Tuesday, 2 August 2011

The fathomless stupidity of humanity through the ages

As I have pointed out before, making no claim to originality, August is the polar opposite of the silly season. Throughout history, it has been the month when crises traditionally came to a head and wars broke out.

In the northern hemisphere, this makes simple, practical sense. The harvest has been safely gathered in to feed the troops and the ground is nicely firm to facilitate swift advances by cavalry or tanks, in the age-old hope that it will all be over by Christmas (though it so rarely is).

War - it's a laugh a minute!

So far August 2011 looks true to form. The conflicts bubbling away in the Middle East may not set off World War III before September (though it is never wise to make such predictions – just look back on all the embarrassed luminaries who confidently asserted that “there will be no war” in the summers of 1914 or 1939).

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But in the potential default of the US Government on its debts we have an economic cataclysm in waiting that could yet have us all back to wearing animal pelts and smearing ourselves with woad. (Not so very different from the current scene on the Bigg Market of a Saturday night, now I come to think about it). Or at least significantly reduce our chances of eating unless we happen to own a patch of land or keep a handy supply of gold bullion under our mattress.

The news bulletins are proclaiming that catastrophe has been averted as I write, but there are still halfwits on both sides hankering to snatch economic meltdown from the jaws of sanity and salvation. Which at least prompts the comforting reflection that Britain is not alone in being led by people no one should trust to run a bath, let alone a country.

Everywhere, the higher up the ladder of authority one climbs, the greater the apparent incompetence of those in charge. I often read perfectly sensible comments from parish councils. But by the time one reaches county level, up pop the sort of power-crazed and proportion-free dolts who threaten prosecutions over the two temporary signs advertising my local village show.

Clearly a major hazard on the dead straight A697

A very large banner bearing the words “Haven’t you got anything better to do?” should be hung forthwith across the front of County Hall as its new official motto, and our employees there encouraged to meditate upon it, in the style of the Beatles’ Maharishi (though preferably without the use of consciousness-enhancing substances) for at least an hour each morning before picking up their phones or turning on their computers.

Similarly, the electors of Britain should pause to think deeply about how we managed to replace a government mad enough to invade Iraq and Afghanistan, in defiance of every lesson of history, with one deranged enough to get embroiled in Libya while simultaneously scrapping great chunks of the armed forces and preparing to offer many gallant servicemen and women the terrific new opportunity of life on the dole.

I find it hard to listen to William Hague explaining why it is right to try and stop Colonel Gadaffi slaughtering his own citizens, but simply hard luck on those being murdered by President Assad in Syria, without feeling the urge to bang my head against the nearest brick wall.

Which is pretty much the only way to react to the US debt crisis, too. For who would be the biggest loser if America did default? Why, the largest investor in US Treasury securities, naturally. Which is the US Government itself, trying to fund its social security and pension programmes. Now what sort of fool would imperil all that just to make some sort of half-baked party political point?

So perhaps the silly season is well named after all. Because behind all of August’s world-shattering events lies simply the fathomless stupidity of humanity through the ages.



Originally published in The Journal, Newcastle upon Tyne.