Les nains de l’homme argenté
1) Egyptian democracy 2) How to handle a population 3) yet more progress! 4) Readers’ letters 5) question of the fortnight Further distribution aiming at 1-3-2013
This journal has acquired a fine record of political and social predictions, some from our own staff (contact firstname.lastname@example.org for fees of consultancy contracts), some from readers. A good example is the observation by Leah Menshevik (20-11-2012). She pointed out the crippling flaw in the claim that social networks using the new adult electronic toys would bring an age of truer democracy. The crucial factor is the huge divergence between the population of frequent users of social media (and of the shiny gewgaws which support them) – very largely urban and overwhelmingly young – and on the other hand all the other inhabitants of a country. Instead, the tendency would be towards the appearance of urban mobs, passions inflamed by the mutual assurances of justified rage flashing around their favoured networks. This matches extremely well what has been happening recently in Egypt (assisted, certainly, by the deep-rooted belief of police in Egypt as elsewhere that one of the rewards of serving a population is the right to beat up or taser members of the population who displease them). There have been and are rioting mobs in Cairo and other cities, demanding the resignation of Mursi, alleging that he has betrayed the democratic revolution. Yet the moves made since Mubarak was overthrown have twice been put to a nationwide vote, unprecedentedly free and fair, in which Mursi’s group and allies won, each time, around 65% of the vote. That they should now take the leading part in organising the way forward conforms precisely to the principle of democracy – doesn’t it? – whether or not that 65% came from outside the cities, and the poorer sections of the population. Or perhaps elections only count as democratic when they deliver the result that we – whoever ‘we’ may be – want?
[Two more reader’s letters at the end of this distribution]
Our arrangement with Luddites’ Gazette (see earlier distributions passim) has to end; the editorial staff were held as suspected illegal immigrants on reaching Switzerland; their bicycles were impounded and they lost their chance to appeal against CENSOR’s decision. So we have made an informal agreement with the Wessex Posthorn (a young staff gallantly pushing out independent views in one of the more dismal port cities of southern England) (Please note we present this document as received, and apologise for the poor quality of the writing):
A bit of good news from France, some really bad news from America. From this month on, first time in 212 years, Frenchwomen have the right to wear trousers without going first to a police station to get permission. That urge to dictate to women how they can dress seems deep embedded in the collective mind of the French bureaucracy, but perhaps we should (for once) congratulate those French police, for pretty generally having had enough sense not to enforce that law, we hope they will continue with this rare sanity in the matter of that preposterous veto on the burqa.
The terrible news (for people who are going to see brothers, husbands, neighbours, and family friends who had just popped in for a visit, killed or maimed, without any proper investigation into claims they might be intending harm to anyone) is like the American executive branch are giving themselves the right to send a drone to kill, not arrest, never mind trial, American citizens who they think are preparing violent action against America. We think this move is heavily against America’s own interest, but first let’s just point out a lot of people think it’s a breach of the constitution (and what the hell is the point of having a constitution if the authorities any time can just ride over it when they don’t like the rules it makes?) More important point for the rest of the world is when you ask the question, if they can do that for American citizens what are the chances for anyone else, if for any reason, right or wrong (including mistakes over identity because of similar names as has already happened, not to mention wedding parties and meetings of chief elders against the taliban), the authorities decide that someone has been plotting violence against America.
First off, the move is puzzling. If your surveillance techniques are so good they can detect political views and plans of action (i.e., eavesdrop on conversations inside mud houses and read thoughts inside heads, in villages high in difficult mountains) how can they not be good enough to detect when the individual actually starts to do something – like travelling outside his home base or buying dodgy equipment – and then maybe send in the drone to stop him? (He’ll have a hell of a long way to go.) As we said, the policy looks exactly against America’s own interest. Probably America’s most unpopular policy round the world. The evidence is already in, using superior armed force to impose your conqueror’s power and defeat resistance (which may not even be there in the first place) by a civilian population usually fails and worse it gives terrible losses to the ones trying it. What about France and Ukraine in World War II, or Vietnam, Somalia, and Iraq since then? Vietnam is worth looking at twice over. Trying to beat the communists (more like nationalists really anyway) cost tens of thousands of young American lives, with even more wounded, and vast amounts of money, and it failed. But, treating Vietnam with a mix of trade, co-operation, realism, and some sort of respect from 1988 has got America pretty much the sort of Vietnam she wants. Please think again.
[for reading if you got French: article by Jean d’Amécourt, French ambassador in Kabul 2008-2011 in Nouvel Observateur, ‘Les pièges de Kaboul’ 30-1-2013]
Dr Ilya Sprat, Chairman of Wessex Petronine Gastronomes denies being the speaker of certain remarks recorded at a dinner for toothpaste and oral hygiene executives in Exeter last Friday, congratulating Deviathon-Slodge on siting their new project in Devon. “It’s true some local peasantry are bellyaching about too many middle-class incomers in the county already, sticking up new concrete and glass ‘villas’, blocking the parking places with their Chelsea tractors, filling the local schools with pushy kids, and sending prices in the farmers’ markets skyrocketing. But the more thoughtful among us see the benefits people like you bring with your culture and wider commercial contacts, and some of us are already experiencing a very satisfying increase in the value of our own businesses.”
The new project to be called Imaginative Living for Extended Value (it was originally going to be called the Extending Value in Imaginative Living project until one of the workmen installing the jacuzzi in the new building spotted the difficulty) was set up with the mission of providing the conglomerate with ‘blue-sky thinking factoring foresight into your future’, (a phrase which according to one critic already inspires a chilling surmise as to the sort of thoughts it is going to deliver). Indeed it has already won a major government-funded contract for the provision of muzak to be played as background on all calls to emergency services nationwide, as recommended by consultant psychologists. According to the project leader, “This will be a loss-making venture and is designed solely to show Deviathon-Slodge making a useful contribution to society. The aim is to help these important calls to proceed with maximum efficiency and minimum distress to those involved. Our intelligent software will be able to detect instantly from the timbre of the voices whether to play soothing music, or a brisk march – perhaps something by Philip de Sousa – to raise energy levels, or perhaps in occasional instances something loud and obtrusive to call a duty officer back to the telephone if for some reason their attention has wandered. My nephew tells me some ‘Dubstep’ by ‘Skrillex’ – is it? – might help there. There is also, regrettably, the possibility of the duty officer deciding that the call is a hoax in which case he will be able to use an additional facility to switch in a recording of giga-noise klaxons as developed by the military for semi-lethal crowd control, to dissuade further attempts.”
However, speaking off the record an anonymous source alleged that Deviathon-Slodge’s boffins had another objective in view. “Certainly they’re going to supply the service free but they’re still aiming to make money. Adverts. Nothing explicit of course. Playing the jingle of a fastfood place when some woman is screaming for police to come quick because a murderer is trying to break in might not have maximum soothing effect. No, just the old subliminal game, quick phrases not quite consciously audible behind the noise – sorry, muzak. The thing is, in calls like that the emotions of the caller are at peak level so the ‘hit’ will go in several times harder than in the ordinary way. Plus, of course, millions of calls like that every year. Money in shedloads.”
Readers’ letters (selected in accordance with our rule that submissions will be limited to one grammatically correct sentence, please note)
There is a view widely held, in the marketing departments of companies selling genetically modified doughnuts, genetically modified sardine yoghurt and similar marvels of the twenty-first century pantry and larder, that consuming genetically modified foods cannot be bad for human beings because the American public has been doing it for 25 years, but when one reviews all kinds of recent events in that nation, not least in politics as practised for instance in senatorial contests in Mississippi, one may be inclined to think more research is needed for a definitive justification of that confidence, while in the background there remains the question as to whether already 25 years ago 4% of the American public believed that they had been abducted by aliens.
Marcia Henscropp, Gaza
Glad as I am that my ancestor Richard III has been rediscovered, albeit exhumed and indeed earlier asphalted over without my consent, and that some enthusiastic practitioners of one of the more obscure academic trades have offered us their idea of the face that once overlay the extant skull, I assume, having seen the result, that there must be a fair amount of flexibility in the procedures for producing reconstructions, since there is no reason to believe that Richard had any oriental blood flowing in his arteries, and very strong reason to believe that he was not a woman.
Prof.Pixi Immental, Porto Alegre
(Congratulations professor on the absence of that meaningless ‘as’ which so often flaunts grammatical ignorance at the head of concessive clauses!)
Question of the fortnight. The government in Kuala Lumpur has ruled that in future shopping malls in that city must reserve 7% of the parking space provided, for female drivers. Since shopping is predominantly a chore undertaken by women and, even more clearly, the great majority of customer time in shopping malls is spent by women, we would suggest that the government should have ordered the reserved space to be 70%.
The question: ‘Can any feminist explain why this suggestion gets treated as an example of male chauvinism?’
honor hominesque honesti floreant