During the summer of what many thinkers identify as the last year of the 20th century, 1989, the Straussian political philosopher Francis Fukuyama published an essay in the National Interest called "The End of History?". The essay, which was expanded in 1992 into the now-notorious book The End of History and the Last Man, proposed that because liberal democracy had defeated all other state systems ("hereditary monarchy, fascism, and finally communism"), mankind had reached the final point of its "ideological evolution." Of course history didn't end in 1989 (just the 20th century did), and liberal democracy is not the "final form" of human government, but Fukuyama's proposal does help us to see the '90s not so much as a big party for Western capitalist democracies, but as a kind of long and very deep sleep. The end of history really meant the end of being awake. During that slumber, from which Fukuyama believed we would never arise, our present, terrifying situation at the dawn of the 21st century was the stuff of dreams.
The Matrix (1999) got the condition right but the sequence wrong: The sleeping humans were not in the future dreaming of the past, but in the '90s dreaming of a future that was right around the corner. In movie after movie, the '90s saw the '00s taking shape in nightmares that were projected on thousands of screens. They saw the coming drama of 9/11 in The Siege (1998); they saw a distorted version of the current Iran nuclear crisis in the submarine thriller Crimson Tide (1995); and with a crispness that is chilling, they saw the USA PATRIOT Act and the rise of the NSA in Enemy of the State (1998).
Initially designed for Tom Cruise, the role of the lawyer in Enemy of the State who becomes the subject of total surveillance was ultimately given to Will Smith. As Hegel knew, the enemy of state power is always the individual, the single person. In the movie, Smith is the individual and Jon Voight is the state—a top-ranking official in the NSA who looks like none other than the current Secretary of Defense, Donald H. Rumsfeld. Voight wants Congress to pass a controversial act (the Telecommunications Security and Privacy Act) that's substantively identical to the PATRIOT Act, but Phillip Hammersley, a crucial Republican Congressman from New York, is against it. At the start of the movie, this conversation occurs between Rummy's look-alike and Hammersley:
HAMMERSLEY: ... I'm not going to sit in Congress and pass a bill that allows this government to point a camera and microphone at anything they damn well please.
RUMMY: Phil, look... this is the richest, most powerful nation on earth, and therefore the most hated... We are at war, 24 hours a day.
Watch this DVD and you will be convinced that the '90s saw in dreams what was coming its way. But like the dead in Benjamin's "Angel of History," the '90s refused to wake up and do something about it.