Turpentine

Like an elephant stepping daintily across the water lilies, our world stumbles on. I say our because I’m talking specifically about humans. If ever there was a species that revels in confusion, conflict, and conundrum, we’re it.

There’s an old story that long ago we lost our ability to read minds, and it was at that point that language evolved. Telepathy is of course retained by other animals. Cats, for instance, seem to be able to second guess us quite easily. And if I could read the mind of the idiot about to pull out in front of my car, I too could aspire to nine lives.

If this telepathic gift exists, other animals must live in constant perplexity at our antics, given their world is so much simpler. True, many are aware that they may well get eaten today, but one way or another, we die too, often in much worse circumstances.

Is it better to be an infant skeleton in Somalia, air pathetically rasping out of your tiny lungs, skin hanging like papyrus because there’s no flesh left underneath, while Denmark waits until you finally expire before deciding to contribute one cent to feed the dying? Or Al Kebab, or whatever the fuck it’s called, that denies in the name of God that the tragedy is even there?

The Europe of big thought seems to be no more, and we are bombarded with daily mosquitoes of policy, with a very small pee. I read yesterday that the world could be boiled down to three blocks: China is the factory, America is the mall, Europe is the museum. Perhaps the old continent has aged so much that it is becoming incontinent―it certainly seems to act that way.

I think this change reflects the evolution of European societies, which leads to both benefit and hardship. Two centuries ago it would be difficult to identify a European ruler who didn’t have a military background. Over the last century, this gradually shifted to lawyers, and is now shifting towards economists and businessmen. Self-made billionaires are increasingly popular. This is stony ground for digging up men and women of vision.

An increasingly scarce commodity. The last representative of a great European alliance, Prince Otto von Habsburg, died last Monday, two years shy of a century.

When I was at school, I learnt in history class about the Austro-Hungarian empire, Franz Ferdinand, and Sarajevo. That whole conundrum started the First World War. These days, the words Austria and Hungary bring up no more cross-intelligence than ski, waltz, and goulash.

I learnt again about the Habsburgs in genetics. I’m pretty sure they were called Hapsburgs then, but it was a long time ago and the ‘p’ must have got tired of standing up. I was fascinated by the fact that they had no earlobes, and most of the guys were hemophiliac. Guess that would explain the bushy beards and lack of facial jewelry.

Prince Otto was the last scion of a dynasty, and man with a vision for Europe. It may not have converged with mine, but a big idea is always welcome. The current breed of European politicians only has one vision―television. Otto was once in Brussels, when a friend told him he was attending a soccer match that evening.

“Oh. Who’s playing?”
“Austria and Hungary.”
“Who are they playing against?”

 The Archduke will be missed. The kingmakers these days are people like the Murdochs, whose testimony last week in front of a U.K. Parliamentary commission could best be described as pathetic. Looking like the evil twins, the high point was Rupert getting pied. The son had no need, there was already egg all over his face.

Sunny politics: supporting the Tories in May 2010. The Sun says:"SIXTEEN Page 3 Girls in all their glory represent the very image of freedom in this country. But if Labour or the Lib Dems win the election, this could be the last time they are allowed to pose together. MPs Harriet Harman and Lynne Featherstone will move swiftly to change the law and ban Page 3 forever."

The twins represent the very worst in journalism, and much more depressing than that, are emblems of a society that demands it. When I was at college in the U.K., I sometimes caught the early train to London airport, when flying home at vacation time. The three hour trip provided a snapshot of English society. On the platform, the porters and other railway employees would be reading The Sun at five-thirty am, and as the train travelled through the home counties, the carriage would slowly fill. The stockbroker belt would board, bowler hats and pinstripes, bearing The Times, followed by lesser beings, living closer to the city, who carried The Telegraph. Very near the city, the secretaries would get on,  clutching the Daily Mail or the Mirror.

During Margaret Thatcher’s first term in office, the now defunct satirical magazine Punch used the papers to define (as I recall the quote) British society:

The Times is read by the people who rule the country. The Telegraph is read by the people who think they rule the country. The Mail is read by the wives of the people who rule the country. The Guardian is read by the people who wish they ruled the country. The Morning Star is read by the people who wish the country was ruled by another country. And The Sun is read by the people who don’t care who rules the country, as long as she’s got big tits.

On this beautiful July morning, with the sun kissing the deep blue of the Atlantic Ocean, I would prefer life on simpler terms, like a telepathic dog, looking west and wagging his tail at the New World. Maybe Picasso put it best.

When art critics get together they talk of form, structure, and meaning. When painters get together they talk of where to buy cheap turpentine.

The India Road QR links for smartphones: point your camera and click.

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One Response to “Turpentine”

  1. A Bull Says:

    Have you noticed there are no women of colour in the Page 3 snap? Shocking, really..

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