Old skins, new whine

Word of victory no longer comes up the valley from Marathon, they’ve grown used to hearing only bad news in Athens. I for one am not going to rise to the bait … no more anti-Greek blogging for this Drood. They’ve already toasted me enough (in the worst sense) in Syntagma. Right now the yawn factor is hovering around 7.8 and the disinterest index is second only to that Arab fizzer in Syria that keeps on sputtering and never quite catching light. What happened to the bravado of a new century, one that had already been formally announced as the end of history and the laureate anointing of capitalist democracy?

Anthracite is the new pink. We’ve sobered up and admit we need treatment. Unfortunately, the rehab clinics are run by the same people who ran the bars, smoky backrooms and speakeasy dives of yore. Amy was probably right, but we’ll take our anti-reality pills just the same, and let the sharks herd us off to the hot springs at the health spa while the golden children of our misplaced idealism are left at home to either play with traffic or watch dodgy movies in the den with that nice uncle from two doors down. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Tough luck! Obfuscation is the new sound bite.

We were taught that there are no problems, only challenges, and no crisis without opportunity. Yet putting a bullet through the head of everyone who might embarrass you seems very far from rising to a challenge, and for “opportunity” you may as well insert “opportunism”. Damage control has become an acceptable replacement for justice of late, and brinkmanship an acceptable strategy for deflecting responsibility away from our own crass mismanagement and onto the perceived intransigence of an implacable and heinous enemy. Better a scapegoat than no goat at all. Bankers are the new lawyers.

Beano sent me a clipping: the only person I know who still prefers paper, envelopes and print. Bredon Wimsey’s teddy bear has been found in a crevasse halfway up Annapurna. After nary a word for over a month, he is now presumed dead (Bredon, not the bear). This may be an appropriate end to one of the world’s foremost experts on geological formations, but an odd exit (if it really is one) for a man in his late seventies. Malachi will have been saddened to hear of it – Wimsey’s book on exotic reptiles found in the tectonic sink valleys of Cambodia and Vietnam was influential in Mal becoming a lizard – I shall mail him tomorrow. Israel is the new Palestine.

But the real reason I mentioned this was not the man, but the bear. It was Bredon’s bear, called Floyd (a rather crossed reference to Aloysius, Sebastian Flyte’s teddy in Brideshead Revisited), who inspired me at the ripe age of fifteen to start the “Dare to be Bear” movement at school. If the nobility could brazenly carry their bears all the way through Charterhouse, Balliol and even a minor war, then I could surely sport mine as an alternative identity to the gung-ho athleticism and knee-jerk, reactionary politics of my own snobbish academy.

“Dare to be Bear” featured teddies, not as mascots or cuddly toys, but as fully rounded personalities with whom one could consult and in whom one could confide. They were like the tarot: strong voodoo. The action caught on and I soon felt obliged to drop it as a public statement when bears began to be adopted by the kind of people who clearly had no clue as to their meaning or origin. However, the principle was a good one: we should not sacrifice our loyalties to the vacillating expectations of the age nor the demands of social expedience. My bear Lloyd is still with me and the Greeks would do well to take care of theirs.

The Greek bear is called Demokritos. He was laid in their cradle soon after they were born as a state. So maybe they should seize the high ground for once and advance a type of economic reform that is durably democratic in both nature and institution. Why shouldn’t national and international central banks work like parliaments, with the same principles of transparency and electoral accountability?

Put it this way: if my mobile phone, ostensibly an instrument of communication, can become a means of identification, verification and payment, why shouldn’t that national instrument of communication, the parliamentary floor, likewise serve as a vector of national identity, budgetary verification and financial exchange? If our MPs literally held the purse strings, and were thus genuinely accountable for every penny, rather than merely by proxy, they might think twice before building sandcastle hostages to the possibility of more fortunate tides.

Still not getting my drift? This may help: expect no more miracles, water is the new wine.

Edwin Drood

P.S. You will be hearing today (Tuesday 08/Nov/2011) about an apparent glitch that has occurred at the G20 summit: a “private” conversation held in the wings between Presidents Sarkozy and Obama that strongly criticizes the Israeli PM. It seems that there was known to be an open mike to the translation booth, but that journalists had been “requested not to turn their headphones on yet”.  So they’re certainly going to obey that injunction, good little boys and girls that they are … yeah, right!

This is a clear case of life imitating art. In the famous “open mike, B-roll glitch” from the TV Series West Wing, President Bartlett, speaking candidly off the record, trashes Governor Robert Ritchie, his opponent in the second term race, for being a “.22 calibre mind in a .357 Magnum world”. This statement is recorded on B-roll by the TV presenter and subsequently broadcast to the nation. It later becomes clear to the President’s staff that Bartlett had noticed the red recording light at the time and simply decided on the spur of the moment to launch a low blow for which he could legitimately apologize, with appropriate expressions of embarrassment, as being unintended and nominally off the record. Yet the damage would be done anyway.

In this present case, we have the Presidents of two of the world’s foremost democracies effectively telling the entire state of Israel that neither of them have any confidence whatsoever in that nation’s elected leader and that both of them consider Mr Netanyahu to be something of a scum ball. How to send a message to the Arab world without it costing much: when is the next election due in Tel-Aviv?

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