There’s a shopworn and overused Arab (or maybe Chinese, but that’s not the point) curse which says: May you live in interesting times That’s why it’s alarming to see how clearly this issue’s summary demonstrates that the times we live in are not ‘merely’ interesting; they are positively fascinating.
A miserable dictator in some Middle Eastern sandpit kills a great number of harmless fellow citizens with nerve gas. Now blocked – so it appears – he announces he’ll be billing the West for the cost of destroying a chemical arsenal he wasn’t meant to have in the first place: and wants a billion dollars, with the discount… He’s taken seriously, and the gentleman brokering the deal is put up for a Nobel Peace prize. The dead – they died badly – are still dead. The most useless piece of real estate on the planet – and not that real, it’s just a slab of ice floating on the dark and gelid Arctic seas – has become internationally desirable. Military scientists and tacticians in many countries are suddenly trying to discover ways to allow their soldiers to kill each other on a terrain where, aside from the cold, there is absolutely nothing. The Canadians, usually thought a peaceful people, announce that research on a ‘stealth’ snowmobile designed to sneak troops invisibly over the icecap is coming along well. The Spanish and the British – having solved all their other problems – revive a military and diplomatic controversy that has been ongoing, to the benefit of no-one, for three centuries. The winner, assuming someone wins, gets to keep a useless rock outcrop populated by the last colony of native European primates – macaques – together with a handful of Internet casino operators and offshore financial consultants. The sacred river Ganges, used by Indian Hindus since time immemorial for their purification rites, is now so polluted that the faithful coming into contact with its waters risk reaching the afterworld without any further opportunity to commit impure acts before departure. As if these absurd tragedies were not enough, Mexico is running out of chocolate. Journalism always accentuates the negative – that is, it talks about what’s ‘interesting’. Fortunately, we also report here on the 40th anniversary of the birth of ‘El Sistema’, a wonderful international project that uses music to offer a future and a democratic mindset to the young and disenfranchised. That article – like the other interesting contributions we have no room to discuss just now – is worth reading
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