Friday, 25 March 2011

Random Thoughts

Decline of Western Civilization

I have been watching the Channel Four four-part series, which addresses the question that is surely keeping many of us awake at night: are the days of Western dominance over; are we history, and not just history but also chemistry and biology?

The series is presented by the right wing historian Niall Ferguson, who, at his calmest, sounds like a woman forced to sing opera while trapped inside a burning tower.

Don’t get me wrong; I have time of Niall Ferguson (not a lot, though). I began reading his The Ascent of Money in the spirit of experiment, wanting to find out whether it is possible to die of boredom. I worked my way through a third of the book before I stopped, having been satisfied that reading the remainder of the book was unlikely to kill me.

The two episodes I have watched so far made me no wiser as to whether the Western civilization is about to be taken over by the Orientals and the Koran-mutterers. That is because Ferguson spent both the episodes waffling about what he chose to describe as the killer aps of the West, which, in the past 400 years enabled us to overtake China and the Ottomans: competition and science. The long and short of it was that the West got on with the clever innovations while the Turkish Sultan was busy working out when he last fucked the concubine he was fucking now (he had so many of them). I forget what the Chinese emperor was doing while the competing kingdoms in Europe were busy conquering the New World: probably building palaces with highly ornate architecture, which, as we know, is a complete waste of time and money, except when it is done in Europe.

On the evidence of the two episodes I have watched, I feel obliged to point out that the title is a misnomer. Instead of Civilization: is the West History, it should be Civilization: Weren’t We Clever Sausages.

 Cricket World Cup

I have been watching the highlights of the Cricket World Cup being played in the subcontinent. We have done well to progress as far as we have, given that our only player of international class (Kevin Pierterson) has returned home to have his hernia operated on.

Our bowling attack is below par and has been further dealt the devastating blow by off spinner Yardy’s withdrawal due to depression (remind me who he is, again?)

Geoff Boycott has come in for some stick for his blunt assessment that Yardy is probably upset because he has discovered that he can’t cut the mustard at the top level. That, as my old teacher used to say, is a view. I had a friend (in the sense he thought I was his friend on the dubious grounds that I tolerated him). He was a pretentious ass, prone to slip pointlessly into stock French or Latin phrases while speaking. He became depressed and suicidal a few years ago. The ostensible reason for his depression was his wife, after ten years of marriage, informed him over the morning cup of tea that she had fallen out of love with him and was moving out. But I thought that the wife’s desertion merely served to confirm what must have been suspicion lurking at the periphery of his consciousness for all those years: he was a tosser and a talentless bore and a total loser. It was this (belated) realization, rooted in reality, that brought on the depression in my view. (I don’t know whether he got over it because he hanged himself after a month). That said it was hasty of Geoff Boycott, who is equipped with the world’s most perfect mind (which also made him the most selfish cricketer of his generation), to suggest that spinner Yardy’s depression was linked to his lack of talent. Maybe Yardy has some deep-seated issues. Maybe his mother did not breast-feed long enough. The man needs counselling.

As I type this, New Zeeland have pulled off a sensational victory over the South Africans. When they batted the New Zealanders did a good job of making the batting look extremely difficult. I suspected that the demons in the pitch would disappear when South Africa batted and Hashim Amla began dispatching the Kiwis to all parts of the park. I was wrong: Amla was out in the first over and the South Africans choked under pressure. New Zealand is a mediocre team and I can’t believe they have progressed to the semi-finals.

Pakistan demolished West Indies in the quarter-finals. It was painful to watch the West Indies crumble (yet again). As I watched the woeful West Indians, my view of their team was reaffirmed: Chris Gayle is over-rated; and Chanderpaul is the only really world-class player they have got.

India disposed off the reigning champions, Australia, in a clinical fashion. It would be nice to see a different name on the World Cup this time. Also, it is always a pleasure to see the Australians lose, no matter to whom. If the Australians’ swagger comes down a notch or two, that would be no bad thing. The problem with the current Australian team is that they have attitude aplenty but not much talent to back it. I can’t see the Indians lifting the cup, though. Their bowling is dreadful; which means that if they have to have any chance of winning, their batsmen have to score 300 plus runs every time; and even then, as the match against England showed, they can’t defend it.

Who will win the cup? If I were a betting man I would have lost my money as I would have backed South Africa. Now I think it will be either Pakistan or Sri Lanka. Pakistan have very good bowling attacks—the life the Pakistani spinners extracted out of the dead wicket (in their match against West Indies) would have made an IVF consultant envious; but their batting is unpredictable and that is where I think Sri Lanka has an edge. 

If I am backing Sri Lanka to win it also means that I expect them to beat England tomorrow. Before you call me unpatriotic let me remind you that we lost to Ireland and they probably had to send search parties to find people to complete their world cup squad.

We shall see. I shall of course be overjoyed to be proven wrong.


Old Muammar is having a spot of bother. Have the matters come to such a sorry state that a man can’t kill his own people? Lest we forget Gaddafi is fighting for his dictatorial (I was going to say political) life, and it would be fair to say that his opponents will show him no fairness should they defeat him.

Isn’t it interesting that France, England, and America were not concerned about the loss of human lives in the initial days of what I am prepared to call an uprising against Gaddafi’s regime when it looked like the rebels were winning? They started bleating about the humanitarian crisis only when Gaddafi’s forces started pounding the opposition. 

I am also amazed by the haste with which France and some other European nations have acknowledged the rebels as the official government in Libya. Do these people not learn anything from their past mistakes? They supplied the religious nutters in Afghanistan with all sorts of weapons and money when the Soviets occupied Afghanistan. What a wise decision that proved to be! And now they are supporting the rebels—a ragtag army of loafers, malcontents and (very likely) Islamists (who probably hate the West more than they hate Gaddafi) simply because they are opposing Gaddafi whom the West hates? Muammar has been in control of Libya for four decades; he has (as dictators do) not allowed any opposition. Also, whatever else he is Muammar Gaddafi  (like Saddam Hussain) is not a religious fanatic, which, you will agree with me, is something of rarity in the Islamic world. If Gaddafi  goes, there will be no democracy in Libya, there will be utter anarchy. Also, the last time I checked there was no democracy in China. What are Cameron (who exudes vanity and complacency in equal measure like pus oozing from an infected wound) and Sarcozy (who is really a monkey) going to do about it?

Is Gaddafi really a threat to the West as he once was perceived to be? Gaddafi’s image in the West is that of slightly unhinged, cartoonishly evil character. Ronald Regan described Gaddafi in the 1980s as the mad dog of Africa, no doubt because of Gaddafi’s mad policy of supporting the PLO and supplying them with weapons (as opposed to America’s sane policy of supporting Israel and supplying it with nuclear weapons). I once heard the BBC journalist John Simpson (he is one of those self-important cocks who believe, every time they open their mouths, that the world must listen; he gets on my nerves) recounting the story of how he interviewed Gaddafi during the entire course of which the colonel broke wind every few minutes and no one was allowed to make a comment. What comment you can make if someone breaks wind repeatedly in front of you? Is there a protocol about these matters? Should we wag an admonishing finger at the guilty party and tell him he has been very rude? Of course Gaddafi was being rude. That was the whole point. Did Simpson think Gaddafi had no manners; that it was OK in Libyan culture to break wind in front of others? Anyone who wasn’t up his own ass would have seen that Gaddafi did it deliberately; showing via repeated, forceful, noisy (and very probably) smelly rectal emission of gas, to the smug, sanctimonious, self-important BBC twerp that he did not matter.

What about the British ‘mission’ which entered Libya illegally, in the middle of the night, in a military helicopter, carrying, false passports and several currencies among other things? William Hague in the parliament (with Theresa May sitting next to him dressed up like a prostitute in Moulin Rouge) described this as a ‘diplomatic mission’. The ‘diplomats’ were arrested immediately upon their arrival—irony of ironies—by the rebel forces whom they wanted to help. After being held for a couple of days they were asked to get out of Libya. Hague was pretty bellicose about the whole thing and declared that the diplomatic mission had achieved what it set out to do (presumably get arrested and be made a laughing stock). Hague is unbelievable: he stares humiliation in the face and says, ‘Do I know you?’

If there is one thing that is common to all British politicians irrespective of their party allegiance, especially with regard to foreign matters—no, make that two—it is their regrettable busybody tendencies and relentless hypocrisy. The empire these days exists only in their heads. Some Tory backbenchers were apparently demanding Hague’s resignation because of his inept handling of the Libyan crisis. Now let me make it clear at the outset: I am economical with my sympathy for Hague: he has a head like a golf ball and is either not very bright or else makes no effort to appear so (and I know that he has written some unreadable books and earned a packet as a dinner party speaker, although why anyone would want to listen to this man unless it is for amusement—but surely there are more sophisticated ways of amusing yourself than listening to the witless right wing rant of Mister Potatohead—is unfathomable to me). Of course the guy is not fit to be the foreign secretary; I wouldn’t trust him to fetch a cup of coffee without spilling it, let alone weightier matter like the foreign policy. But that is not the point. The point is: the world is not exactly looking to us to handle Libya. For Christ’s sake we can’t even manage our public finances, why are we poking our noses in others' business?   

Hague is of course the missing link between the apatosaurus and rhinoceros; but I am afraid another man, say from Labour, would have behaved no differently in the circumstances. True, he might not have done the stupid thing Hague did, but he would have thought of some other equally risible way of making a fool of himself. That is because our politicians have prodigiously inflated view of their position in the big scheme of things, and make lordly assumptions about the world when they have no idea.