Isle-landic repetitions: hostages without a cause

The shortest way (sometimes) seems as if it’s the longest.


An oig rig burning out of control in the Gulf of Mexico sank Thursday morning, with 11 workers still missing and the authorities fearing a potential environmental disaster. What are we to make of such things? A few days ago, if I remember a-right, a ship was sinking off the coast of Australia, leaking hundreds of millions of thousands of dozens of tens of billions  of crude oil. Oil. And oil. Oil oil oil. And “our growing dependency on FOREIGN oil” is on the mouth of every president, prime minister, minister, ter or just on every publicly elected  mouth. Mouth. Monmouth.

Yes, we’ve been witnessing disasters like never before. Since the catastrophe in Haiti, so many others followed that …That what?  What? Yes, and Iceland holding us all as hostages without a cause….Strange days. And there is greed. Oh yes, the greed. Not ending, never bending, never minding, always on the foreheads and the forefronts  of our delicious capitalism. So, after the Detroit automotive industry and a daring Health Care plan, Obama now goes to Wall Street and takes on the money guys.

Pushing an overhaul plan for financial regulation on Thursday, president Obama said, “Unless your business model depends on bilking people, there is little to fear from these new rules.” Meaning, “work with us, not against US”.

Speaking in the bankers’ backyard inManhattan (what is a banker’s backyard? What does it grow? Alan Greenspan trees?), Mr. Obama castigated a “failure of responsibility” by Wall Street that led to the financial crisis of 2008, and he pressed his case for what he called “a common-sense, reasonable, non-ideological” system of tighter regulation to prevent any recurrence. He took issue with the claim that his proposal would institutionalize the idea of future bailouts of huge banks. Let me repeat this: “institutionalize the idea of future bailouts of huge banks”. I wonder what all this really means.

Oh yes, the banker’s backyard and the “natural” disasters that have rocked Haiti, Chile, China…the unnatural disasters that make us smaller and smaller by the day, by the hour: the ash cloud pending over our heads for a week here in Europe: a cloud of ash and TEN straight days of pure (I mean pure) sunshine in London. Not a drop of rain. Just police activity, but not a drop of rain.

As I actually write this, the 3 candidates are debating (in Bristol), on British Television. The very 1st televized debate here in the UK. It took the Brits 40 years to repeat or to imitate the US pattern of a Presidential debate: now they’re talking about whether or not to get “closer” to the European Union, or stay away from the Brussel sprouts.

What do the 3 have in common?: President Obama.  Obama has become the number ONE reference for the British candidates. It’s amazing, if not funny, how “the buck stops here” (G. Brown) or “guys, you (Cameron) are either anti European or anti American. Again, Gordon Brown’s words against the constant rhetoric dribbling out of Cameron’s mouth: CHANGE ! CHANGE! . Yes, the “Obama era” is here and it’s staying.

Nick Clegg and the 2 others are good performers. There’s something America can certainly learn. American candidates do not perform well. No education. McCain’s morose speeches were based on GOP cheering and nothing else. Oh yes, there was the POW drill, always: “I was tortured in Vietnam and so on….”. Does past torture a good president make?

But here in the British isles there are no women competing. No women since Thatcher. No women since Queen Victoria. Queen Elizabeth…well, Queen Elizabeth. What can one say? Nothing. That she picked a fight with Annie Leibovitz and???

The level of discussion or, say, the argument is far more intelligent here in England. That is a given fact.

Walk the walk and talk the talk.”

As I was sketching out a column, along with the withdrawal symptoms of the (serious) Topamax effects, I began to write what the candidates then actually said: “Walk the walk and talk the talk.” I don’t walk. I do indeed (seriously now)… talk.

So, please forgive me for any….Well, it’s the lack of Topamax in my system. I’m not on any ‘legal high’ , believe me. Just the wonderful cup of coffee (blended with ice, a sort of coffee shake), from Patisserie Valerie.

Tell me, for real: do we need Jim Cameron  (who makes the biggest fortune with his mediocre films)….do we need him to teach Brazilians just because he spent some days (or maybe more, who cares?), amongst a tribe of Brazilian Indians? How does it sound when a film director  takes on the “save the rain forest” campaign and tells the world what Lula is doing wrong or right?

Everything (or maybe nothing) seems more surreal than a withdrawal.

Zweig. Zweig means twig, branch.

Twig. Stephan Zweig committed suicide.

Branches and twigs, however, is what Beckett meant when he planted a tree in the middle of the set for Didi or Estragon to hang themselves in “Waiting for Godot”.

We have become disaster watchers. Oil.

Change. We have become witnesses to television crews being embedded in tanks in some mountain in Pakistan or something. We’re passive when film directors tell us “what is” and “what isn’t” (remember? Titanic sank!) and when Labour, Tory or Liberal Democrats copy a system which is, as I write, being dismantled. While America is deconstructing its system, Britain is trying to build a version of America (not aversion). An isle-landic version of what America once was. Oh, the colonoscopy! Oh, the colonies!

Is Kafka having a ball? Well, if not, then he should. Is Orwell turning in his grave? Huxley? Are they all meeting silently with Stephan Zweig and talking about the dry tree? The last tree? The last tree on earth?

Sad, very sad update: bombings kill hundreds in Iraq. Why are we there? oh yes, Oil.

Gerald Thomas

London 23 April 2010

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