Weekly Wire
Austin Chronicle The End of History

By Louis Black

AUGUST 3, 1998:  "The End of History" is a theory that has held currency in some circles over the past year or two. Briefly, the argument is that, with the end of the Cold War, and the increasing globalization of the culture and economy, we are entering a period where historic events (as we've known them for the last couple of millennia) will no longer occur. Great nations will never again go to war with each other, for example - industry and finance would never allow it - and even the greatest of leaders will have only incremental influence on the grand sweep of events. In fact, and this is the crux of the matter, there can be nothing but incremental changes from now on, because all the frontiers have been conquered, all the cultures (almost) assimilated. Soon, enemies will be in short supply, and cooperation, not conflict, will be the human condition. It is the dawning of the age of the technocrat, when events won't happen, they will be managed. Like I said, it's a theory, and I can pretty much take it or leave it.

Surveying the local scene, however - the Chronicle's beat - it's hard not to read some of those same meanings into the current zeitgeist. Remember, if you can, that it was just a few short years ago that this city was mired in political civil war. It was developers vs. environmentalists, the S.O.S. vs. the "Chamber of Concrete" and the Real-Estatesman, endangered species vs. property rights, Brigid Shea vs. Jim Bob Moffett, and the Chronicle vs. Bruce Todd and the evil City Council majority. These were momentous battles, serious philosophical divides, and the fate of our children's city hung perilously in the balance.

Then, of course, the good guys won, and everything changed. In a string of electoral and legal decisions over the past few years, the enviros have ended the Cold War that had paralyzed the city, taken control of the reins of the city, and declared a new world order.

As for the "losers" - well, business is nothing if not pragmatic, and there are a lot of deals to be made in this post-war economy. In fact, with the new majority eager to prove that Smart Growth works - and to bury the tired old no-growth label - why, it's a downright lovefest down at council chambers these days. Politicians, city staff, citizens, and business leaders are actually working together to solve problems, of all things, rather than picking up sides and playing political dodge-ball. One hardly knows what to make of it.

I mean, just look at this week's "Politics" section: Sure, there's debate about just how to spend some $300+ million in new bond money, but on the basic question of whether this is the time to be making that big a capital investment into our city's quality of life - nary a dissent. At the same time, the fight over the Triangle development seems to be nearing a happy resolution, with the city and neighborhood "no-growthers" having apparently beaten the state over the head and forced them to accept denser development (yes, that's right, though most media can't seem to quite grasp this concept yet) on the site than they had wanted to do.

But those agenda items had to wait, this week, because council decided that, since they had a few minutes to spare at the beginning of the meeting, they'd set about solving that pesky racial tension thing people had been complaining about. Among people of good will, apparently, there's no problem too big. Heck, even crime will be pretty much a thing of the past, just as soon as we get the rest of the new surveillance cameras installed.


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