DEMOCRATS AND DEATH

DEMOCRATS AND DEATH - "When teenagers from Rio's slums go clubbing they engage in organized gang warfare to music," writes Nicole Veash in the July 22 Irish Times. "Some thirty unlicensed funk balls have sprung up in poor sections of the city to provide the slums' teeming youth population with a place to dance. And kill. More than sixty young Brazilians have been murdered in the funk balls since they emerged in 1996."

The funk balls appeared immediately after poor youth were swept off Rio's beaches and forcibly kept in the slums on weekends. The dingy funk ball clubs have two of everything: entrances, toilets, bars. Gangs from rival slums each occupy half of the club, under the banners of Side A and Side B. Over a thousand teenagers, boys and girls dressed to impress, may crowd inside a funk ball club, but a seven foot wide Corridor of Death is maintained in the middle. As DJs blast Brazilian funk--a mixture of pop, techno, and rap--raiding parties from one side, often provoked by off-duty police working security, will drag someone from the other side into the Corridor of Death and beat them mercilessly.

Brazilian authorities blame the music, not poverty, for the funk ball carnage. "The more you listen to funk, the more you fucking love it," counters 19-year-old Andre. "It has a hard, intense sound. It's music about our people, about poverty and drugs. The things we know."

Halfway around the world from Rio, in Afghanistan, kids aren't listening to music at all. That's because listening to music, along with watching TV or playing sports, is forbidden by the ruling Taliban guerrillas, who have imposed a bizarre distortion of Islamic doctrine on the country. As for teenage girls, they, like their mothers, are forbidden to work and may not even venture outside their homes without risking severe punishment.

Far from rebelling against these strictures, many teenagers in Afghanistan welcome them. The majority of Taliban soldiers are young boys, described by Ahmed Rashid in Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil, and Fundamentalism in Central Asia as kids who "had no memories of the past, no plans for the future. They were literally the orphans of the war, the rootless and the restless, the jobless and the economically deprived. They admired war because it was the only occupation they could possibly adapt to. Their simple belief in a messianic, puritan Islam which had been drummed into them by simple village mullahs was the only prop they could hold on to and which gave their lives some meaning."

The tie that binds Brazilian kids who party to death with Afghanistani kids who are willing to kill people if they dare to party isn't just their common poverty. Poverty is an old story in those countries, but this generation of youth is the specific creation of policies of the Clinton/Gore administration. Bill Clinton and Al Gore were placed in office by U.S.-based international financiers and, while in office, Clinton and Gore have presided over a horrific squeezing of the Brazilian economy ordered up by International Monetary Fund and other Wall Street thugs, with an exponential increase in the amount and degree of poverty there. The violence in Rio's funk clubs is a direct result of IMF control of the Brazilian economy.

Ahmed Rashid notes that while Clinton and Gore have courted feminist voters with anti-Taliban rhetoric, "The Clinton administration was clearly sympathetic to the Taliban, as they were in line with Washington's anti-Iran policy and were important for the success of any southern [oil] pipeline from Central Asia that would avoid Iran." In fact, the Taliban could never have come to power without the arms and money funneled to them by the Clinton/Gore administration. And, while no oil pipeline has been built yet, one of the world's busiest heroin pipelines now traverses southern Afghanistan under Taliban protection.

The violent foreign policy of Bill Clinton and Al Gore has been applied in the U.S. as well. What's the difference between Clinton/Gore welfare reform in the U.S. and the IMF's destruction of the Brazilian economy? What's the difference between the censorship policies of the Taliban and the grandstanding attacks on pop music by Bill and Hillary Clinton, Al and Tipper Gore, and vice-presidential nominee Joe Lieberman? Only that in America, the censorship is often covert and isn't carried out at gunpoint. Yet.

Al Gore helped Clinton pass the 1995 crime bill, which put 100,000 more cops on the streets in America and is more than a little responsible for the wave of murderous police brutality that's come to light in Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, and New York. On August 5, Al Gore addressed a roomful of cops in Washington, D.C., thanked them for making "America safer than it has been in a generation" and vowed to hire more cops and prosecutors to keep it that way.

Remember that between now and election day as a Greek chorus of liberals, including many musicians, try to convince you that Al Gore and Joe Lieberman are the lesser of two evils.