Aug 2006

In this elegant chaos I stand to one side

I’m pissed off. Really really pissed off. Furious. And I have been for more than a week. I’m so pissed off in fact, that the dark cloud under which I’m living has been mentioned on the TV weather forecast… “and if we take a look at the satellite image, we can see that mad bastid in Rathcoole still hasn’t calmed down”

Yet the world keeps turning. Funny that.

I’m not going to write about what’s pissing me off… it’s not the most interesting story to the neutral observer. Instead I’m going to cast an angry eye over recent events around the world. Because let’s face it; if there’s one way to mollify a dark and stormy mood, it’s reading the news. Right?

I’ve got a fairly long piece in the works about Israel and the rest of the Middle East, so I’ll not talk about that now… except to say: “Stop killing each other guys! It’s really not helping.” Sadly, as I try to explain in my article, that kind of advice is liable to fall on deaf ears. In my view, none of the major players in this crisis should be viewed as rational agents, and that’s a serious problem.

For now though, allow me to get distracted from the Middle East by a manufactured media frenzy close to home. Is it just me, or does this “airplane liquid bomb plot thingie” get anyone else’s disproportionate-response detector going? If they arrested the people planning to carry it out, why the need to shut down half the world’s air travel? (not that future generations won’t thank the Home Office for the brief respite in fossil fuel usage).

But is that what it takes to utterly banjax the transport infrastructure these days… getting caught planning to banjax it? Surely by that definition, our security services have guaranteed a 100% success rate for all such plans. Either you get caught and everything gets shut down. Or you don’t get caught and everything gets shut down.

I understand, of course, that from the point of view of the hypothetical victims there’s clearly a big difference… but the primary objective of the terrorist is to cause terror and disruption; the individual deaths are a byproduct. And getting caught seems to achieve the primary objective just fine. Does it strike anyone else as a weird way to wage a war… adopting a policy that guarantees your enemy succeeds in their main aims?

I think it goes without saying, though, that the ringleaders of this particular media circus are “Dr. John” Reid and the UK Home Office. Having so spectacularly ballsed-up the Forest Gate operation, a decision was taken to make the maximum public impact with the next significant anti-terrorist “success”. Fricking idiots.

I tell you what my British friends, you guys really need to organise a revolution soon. It’s just as obvious watching from outside as it was when I was huddled within.

As for you in America…? Don’t even get me started. It seems like things are going down the tubes over there faster than you can say “We have always been at war with Eurasia”. Has anyone else noticed this? Florida’s Fear of History: New Law Undermines Critical Thinking (Anyone apart from Gyrus, I mean, who sent it to me)

We don’t want knowledge. We want certainty.

I don’t know a whole lot about Florida (Plus point: Witty blogger, L. Minus points: Jeb Bush, Miami Vice). I read a few articles about the state back when everyone was talking about hanging chads, and it didn’t sound like my kind of place. But then, the USA in general isn’t my kind of place. Great to visit… but very difficult to deal with on a permanent basis.

And I guess when a state elects Jeb Bush as governor it says something about where its head’s at… i.e. roughly the same place as the nation in general. What with Dubya and The War Against Terror and all.

So, as part of an education bill signed into law by Gov. Jeb Bush, Florida has declared that “American history shall be viewed as factual, not as constructed.” That factual history, the law states, shall be viewed as “knowable, teachable, and testable.”

Florida’s lawmakers are not only prescribing a specific view of US history that must be taught (my favorite among the specific commands in the law is the one about instructing students on “the nature and importance of free enterprise to the United States economy”), but are trying to legislate out of existence any ideas to the contrary. They are not just saying that their history is the best history, but that it is beyond interpretation. In fact, the law attempts to suppress discussion of the very idea that history is interpretation.

Jensen’s article does a great job of exposing the lunacy of this project, so I’ll not dwell upon it, merely point out that there’s two links to his piece, above. Use one.

Don’t mention the war

Sky News is the only news channel I get right now. Which is a bit of a pain in the arse obviously. I call it “news drink”. You know the way bottles of stuff called “juice drink” aren’t juice at all, but watered-down sugar-filled froth instead? As I say, news drink.

All the same, news drink can be informative at times. Rarely down to what’s said of course, but more how it’s said. A couple of days back I watched one of their rent-an-experts go off message and was bemused by the knots the stern anchor-woman tied herself in while trying to rubbish the man she’d introduced as an expert. “What we are seeing in Iraq right now is a civil war. The United Nations estimates that between 75 and 100 people are dying every day in the ongoing conflict…”

At which point she cut him off to remind the viewer that while Dr. Arabic Name may describe Iraq as being in a state of civil war, most experts (very much her emphasis, not mine) agree that it’s not nearly that simple. Most experts will tell you that large parts of the country are now completely stable. Of course we rarely get to hear about this…

At which point she posed a completely unrelated question to another (thankfully on-message) expert who’d just arrived on a screen over her shoulder. But it seemed to me as she trailed off that she was basically claiming that Iraq is not in a state of civil war. It may look that way, but that’s only because the news media is giving a misleading impression.


Sadly though, I don’t actually think it matters what we call it. The armies of Britain and the United States have rained death upon that country and plunged it into violent chaos. It’s the kind of thing that makes me understand precisely why humanity had to invent the concept of sin.

Guess what I’m gonna talk about now?

Ahem… well, on the subject of peak oil and the energy problems we face…

As you would expect, I have much to say. But not right now. Head on over to google news and search for peak oil. My analysis can come at a later date. But when the Financial Times directly ascribes a 1 percent reduction in British economic activity to “supply-side constraints within the energy sector” then you have to wonder about OPEC’s assurances that they’ve got enough excess capacity to handle any possible crisis. I believe a tipping point has been reached. As one financial analyst puts it… “Buy on the dips”.

As for climate change… well, I’m turning off my appliances and I’m being as energy-efficient as I know how to be without entering genuine self-denial. That’s naturally a phase I’m mentally preparing for, but I’ll be blunt… I’m not going there alone; I’ll start denying myself electrical luxuries like PC usage and listening to music the very moment I’m sure I’m part of something big enough to be significant. Until then, I’ll minimise my role in the problem, but I’ll still remain part of it. Yeah, that’s selfish, but there you go… One day I may not have the luxury of a piping hot shower every morning… so I’ll damn well take advantage of the opportunity now. But that doesn’t mean I’ll run the hot-water boiler 24/7.

Of course, having done so well to live a (relatively) low-energy lifestyle, I get the feeling that I’m going to blow all my good intentions out of the water with a flight or two later in the year. Once in a while I get the urge to fly somewhere hot and spend a week sitting at a beach-front café eating freshly made bread dipped in olive oil and parmesan while sipping chilled orange juice. I read a book and watch the world go by. Theoretically I could spend a week doing that here in Dublin. But for some reason it just doesn’t work unless you’re next to the mediterranean.

Despite getting that urge quite a bit, it’s been a fair few years since I’ve actually done it… just buggered off somewhere to eat nice food for a week or two. And something tells me that a couple of weeks in Italy would be exactly what the doctor ordered for late September 2006. A few days in Naples for the mediterranean vibe, then a train northwards and ten days of exploring the finest cheapest restaurants and cafés Italy has to offer (of which there are many).

Tattoo it on my forehead kids… I flew to Naples to eat nice food. It’s my fault.

Ah, don’t worry kids, there’s a good chance I’ll have guilted myself out of the idea before I ever get round to booking the ticket.

Anyways, that’s me for now. I’m off to listen to some music. I’m currently reminding myself just how amazing Peggy Suicide is… you always remember the singles of course, but tracks like If You Loved Me At All and Pristeen are amongst the best things Copey’s ever done. If you don’t know this album, you don’t know music.

Posted in: Opinion