Making, and faking, history
Thanks to Karela and Maud for looking after the place while I had to be away. Our Greek colleague has made contact again at last, more news of him I hope next time. Thanks as ever to Monty for his piece.
1) Putin 2) The flying white elephant
3) Scotland and history 4) Hotcuppa
At a special press conference arranged to announce his forthcoming one-year job-swap, Vladimir Putin confirmed that the suggestion had been put to him personally by Ban Ki Moon. Speaking in fluent German as he usually does when interviewed by western media he said that the idea had originally come from his friend Victor Orbán who saw it as a way to combat the dangerous tensions in eastern Europe which, for no very good or obvious reasons, had been increased sharply in recent months. The first idea had naturally been to exchange duties with the leader of a country in the western hemisphere, but the United States had made it plain that they would be fiercely opposed to any initiative which asked them to co-operate with a President of Russia as locum head of a western nation even if only for one year. In any case, apart from the US itself there was no country large enough or complex enough to offer any suitable partner in the arrangement, and that is why he would instead be exchanging offices with Lloyd Blankfein at the head of Goldman Sachs for one year, starting from 1st September. He said he was looking forward to the experience as a great opportunity to see at first hand how robber capitalism works and he had been assured that Lloyd was eager to learn how Russia approached the problems of social inclusion, and was particularly interested in the techniques which had been so successful in the reduction of gang warfare since he became President in 1999.
Challenged over whether he had the necessary expertise to deal with complex economic issues he accepted that it would be a mistake to think that pulling the strings of the world economy is exactly the same as running a large and complex nation. On the other hand there were many similarities. There was laughter from journalists when he added that it was not yet clear to him that a thorough knowledge of economics was an asset in governing a major economic power, given that economists’ predictions were nearly always wrong. In answer to further questions, he said he had not yet had time to explore the options for leisure activities at week-ends, but was very hopeful that he would be able to go hunting grizzly bears in the mountains of Alaska.
Unfortunately as the question, in French, of a journalist from Libération was being translated, asking whether a job-swap between top and bottom of the same society might be more instructive than one between two matching positions at the top of two different countries, there was a power failure plunging the room into darkness which could not immediately be rectified and the session had to come to an early close. Agence NqqN
Plaudit of the week Congratulations to Solar Impulse 2 which has just completed its flight round the world. This triumph is rightly hailed as showing the world how air transport is likely to develop in the years ahead. Experts foresee ever increasing delays – Solar Impulse 2 needed 16 months to complete the journey – and ever greater inconvenience; the trip had to be made in seventeen separate stages, in several cases involving more than 72 hours in the air. They foresee ever increasing air fares, too, given that even when development costs are subtracted this one flight cost a figure running into hundreds of thousands of dollars. And then there is the minor issue that this hugely expensive trip actually could only achieve the transport of one person at a time
Monty Skew writes: One of the few valid generalisations about history is that the natural pre-programmed destiny of any large grouping of populations under more or less the same ruling authority is to become a bad-tempered agglomeration of smaller nations, very often energetically at war with one another, through developing regional differences where they do not exist, and stirring them up where they already do, until the whole thing falls apart and lies in fragments scattered across the path of history. (The Austro-Hungarian and the British empires were in their time unpopular variations on this flaw in human nature, while from more recent politics you could take Yugoslavia, or FrançAfrique; and a long view would say the Ottoman case is still playing out.) The opposite trajectory is only achieved under heavy and often very unpleasant external pressure, and will hardly ever last more than a few decades. One might assume that those who so painstakingly stitched together (with cobbler’s twine) the patchwork quilt of the European Union never had time to read any history books. (This is not necessarily to say they are intellectually challenged. There is a pretty good general rule that other things equal, the greater the number of people you put together for a common purpose, the lower their collective IQ will become. Look at football crowds, conversation in student bars, Prime Minister’s Questions (if you are British) or discussion papers issued by the EU. Not for nothing the Middle Ages thought universities should be places where scholars lived each in their cell isolated from the outside world, and unmarried.)
Anyway now that the various parts have started falling off the ozymandian bandwagon, starting with the Great British chunk, it is time to start thinking about how the pieces can be picked up, dusted off, repaired and put back in service on a more human scale. Any European nation worth its salt needs to have the full run of national characteristics: national flag, national airline, national language (tough luck, Belgium and Switzerland, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles), national anthem, national symbol, national game, and national dress. This much is agreed by all sensible commentators. But what is particularly interesting is the way that things stack up in Scotland’s case. National flag? The Saltire. National airline? Perhaps their weakest point but still 9 out of 10 (two regional lines). Then it goes: Gaelic, Scotland the Brave, the Loch Ness monster, not just one game but a whole set of Highland Games; and the kilt. And then they even have a bonus entry. National musical instrument? The bagpipes. Not just the best score in Europe, probably the best in the world. Skilled politologues will see at once that this is a nation in good nick and ready to go. Holding it back could in fact risk an explosion dangerous for the whole region. Now, Sturgeon may well be worried about winning the necessary referendum, given the opportunities which hi-tech voting systems provide for industrial-scale electoral fraud. But there is an answer. She should start a campaign to ensure that the electorate for the vote consists of the entire adult population of the island of Great Britain. Given the clearly enormous impact on both sides of the border this proposal would be almost impossible to resist on both moral and political grounds. The question to be put will then of course be ‘Should England and Scotland become entirely separate countries’. It’s all Wall Street to a china orange that the result will be an overwhelming ‘yes’, even if every single elector in Scotland votes ‘No’.
From our affiliated print publication The Pedicurist’s Illustrated Quarterly Gazette
The Hotcuppa trial opens tomorrow. Lawyers are agog to see what happens in this sensational trial which began with a low-level complaint about the expression of unacceptable racist and sexist language but has developed and expanded like the costs of a government infrastructure project into a page one media storm. The key fact about it all is that the victim of the allegedly offensive remarks, a former model, and now prize-winning novelist, is the person who made them, about herself. There will be two teams of lawyers in court, both working for the publishing firm which ‘edited’ and produced her book, one for the defence and one for the prosecution. After weighing up the interests of free speech and the likelihood or otherwise of a guilty verdict the judge allowed publication of the offending remarks. In her fictionalised autobiography the author wrote: ‘In my new school I soon got the nickname ‘Hotcuppa’, which was a shortening for ‘Hot cuppa tea’, which I personally liked mostly because of the teacher gave it me. Fit guy and then some, but that’s another story. He said I made him think of a hot cup of tea, being I was hot, strong, brown and very sweet.’
(Continued on page 95 with full page spread.)