Doing the usual, and the unusual
Next scheduled for 15-10-2016
1) British values 2) Brain-fracking
3) How parties collapse 4) The French body
We are both delighted and neurotically tense. Manos is back. He arrived the same way that he turned up the first time, only this time the craft was a full eighty feet long, gleaming white, and attracted quite a crowd to watch it manoeuvre into a visitor’s mooring. More on Manos next time.
British values Use your 3D printer to make a figurine to represent the 20,000 Syrian refugees that the warm-hearted British government has announced it is going to help, in 2020. (‘2020’ is a common expression in the hard-to-understand governmental dialect of British English, and all the more difficult because many officials pronounce it as ‘2025’. Its meaning is ‘probably never’.) The aim is apparently to help refugees by moving them from a refugee camp in one of the countries bordering Syria, to a different refugee camp in a country bordering Syria. This may cost a lot of money, even if it never actually gets done, but is eloquent testimony to the generous ideals of the United Kingdom. Then find a jobbing sculptor and get him or her to make a statue preferably in granite to represent the people of Great Britain, on the same scale. If your figurine is one millimetre high, the statue to represent the British population will be ten feet high.
Brain-fracking. Leaders of many sectors of European business held a one-day meeting in Zürich to denounce the increasing number of students, indulging in the craze for brain-fracking. The idea is basically simple. Just as fracking for oil involves pumping unusual mixtures of strange substances under high pressure into geological layers under the ground, hoping that something profitable will come bubbling up, so with brain-fracking students aim to pump as many unfamiliar social, mental, and psychological experiences as possible into their subconscious as fast as possible, so as not to let the normal reactions of the conscious mind have time to obliterate the raw edges of each new stimulus and force it to conform to conventional thought patterns. “Bit like mixin’ a cocktail with a dozen different sorts in it. No good if you take each one separate, gotta shake them up like fury, then you get sumpfing really weird coming out. Quite different from injectin’ or swallowing stuff. Like three circuses all runnin’ in the same tent, an’ you can’t stop havin’ these brilliant ideas keep bustin’ out, keeps goin’ all next day too,” says Khadija Shigemitsu a nineteen-year-old blonde. At first there was no set framework, but now there is a fairly standard format, 12 experiences in six hours, so there can be need for quite a lot of advance planning, making appointments and checking transport links. For instance, Kev, Khadija’s brother, is aiming on Friday to start with a chicken vindaloo at 3.00pm, going on at 3.30 to the first lesson in a course for learning spoken Mongolian; after that a friend will meet him with overalls and a bucket and he will spend half an hour voluntarily cleaning a public toilet, where he will then change into a yellow jump suit the friend has also brought and spend half an hour jogging round Piccadilly. After that there should be paddling with an inflatable dolphin in the Serpentine, being filmed picking a fight with a dog in Green Park, a quick change into a burqa for the walk over to the University where a graduate tutor will spend half an hour trying to get him to understand some of Kant’s Prolegomena to any future metaphysics, then to the Queen Agnes Insect Petting Zoo (‘Get Cosy and Comfortable with a Cockroach’); after that, round the corner to one of London’s last Chinese laundries still working (for tourists) which for a small fee has agreed to let him spend half an hour laundering. At 8.00 pm he is to attend an English Defence League meeting trying not to cause a riot though allowed to join in if it seems necessary for self-defence, and (a sensible bit of planning here) the sequence is to end with him going (perhaps at a brisk sprint?) to the nearby police station where he has to try to make the desk sergeant accept a report about a man dropping litter (a cigarette butt). But business leaders across Europe, especially in the ‘creative’ industries, advertising and financial investment and the like, are asking for brain-fracking to be banned forthwith. ‘Turnover and profit margins are in a nosedive. It is an outrage that we can spend years charging top dollar for our extremely valuable contributions to the imaginative industries and suddenly front rank potential customers can simply walk into some club or bar in London and get all the ideas they want free from some young person who slept last night on a friend’s sofa and never heard of Martin Sorrell or Goldman Sachs in their life.’
Monty Skew writes: A Common Misconception. The word ‘party’ in its political uses is widely believed to refer to groups of people, usually large, and usually united by their dislike of some other groups, but allegedly also by genetic inheritance from parents and grandparents, and more weakly linked by agreement on a number of policies for which they are willing to speak or act. Historically this was in fact the original meaning of the word as democratic or pseudo-democratic systems gradually evolved from the earlier monarchies, but current usage is almost diametrically opposed to this value as a result of natural social processes. (It now usually designates a large political group fraught with internal dissent and unpopular within its own country, run by a cabal with policies at odds with its earlier principles; e.g. PS in France, Tories and Labour in UK, CDU in Germany, PP in Spain.) The reasons are the following. Within the large group the most active (or ambitious) tend to take on positions of authority – e.g. as members of a parliament or of a committee directing affairs for the group as a whole, and this inner cohort, necessarily tiny in proportion to the whole, almost always come to see themselves as being the party, and their formulations of party policy as being ‘the’ correct ones. This can be de facto the actual situation in totalitarian states if parties continue to exist, since ordinary citizens keep as far away from politics as they can, but is considered bad form in countries that purport to be democracies. If no way is found in the latter to check the backward lurch towards rule by the equivalent of unelected kings and barons, contrary to the views which ordinary members of the national party still hold, disaster will sooner or later follow. Disaster will be accelerated thanks to the media for two reasons. First because both the media headquarters and the inner élites of parties will naturally tend to be sited in the same city or region, and so by normal social interaction the former will tend to get their reports from the latter (and those in the latter will tend to get their political views from one another regardless of party membership). Second, because media sales, and media workers’ temperatures both rise when disaster is on the menu. (Notice how groupuscules all over Europe have been turning into large-scale political movements in the past fifteen years, but this only gets much attention when it results in structural damage to established big players.) (If you want to see how this can turn out in the long run consult any reputable history of the Soviet Union 1917-1953.)
From Dr.Philipp. From long personal acquaintance with him I can assure all readers that his unexpected decision to leave Corsica and to spend the next two months in the Bahamas is in no way connected with any of the numerous sagas of impropriety which have been holding readers of French financial news reports enthralled for a good decade now.
In the few very agreeable days I spent at Palombaggia I could not help being deeply impressed by the athletic bodies taking various forms of exercise on the beach. Classic Greek for the men, but the girls even better than classic Greek (because the prosperous young ladies of good birth in ancient Greece who were thought to have the ideal female form did not get enough exercise. Flabby.) But the paragons in Corsica have honed their shapes to ne plus ultra perfection. It took me back to my teenage years when I could not walk along Universitätsring without passing at least three women I wanted to marry immediately. But as I was drying off after a brisk two-hour swim I reflected on the physiological crisis looming before France. It has become the fashion in France to take up what they think is serious exercise. Even as I was here a survey announced that one in four, no less, of the population regularly does running. (You and I would say jogging.) Film stars and models fill the media with their nonsense, as they confide their innermost secrets to the world, quatsching about the surge of strength and well-being that they experience after exercise. This is dangerous for the nation. France is like a great raft built of ill-fitting parts joined together with elastic bands and sticky tape and paper clips which are already coming loose as it whirls around the outer curves of a giant whirlpool. Unemployment still heading upward after five years, repeated mass street protests against government measures imposed without parliamentary approval, the menace of terrorism alongside flagrant police bavures, 80,000 homeless in Ile de France alone (and 10% of those with a higher education diploma), presidential candidates by the dozen, a government thumbing its nose at EU rules on national budgets, and the current president suffering from fantasies of re-election are all chasing one another round and round and down into the depths beneath the spiral. The poor wretches at Calais are not struggling to get to Britain, they are struggling to leave France. If the minority who have so far carried their own burdens and kept the country going now start to spend their remaining energies on the unfamiliar burden of regular exercise the country is doomed. The bulk of the population (and although they are not as obese as you Irish, ‘bulk’ is the right word) did not have a rigorous upbringing as did you and I. It is true that their bodies without a background of years of hard training will benefit from this ‘craze’ for the first few weeks. But after, the demand on their bodily resources will have its effect. Absence from work will steadily increase. Patients will crowd the hospitals with their back problems and mental strains, and will not be able to go to work even if there is any to go to. But nine months after that you will see the biggest result of their exhaustion, the proof that their exercises of the night have not stood the strain. The birth rate will collapse. Shortage of French babies. Even as immigrants from all over the world continue to arrive. How will Madame La Présidente handle that?