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I Had a Bad Dream the Other Night

19 Jul

I saw enormous Arctic wastes melting into dirty slush, through which disconsolate white bears shuffled, trying to understand this apocalypse. I saw drilling towers, and oil spills floating on the sea. I saw seals, walruses, colonies of birds, all at a loss. I saw the frozen tundras of Siberia and Alaska, melting, billions of tonnes of water flowing into the seas, plumes of methane flaring into the sky.

I saw heat, I saw the air quivering with it, I saw thirst.

I saw Russian trucks and bulldozers building deep-water ports all along the northern coast, ready for what they believed would be the next boom in shipping. I saw soldiers, planes, runways. In preparation for war.

In Iran, I saw the lifting of sanctions, and the basic effect of this: Russia, able to supply nothing more useful than missiles and nuclear power stations. Eagerly selling these wherever it could.

In America, I saw a lot political clowns waving their arms and talking nonsense, unable to distinguish between TV and reality. In the streets I saw countless people being shot, while in Washington DC a lot of pasty-faced fools argued about guns and how they were a fundamental freedom. I saw America’s obsessive spending on arms, its boundless belief in commerce and free trade, again without any real purpose to its love of lucre.

In China, I saw empty minds pushing for growth and development. I saw fumes and pollution hanging over its cities, I saw children born with weak lungs and bad hearts. In the South China Seas I saw barges and ships dredging up the sea bed and making small islands, covering these in barracks and runways. More war.

In South America, I saw enormous inflows of money from China and the BRICS, railways cut through pristine jungles, oil wells sunk in Amazonia and Yasuni even thought the world was already over-supplied with oil and we HAD TO, HAD TO start investing seriously in clean energy. But we had no intention of doing it, because we were small-minded and fixed and had no ideas about the future.

Everywhere, I saw little concern for people. The you and the I. Wherever I looked we were being ignored or locked up or tortured or kept on intellectual and moral bread and water… Wherever I looked I saw a small group of industrialists and multinational stars flying about in private planes, sitting on white beaches, swaggering, convinced that they had attained some kind of blessed state. The important ones. They were mainly playing violins very badly while their cities were burning. Feeding their senses, feeding their ravenous lust to have things, to be things, to define themselves by what they owned.

I saw no leadership, no vision for the human race. I saw little greatness in the human spirit.

I saw no concern for the telling of truth, the liberation of the human mind, I saw no let-up from commerce and the strangulation and pursuit of money.

And then when I woke up I saw my dog lying in the garden under a rosemary bush, finding some shade for itself, stretching out its little body and savouring the fragrance of the foliage overhead. And I thought to myself, I wish people could be as happy and satisfied as my dog, who asks for so little.

As I watch my dog I realise he is also dreaming. His little legs are kicking. He is chasing a rabbit through the grass. He is purposeful, he is not epic in his desires.

Even his dreams are better.

 

 

No, Really, Rome is Burning

20 Jun

One day, should it ever get there, our intergalactic civilization will look back at this period in human history as pivotal. The faces of those leading us will become emblematic, they will be remembered as Neros or Stalins. I have a sense that the main players strutting about on the stage at this moment are taking us over the edge, and there will be no possibility of full recovery. There is something frightening in the way the end-game of our civilisation is playing itself out so mundanely. Like people led to their executions, we walk with our heads bowed. Dutifully we open the newspapers, we read “financial news” as if it holds the key to our future. Clutching our ideas fearfully, we watch the storm closing in, and we tell ourselves that our house is surely strong enough. But do we really have any conception of the forces that could destroy us? We are sitting on a small rock in an outrageously hostile universe, in which we could not even survive for a second.

I wonder how many of us ever stop to say thank you to this soft blue planet that has sheltered us and given us life?

So if we ever have the opportunity to look back at this era, what will we see? Well, for the first time, biosphere changes were starting to affect us. Extinction, loss of habitat, drought, climate extremes. Millions of refugees all over Africa and Asia and the Middle East were spilling over borders, desperate for water, food, jobs… life. Somehow the reason for their migration failed to impress itself on our species. On some level we still believed that people were crossing borders because they wanted “a better life,” the implication of this being that they wanted careers and iPads and air conditioned apartments. Yet it would have been closer to the truth to say that they wanted “life” – simply to stay alive and have that welcome feeling of opening their eyes in the morning.

Here and there, academics and serious-minded people were trying to tell us that war was erupting spontaneously everywhere mainly because of a growing scarcity of resources. But no one listened to them. The “great powers,” i.e. those intellectually impoverished countries that believed in military power, were busy filling their coffers by selling weapons and missiles and nuclear technology to any country willing to pay. The “powers” jostled for the influence they felt they earned by palming off missiles or fighter aircraft or assault rifles on countries where the leaders frantically probed the ground for oil or rare metals or anything else they could sell to pay for the hardware. Whilst also keeping a cut for themselves.

We are animals. To live, we need water and food, we need a social order in which to raise our children without the presence of raging psychopaths intent on killing us, without drought and war and overbearing leaders keen to put our sons in the army and waste our money on weapons and conquest. However hard we try, no human experience will ever be more important or blissful than walking under trees by a clean river with fish in it, maybe some dappled sunlight playing across the path, a few butterflies, clouds passing overhead, the tree-tops full of birds, our children laughing and running, friends waiting at the end of our walk with food and cooking fires. Nothing can ever outdo the emotion of knowing that on this day we will eat well, we will sleep peacefully, we have what we need, and we are surrounded by friends and supporters.

Violent leaders, politically obsessed individuals surrounded by security and police and armies, are essentially parasites on humanity. They claim allegiance to that blissful existence I have described above, but they try to impress on us that in order to achieve it we must first fight for it. We must tackle those who wish to destroy us, and, once we have destroyed or resisted them, we can get on with the good things of life. Usually there is an supremacist element in their projects. Vladimir Putin recently stated that the world would find out if it put Russia to the test that “the Russian soldier will never be defeated.” Apart from being blatantly untrue, the statement is drenched in unpalatable racial glorification and aggression.

So, the argument goes that peace is only possible if decent and hard-working Chinese, Russian, American citizens – excluding of course those who are not members of the tribe – can win against their malevolent enemies, usually in some form or other described as “extremists.” This is nothing less than a corruption of a good human impulse to live among friends and supporters in a community where resources can be more or less shared.

It seems inevitable that the blasted global trio – America, jealously guarding its power and attempting to assert the established values of the 20th century consensus; China, intent on undercutting and establishing itself in the Far East to the exclusion of anyone else; and Russian, economically underdeveloped but vast, armed to the teeth, and desperate for more power – will at some point come into proper conflict.

Humans can never agree on anything, after all. In America, the endless debates on gun control and climate change exemplify the inability of people to think logically or at least to make structured assertions based on precaution and responsibility. Never in my life have I read so much nonsense about climate change as I do on the Internet. There are millions of “experts” on the subject who seem to believe they have figured out one of the most complex issues facing the planet – many of them insist there is no climate change, while some say that rising CO2 levels will simply cause forests to grow and these will soak up the excess carbon. As for gun control, well, how could anyone (say a great many Americans) believe that stricter gun controls would save any lives? Yes, what fool could ever believe that shutting down gun shops and forcing people to hand in their weapons would have any effect on homicide rates?

The apparent inability of America to regulate itself and establish good governance does not augur well when we look at a fast-developing society such as China, fraught with political challenges as we look ahead. Are we all basically incompetent?

The deeper question now is whether we humans can respect our status as animals, while at the same raising our consciousness. Must we remain locked into what has been described in Girardian theory as the “mimetic response” – so that threat must always generate an equal counter-threat? Must we always be territorial, like wolves and lions? Must we kill our rivals, sending our children to fight for us and then weeping copiously at their funerals?

Possibly we have another 100 years, and then it seems increasingly likely that the answers to our perennial and unanswered questions will come and kick us in the teeth. In effect, we will have earned the martyrdom and silence that so many of us secretly crave.

The invention of ownership, territory, and violence has brought us to this point. We can let it all go, but to do so we will have to become bigger, wiser, older humans, the sort of humans who go on to do great things; who will always, always, maintain and cultivate our blue, soft planet as if we were a part of its body. Which is precisely what we are.

 

 

Oil May be Dropping, but Cappuccino is Doing Well

21 Jan

All this energy people put into talking about oil prices! It’s a sorry waste of time, and, even worse, I think they are losing sight of important facts in the whole commodities debate. Let’s begin by crunching some numbers. Okay, I don’t drive a car, but last time I did I think I paid about $1.70 for a litre of lead-free. I mean, that is one cheap commodity. Let’s analyse the stages of the production process…

First the oil companies have to get their hands on a drill about two or three miles long with a chunk of industrial diamond at the tip; possibly they have to transport the long and very heavy drill-cable on a ship, and then keep hundreds of workers in food and wages for months while they poke about, frantically punching through the seabed, looking for a vein. The crude oil has to be pumped up and all the waste water separated and kept in special tanks until it can be pumped back down once the well is empty. It’s not even over there. The crude oil has to be taken to refineries and processed into high-grade fuel, and the finished product must then be transported all over the world in prodigiously expensive pipelines or on enormous oil tankers captained by men with gold epaulettes on their shoulders. In the end, after all that work, a litre of fuel will earn them $1.70 before tax. No wonder Russia and Venezuela are going bust. It’s time they learned some basic lessons of economics.

Western governments keep telling us it’s important not to invest excessive public funds into support schemes for solar power and other renewables, in case this creates an uneven playing field.  And yet, if oil was not so heavily subsidised, it would retail at prohibitive prices. This would be disastrous in regimes such as Russia and Venezuela, where the political elite can only continue enriching itself by throwing hunks of bread (or bottles of vodka) to the vulgar crowd. Russia, the moribund giant, spends in the order of $85 billion per year subsiding oil exploration and other aspects of oil provision. In fact, all countries including the major economies in the EU (Britain, for instance) spend enormous sums backing the oil industry – hardly an impoverished sector, one might think.

So, to go back to the cappuccino economy. In Berlin a litre of cappuccino would retail at about twelve bucks, though it’s more commonly sold in smaller amounts of about 25-30 dl. This seems a high price, considering there is no need to drill for coffee or construct pipelines to bring it to the consumer. Frankly, even mineral water does better than oil. Last time I checked, a half-litre of the natural variety was selling for just short of $2 – more than twice as much as oil. Recently at one of Berlin’s airports I noticed a vendor selling a half-litre of the most basic water brand for $3.75, and so we are now seeing a development where even water is outpacing oil by a factor of 4:1, a quite remarkable performance by this see-through commodity.

The good news for the economy is that the cappuccino sector is holding up in spite of plummeting oil prices, stagflation, and squabbling in Brussels about quantitative easing. Berlin has taken a robust approach to the troubles: nobody works here, instead people just start cafes. If a street is filled with coffee shops, and if everyone in that street owns a coffee shop, an amazing recycling of money is going on. A hundred euro invested at one end will generate literally millions of euros in total sales. Shall I explain? Okay… a guy walks into a cafe and buys ten cappuccinos for $35, whereupon the owner of the said cafe goes next door and buys cappuccinos and ham and cheese toasties for the same sum. Already that original sum of money has grown by a factor of two. The net effect on the GNP of Germany is massive economic growth. Scaled up, this provides alluring insights into the German economic miracle, which is still going strong.

Even better, in order to provide an efficient cappuccino delivery system, you need a decent building filled with appropriate furniture – usually banana boxes tastefully spray painted, an assortment of 1950’s dentists’ chairs, exposed floorboards, possibly a couple of parrots swinging from a trapeze, and a large number of rusty advertising hoardings from the 1920’s. Already you are talking about construction specialists, antiques dealers, Dow Fruit, and reliable parrot breeders. The trickle-down economic benefits are massive. Such retailing outlets have a tendency to attract thousands of tourists, whose mimetic instincts suggest that they wish to be a part of this trendy world of art and melted cheese sandwiches. It doesn’t take long for them to get their wallets out.

The strange thing about the cappuccino trade is that at the production end of it, I mean during the actual coffee bean-growing stage, there is hardly any expense for a modern cappuccino retailer. The beans can be acquired cheaply from South Americans, who are usually willing to sell large sacks at pretty affordable prices. Each sack has the financial power to generate literally billions of dollars of profit. Berlin is really taking off as I write this. There are many industries that seem to go from strength to strength.

Tattoo parlours are another cappuccino sideline, because serious coffee drinkers in Berlin like to roll up their sleeves and show off their latest motifs.

There’s also an almost limitless demand for silly glasses. Artists everywhere need to demonstrate their artistic prowess by impressing others with the outlandish designs of their spectacles. Woody Allen started it, but others have followed suit. Actually, the Marx Brothers sort of preempted Woody. Silly glasses are an essential piece of kit for the modern artist, especially if pursuing a career in film, media, and advertising. Tim Burton has made a point of never leaving the house without a pair of pilot’s goggles fitted with his trademark pink lenses. The strategy has served him well. For this reason, there are thousands of opticians’ shops slotted in among the coffee shops.

It sounds obvious, but artists lazing about in coffee shops need computers and iPads to make inane comments on Twitter and update their blogs. These same consumers are often seen photographing their feet under the table, or lumps of dog excrement, reflections in puddles, and similar, which they like to upload to their Instagram accounts or send to the museums that will shortly exhibit these works of art. The cappuccino economy thereby takes on a technological edge, which, for obvious reasons, gives it an industrial base.

But we are not only talking about technology here. The cappuccino economic framework also creates demand for bulk cargoes such as soya milk, spelt flour, quinoa and other staples. The Berlin economy generates millions of pages of unpublished novels and unmade feature films every month, and this obviously results in a healthy demand for A4 paper and printer cartridges – not to mention printers.

All in all, I’d say it’s time for Moscow and other traditional regimes intent on pursuing arms manufacture, space exploration, nuclear power, religion and other old-school heavy industries, to start recognising the economic benefits of cappuccino drinkers, a broad grouping that includes cross-dressers, ballet dancers, screenwriters, installation artists, dissident, gays, tourists and other creatives. Even pastors have been known to drink cappuccinos here. The resulting marginal benefits for cash-strapped economies should not be sniffed at.

At the same time it should be firmly stated that negative effects posed by such consumers on traditional dictatorships are not serious. Dissidents are mostly artist types who would like to be left alone while drinking their cappuccinos and writing sarcastic blog pieces. In return, they can generate great cash wealth in impoverished oil regimes all over the world.

Dictators who fail to learn this important lesson will find that they are a part of the old world. Should they wish to enter the new world, they will quickly find that they are wearing the wrong clothes. They will not only be scorned and unworthy of anyone’s love; they will also be decapitalized and written off like a bad tax debt.

Click here to find out more about my recent novel “The Maggot People”.

Why Does China Persist in Allowing a Black Market in Illegal Wildlife Products?

29 Jan

Please do take a moment to look at this photograph.

Tiger farm in southern Binh Duong province, Vietnam// http://www.jukani.co.za

The tigers in this cage are being kept more or less as livestock. And that is because they are livestock, bred for the value of their bones, eyeballs, testicles, and all manner of other body parts, eaten by gullible people all over Asia in order to cure themselves of diseases, improve their sexual performance, and live longer, happier lives. Some of these tigers will also have been caught in the wild. Each one is worth in the region of $20,000 to $30,000 or more. The value of the wildlife smuggling trade is difficult to assess but it is believed to run into billions of dollars. And this is the main reason why tigers are disappearing from the wild, also rhino and elephant in Africa. Other reasons such as habitat loss are also highly significant. But the customer in Asia – probably in China – that buys half a tiger vertebrae for his arthritis or an eyeball for her diabetes or a bottle of tiger wine for his impotence, is at the very root of the perennial problem of our disappearing wildlife. How sad, how unnecessary. And how very awful that some of the most beautiful living things in the world will be eaten by the most ignorant.

The “tiger farmer” in Binh Duong province, Vietnam (some 40 kms. south of Ho Chi Minh City), claims that he keeps the tigers because he “has a soft spot for them”. I’m sure he has, when they make him so much money. He also claims that his farm is funded by a beer company. Possibly he is not a very good liar, and what he really means by “a beer company” is a wine company: a tiger wine company. Here is an image filched from a mainstream UK newspaper, showing a tiger being starved to death while macho blokes walk around it looking devious – possibly they are planning their next erection? Once this poor animal has died it will be used to make wine – also supposedly banned in China.

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The Horrific Cruelty of China’s Tiger Farms // Daily Express, Feb. 2013

So, we learn that the tigers are first starved to death, before wine is made from their bones. What a charming practice! Who but lunatics could have come up with this? And did they have a chat with Charles Manson before they got started?

Other aspects of the photograph to be commented on: I particularly loathe the man in the red shirt in the foreground, I would in fact love to put him exactly where the tiger is. Something about his casual cruelty, just standing there putting a cigarette in his mouth. I defy anyone with a heart to stand by that cage without having a fit of rage at the swine who did this.

Below you will see a short film about the investigation headed by Debbie Banks of the EIA (the Environmental Investigation Agency) to look into the illegal trade in tiger products. For years the EIA has passed relevant information to the national agencies of countries such as China, Nepal and India. This year, they opted to go direct to Interpol. Why? Well, according to Debbie Banks, they have concluded that there seems to be no desire to stop this trade. She adds: “If China wanted to stop it, they would.” One tends to agree, given China’s excellent record of governmental hectoring of its citizens. In this short EIA film, we learn, surprisingly, that tiger skins are often bought by Chinese high-ranking army officers, possibly to make it quite clear to their subordinates that they certainly have no erectile dysfunction. And so the sad truth seems to be that in China, the authorities are more than willing to hound intellectuals, artists and freethinkers, while selected criminals are given free rein.

EIA film on the illegal trade in tiger bone

One should also add that China has a large number of its own tiger farms, which is odd, considering that it’s a signatory of all the relevant international treaties banning the sale of such wildlife “products”. What is the sub-text here? I would love to know why there is such intransigence, such unwillingness to cooperate with what seems so reasonable? Is it just money? Greed?

China Puts the “con” in Tiger Conservation // EIA article

My own disturbing theory is that there must be a serious problem with male erectile dysfunction in China. How strange that the world’s most populous country is somehow managing to totter on, given the lamentable sexual health of its males.

Another thought strikes me: why not just take some Viagra?

Many UK Tories Still Sceptical of Climate Change Theory. Ha-ha!

25 Jan

Scepticism can be a very good thing. For instance, I am sceptical about the merits of late middle-aged executives who play golf and wear Lacoste shirts and like to talk about their cars. I find them boring. I prefer dirty bastards who get drunk in pubs at lunchtime. I am also sceptical about people like Ed Davey, the Energy Secretary of the British Government, who comes from an honourable Lib Dem tradition of changing one’s mind as soon as any point of principle comes under a little bit of pressure. Davey spent this week pressing for dilution of EU fixed targets on renewable energy. Why? Well, because right now fossil fuels and nuclear power are cheaper. Ah, right. No doubt Davey was given further incentive by the frowning figure of Cameron in the background, modulating his schoolmaster voice and giving him, and us all, a good lesson in what’s “sensible” (Favourite word no.1) and/or “decent” (Favourite word no.2). In this case there was no mention of decent people, only about the sensible things they want. And of course sensible people know that nothing is more dangerous than meddling with the markets. It could lead to left-wing policies, red tape, immigration, higher taxes, improved public services, and other bad things. Markets must choose their own way, more or less as flies will unerringly find the nearest lumps of shit.

For instance, Cameron and his gang of laissez-faire activists have wailed and sobbed against proposals for scientifically based EU legislation on fracking. The mere mention of “Brussels” seems to be enough to annoy the Government. England, this tiny principality, will have trouble finding bits of land not earmarked for housing or shopping centres, where they can frack away without unpleasant side effects to the environment and human health. But never mind, there shall be shale gas and oil, there shall be a market mechanism deciding these things, for while there is money to be made from it, it’s quite legitimate. That is the rule, and that must be so. Davey and Cameron have also been egged on by their backbenchers, alert to the scepter of the UK Independence Party haunting their steps. It creates a very unpleasant spiral of stupidity.

I was not so very surprised to hear that the Tory party still has a fair number of refuseniks who are sceptical of climate change theory. Scepticism, one concludes, is only a good thing when it is entertained by a good mind. A decent mind, even. A decent and sensible mind would defer to the overwhelming, crushing weight of scientific opinion. But oh no, not this brilliant gang of analysts, including Christopher Chope, the hon. member for Christchurch, nor Peter Lilley, an intellectual sniveller and heavyweight by anyone’s reckoning, nor the insightful member for Chichester, Andrew Tyrie, who interestingly compared the Climate Change Bill to the Dangerous Dogs Act. And then, of course, John Redwood, one would always expect to see his name on any compendium of villainy. He even resisted Thatcher, after all, which takes a very mutinous personality. I could go on, but I won’t. The names I have mentioned here are the flat earth and creationist thinkers of the political sphere – the decent people on whom David Cameron relies for his political survival. And he is very beholden to them. And willing to meet them halfway, cutting back on a bit of renewable energy here, holding a referendum on EU membership there, all in the interest of beating off the UKIP and keeping himself in power. Because, like his sacred role model Margaret Thatcher, David Cameron has a sexual fantasy that he will be the new saviour of Britain, calmly and strategically and very sensibly lifting his country from this vale of temporary gloom. Then, retiring to a rectory in Wiltshire and writing learned speeches on his struggle. We can be fairly certain that Mr. Cameron will not be retiring anywhere near a fracking site. He will be in a beautiful place, surrounded by other retired politicians. And who knows, maybe also a couple of sacked News International executives. They’ll have tea together. Ha-ha!

If it wasn’t so irritating it would be bloody hilarious.

Economists Approve New European CO2 Targets – Phew!

24 Jan

Economists! Aren’t they hilarious. With their iPhones and suits, always commenting on everything as if economics were a science, or even a Law of the Universe. And so, after days of prevarication, here we go, the EU has reached a decision on CO2 targets for the next 15 years. All the scientists, that is, the poorer relations of those slick economists, have been calling for a 50% reduction. But, no, oh no you don’t! The decision stops at 40%, to the great relief of the economists, who issue statements after the battle is over: “40% is pretty good, we’re running a low-carb economy here, the EU can say we’re doing our bit, we’re a low-carb region…” Well, there we are. The EU is doing its bit, oh good, should be good enough for the Cosmic Laws to relax and give us a break. Come on, we’re only human, we’ve gotta eat, we’ve gotta buy Damien Hirst paintings!

The EU Outlines 2030 Climate Goals

The economists have trumped scientific opinion, as they should. I mean, scientists, who gives a crap, they’re just nerds with beards, not the owners of slick clothing or warehouse apartments or Damien Hirst paintings, unlike economists, who see the importance of having very good taste in all matters that matter on the market mechanism score. Nuff said, the scientists called for 50% but 40% is good enough. Okay, Nature? Will you just relax, for God’s sake, it’s only a 10% difference and we have to live as well, Christ!

George Osbourne is probably furious, he’d like to have shaved that one down to single digits, this will cost the Exchequer a lot of money, money better spent on… on… well, money better left in the bank earning compound interest. George takes a dim view of all this: I mean, what’s CO2, you can’t see CO2 can you, does it even exist? George W. Bush says, no it doesn’t, it’s all a lot of nonsense. George W. Bush has built a library in Austin, he’s busy pretending the American right-wing still has an agenda with some kind of merit apart from guns, low taxes, and living in the 1950’s. George Osbourne is too smart to talk to him, but nonetheless he retains a set of strong views on CO2. I mean if you’re down the Carlton having a few sagacious words with a couple of businessmen can you also exchange a few sensible opinions with CO2? No, you can’t. Ergo = CO2 is just green crap. Right? Yes, exactly so. CO2 is a fiction invented by a lot of posturing folk with post-doctoral qualifications who ought to be ashamed of themselves for interfering with our recovery. Amen. Good night, Milton Friedman, good night great inventor of the money supply, god of economics, powerful mind imbued with the Nobel Prize. Yes, economics really does cut the mustard when it comes to making decisions about the planet. It does. No, it does. It does. It does. Really! Keep listening to the economists. They have had hundreds of years to get it right. They will get there. They will. They will.

Let’s just hope we get there before they do.

Good night.

China, the Land Led Astray by Logic

15 Nov

It doesn’t take much intelligence to understand that the leadership of China could be suffering from a collective psychopathic disorder, and may be in need of help. I am writing today, to give these poor old men the opportunity of considering some light criticism from a journalist they will have problems locking up. Anyway I don’t propose to visit China until these old duffers have gone, by which time I will probably be dead myself.

First, let me show you a photograph of these excellent fellows, standing in front of just the sort of backdrop they’d prefer to demolish and replace with a very large factory or hydro-electric dam:

4374542-3x2-940x627

The gaze of the Chinese leadership is as intractable as that of a crocodile whilst stalking a duck. Crocodiles, incidentally, have brains more or less the size of a walnut. I don’t mean to disparage these gentlemen, they have probably gone to the very best schools, they are M.I.T. and Stanford, they are endowed with M.B.A.’s and any number of other qualifications. But in almost everything the Chinese leadership attempts, one sees signs of an almost mentally impaired determination to ignore facts or scientific consensus. For instance, in a recent article in The Economist we read about the water shortage in northern China, a problematic issue even in the days of the mighty emperors. I didn’t know that 8 members of the country’s previous Politburo were engineers, or that one of its ex-presidents was a water engineer. Now that I do, things make better sense. The Chinese are more obsessed with canals than the Victorians ever were.  They have a boyish love of concrete, bulldozers and big trucks.

Water in China: Desperate measures

So, the $50 billion South-North Water Diversion Project will move water across thousands of miles of new canals. And some of these will be routed across the Himalayan Plateau, partly because Tibet is the source of a great many rivers that are also crucial to the region south of the Himalayas. Of course, China is always keen on routing things either through Tibet or Xinjiang, just to reiterate to the locals that Beijing is in charge here, and Beijing is rich enough to spunk a few extra billion on the pleasure of flicking someone’s nose. Take, for instance, the new high-speed train link, which for no apparent reason is being diverted through unpopulated, high-altitude areas so prone to storms that certain sections of the track will have to be housed within concrete tunnels to prevent trains being derailed by severe gusts. The cost of the route is $24 billion, a mere snip and no more than a third of the cost of the main Beijing to Shenzhen line. It seems a routine matter for the Chinese authorities to open their large wallet and throw some money around, like gnarled billionaires in a casino, money that seems to have no value, give no pleasure and achieve little benefit. Who is going to commute from Xinjiang to Beijing? Anyone who had to do so, would simply travel by air, and so we see once again that many of China’s high-capital outlay projects are primarily designed as imperial gestures, to enforce its paranoiac hold on the country.

China’s New High-Speed Rail network

It is especially telling to hear that the high-speed line will slice through the next valley from where the Dalai Lama was born. One somehow cannot doubt that a consultant high up in the Ministry of Railways came up with this brainstorming idea, while sitting down to a breakfast of crunchy tiger bones with the Minister. Presumably, this was before the Minister was relieved of his post in July 2013, following corruption allegations that were subsequently confirmed.

Liu Zhijun, Railway Minister, on Trial for Corruption

Interestingly the People’s Court, a misnomer better referred to as “the Government’s Court”, found that Liu Zhijun had lost his “political right to life”. The mind cannot quite take in the opportunism of this Chinese regime, which has left most of its Marxist ideology far behind – retaining the traditional Marxist love of central political control while cynically harnessing every possible capitalist device. There seems to be no end to China’s appetite. Its sales agents roam the world restlessly, looking for more things to masticate and dig up and load on ships. Their commercial efforts are usually offered with a bribe. Just look at the way the Chinese have moved into Patagonia, this remote region famed for very little apart from the fact that few people ever go there. The Chinese have now leased 300,000 hectares to grow genetically modified soya and other products. In return, they have offered to repair and upgrade some local infrastructure, but local farmers and people are not happy about it. Land prices have shot up and they are concerned about the use of agrochemicals.

The Chinese Move into Patagonia

So we can look forward to a world increasingly marked by the loving touch of this nation of technocrats and empire-builders, who seem to have not the slightest interest in anything but economic growth and balance sheets. The environmental record of China is, again, nothing I need to dwell on. Anyone who reads the news will be well aware of it. Let’s just have a look at what they do to their own people, let alone Patagonians.

Lung Cancer Incidence Soars in Beijing

In time, the devastation of these policies will surely put an end to Chinese social engineering, which has been going on now for almost seventy years. I do think the leadership is quite correct in its desire to cement its position and repress people, because, in time, those same people will rise up and they will put the politicians on trial in a real People’s Court. On what basis do I say this? Well, on the basis of common sense and historical process. The only real truth in historical evolution is that “the chicken always comes home to roost.” One might call this a brief and simplistic summary of the theories of Arnold Toynbee. Even the mightiest nations and empires have fallen, in the end, because of their own mistakes or even historical entropy. Look at America, still economically mighty but discredited and lumbered with a domestic political climate that can hardly even be taken seriously. Or Russia, this once fearsome empire now run by a topless horse rider proud of his bear-hunting prowess and relentless drilling for oil, presiding over a deeply unconstitutional and unscrupulous regime. And when we turn our eyes to Europe, we can only look down in shame, because nothing has changed here, we are still a group of insular fiefdoms run by political claustrophobics.

Presumably any Chinese citizen who comments on any of this, who challenges or suggests that people should be able to have a voice or vote on regional autonomy or not be discriminated against, not be locked up, tortured or killed, anyone who insists on environmental standards, and so on, will be hauled before the People’ Court for a stern lecture on his/ her political right to life, which will shortly be cancelled. On this day, we could for instance give some thought to the Tibetan dissident Kunchok Tsephel Gopey Tsang, who has been tortured and locked up for nine months on a charge of publishing a poetry magazine. Other Tibetans have been imprisoned for the outrageous charge of downloading Tibetan ringtones on their mobiles. These are certainly heinous crimes!

The case of Kunchok Tsephel Gopey Tsang has been highlighted this week by American PEN, in its campaign to point out cases of what it calls “digital repression”.

Kunhchok Tsephel Gopey Tsang

It’s odd that PEN is focusing on Asian repression, considering that America has lately been exposed as a leading exponent of the art of digital eavesdropping. America, who has hounded its citizen Edward Snowden into exile for pointing out the importance of observing the American Constitution – a traitorous act almost as serious as downloading Tibetan ringtones. For this reason, I will add another link here from a different source, in case certain readers out there would prefer not to have the truth from the horse’s mouth.

Chinese Journalists in Detention

To finish this rather contentious piece, I would offer the following advice to high-ranking Chinese politicians: You have an ancient spiritual belief in peace, balance and harmony. Re-animate it. Stand on your terraces for a few moments every morning, breathe the pure air, drink a glass of clean water. Then tell yourself that all people have the right to food, clean water, clean air and political freedom. Oh, and our children have a right to the same when they grow up.

These things may seem very obvious, but, as I said at the beginning, crocodiles are not so very clever.

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