the deepening and intensification of what was already there—the 21st century—in all of its significant attributes, which Deleuze succinctly describes in his "brief and enigmatic essay, `Postscript on the Societies of Control'ā€¯ .
Published at the dawn of the 21st century, 1990, "Postscript on the Societies of Controlā€¯ outlines the primary shifts and new directions that were to shape what President George Bush, Sr. famously called The New World Order: the "breakdown of all sites of confinementā€¯ that defined "disciplinary societyā€¯ (prisons, schools, barracks, and so on); the diminishing role of the nation state in managing internal and international affairs (the Japanese management guru, Kenichi Ohmae aggressively championed this as "The Borderless Worldā€¯ in his bestseller The Borderless World—Power and Strategy in the Interlinked Economy, which was also published in 1990); the merging of Third and First worlds within the same geographic space (characterized by the growing similarities between cities like Los Angeles and Mexico City or, more physically, San Diego and Tijuana—as noted in Mike Davis' Magical Urbanism, 2000); the end of real national politics—meaning, the end of a distinct right and left positions and the arrival of tough-love democrats and compassionate republicans.
In the way that Hiroshima accelerated the 20th century, 9-11 accelerated the 21st century. The parts that were casually coming together to give the era its shape and destiny were rushed closer to their defining center when the second hijacked jet plane opened and entered the gates of hell. This is why the term "new warā€¯ so easily replaced the term "new economyā€¯—they were, as Hal Foster says in another context, "expressions of a particular periodā€¯; meaning, concepts conditioned/fashioned by the same historical moment/materials. We must turn to the 80s to see the end. Objects in the 90s are exposed to the strange light of dawn; objects in 80s are forever caught in the diminishing light of dusk.