Europeans may not be able to pronounce, Eyjafjallajokull, but those stranded on foreign shores this week and unable to fly home, will undoubtedly remember it for the rest of their lives. The eruption of this Icelandic volcano may not have been huge by volcanological standards, but it managed to ground most of the continent’s aircraft for the best part of a week.
While airports heaved with disgruntled passengers desperate for a flight out, the most noticeable moans and groans came not from the general public. There was the usual minority of unevolved Neanderthals rattling on about, “…it all being the government’s fault…”, but most people accepted the inevitability of their plight with quiet resignation. Better to get home late, than not arrive at all.
No, those with the true ‘spoilt-brat’ syndrome were the airlines. From the start of the disruption they argued over the necessity of grounding planes, and accused the authorities of ‘over-reacting’.
Why? For no other reason than it was hitting them in their pocket-books. Capitalism has now evolved to a point where profits are more important than human lives. These days, most major airlines are amalgamated with insurance companies, international finance houses, and hedge funds. What price the downing of an occasional plane-load of passengers when huge companies like these are losing millions of dollars a day?
While sympathizing with those unable to leave the ground, it was easy this week to imbibe more than a bellyful of Eyjafjallajokull’s antics. The media, both in America and Europe, ran on and on with the story. To date, like unfit centenarians in a marathon, they’re still hobbling along with it, hoping desperately for a big finish.
Meanwhile, hardly anyone noticed as the US Supreme Court struck down a law that prevented the sale of videos depicting animal cruelty and torture. The law was originally passed in 1999, and, according to the Supreme Court – wait for it, folks! – it violates the right of free speech.
Only one judge voted against the decision – Samuel Alito.
Giving his reasons, Alito said that, “the harm animals suffered in dogfights was enough to sustain the law.”
Sadly, this judge’s vote alone was insufficient to ‘sustain the law’ when eight others obviously cared nothing for animal cruelty inflicted for man’s dubious and barbaric pleasure.
These are times when it seems certain that America is leading the rest of the world back into the Dark Ages.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in Asia and the Middle East. Everyone is aware of the Israeli barrier, inexorably shutting out the Palestinians from land they’ve inhabited for thousands of years. Few realize that another barrier is in process of construction. One the news media is not rushing hot-foot to publicize.
Bangladesh is a nation expected to disappear under the waves within a few decades. Enclosed on three sides by India, (one tiny part borders Burma) it’s fourth border is a coastline visibly disappearing into the sea. Bangladesh is no more than a huge flood plain inhabited by around 150 million people. It is the seventh most populous nation on Earth.
Some years ago, the Indian government authorized the building of a barrier – a ten feet high concrete and barbed wire fence – around the border with Bangladesh. Ostensibly, to keep out terrorists and smugglers, the true reason for this barrier is to prevent mass immigration of Bangladeshis into India as their nation disappears.
The border stretches for 2,500 miles. 1,500 miles of fence have already been erected. Parts of it will be electrified. The cost of the project is US$1.2 billion. When completed it will be patrolled by the Indian Border Security Force, a unit of 240,000 men and women, all heavily armed.
Already those who live near the coast have lost their homes and all their possessions to the sea and the mighty Ganges river, whose delta is Bangladesh. Rising sea levels, faster glacier melt in the Himalayas, and natural subsidence of the region, all contribute to the problem.
The Indian government continues to build its barrier, assisted by a glorious lack of political criticism from the West.
East of Bangladesh, and sharing just two hundred miles of its border, is the infamous rogue nation of Burma. Human rights abuses abound in this country, all ignored by western nations clamoring to grab their share of Myanmar’s oil wealth.
More of Burma in a moment, but this week saw the debut of this young man, interviewed on the ‘Daily Show’, with Jon Stewart. His one and only claim to fame – he’s written a book.
His name is John O’Hara and he’s twenty-five years old, which means he’s still very wet behind the ears. I mention him here for no better reason than I found him utterly distasteful. He’s a typical American ‘college boy’, whose book is a history of the so-called ‘Tea Party Movement’ in America.
It must be a very thin book, as the movement’s lifetime can be measured in months, rather than years.
O’Hara’s blurb states that he is the “vice president of external relations’ at a conservative/libertarian think tank known as the “Illinois Policy Institute”. Prior to that he served in a mundane capacity under the Secretary of Labor in George W Bush’s administration.
Nevertheless, his very limited experience of life in America – even less, it seems, elsewhere – has befitted him to write books telling us how we should live our lives and define our moral values.
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c|
|John O’Hara Pt. 2|
Watching and listening to Mister O’Hara immediately creates a reminiscence of that famous line from ‘Dirty Harry’:
“Make my day, punk.”
But, let us for a moment turn our attention from this flower of American manhood to another young man, admittedly somewhat older at 38 years. His name is Simon Reeve.
Reeve, unlike O’Hara, never had the advantage of wealthy parents or a college education. He worked in a supermarket and a charity shop before becoming a postboy for a newspaper.
However, Reeve does have one advantage over John O’Hara: he’s British.
Here’s a short excerpt from Reeve’s Wikipedia entry:
Reeve then conducted investigations into subjects such as arms-dealing, nuclear smuggling, terrorism and organised crime before he began studying the 1993 World Trade Center bombing just days after the attack. Reeve’s research formed the basis for his book ‘The New Jackals: Ramzi Yousef, Osama bin Laden and the future of terrorism’. Published in the UK and USA in the late 1990s, [when he was in his twenties] The New Jackals was the first book on bin Laden. Classified information cited by Reeve detailed the existence, development, and aims of the terrorist group al-Qaeda. The book warned that al-Qaeda was planning huge attacks on the West, and concluded that an apocalyptic terrorist strike by the group was almost inevitable. It has been a New York Times bestseller, and in the three months after the 9/11 attacks it was one of the top three bestselling books in the United States…[my italic]
In his 38 years, Reeve has traveled round the world three times and visited over ninety countries. He’s no tourist. His latest documentary for the BBC, ‘Tropic of Capricorn’, led him to Burma and a life-risking dash into the homeland of the Chin people, an ethnic minority group grievously persecuted by the Burmese army.
The following excerpt from ‘Tropic of Capricorn’ records this event. I make no apology for its twenty minute length. Cutting more would fail to do it justice.
In conclusion, I can guarantee that John O’Hara would go glassy-eyed if you mentioned the Chin people of Burma. Transport him to a Burmese village and he’d soil his diaper and cry out for his Mommy.
If you were given the choice of a book by O’Hara, or one from Reeve, which would you select?
Eyjafjallajokull is on the wane. Flights to and from Europe are almost back to normal. But on each occasion this volcano has erupted in the past, it has spawned an unpleasant surprise.
Thirty miles east of Eyjafjallajokull lies Katla, a volcano much larger and more dangerous than her smaller sister. On every previous occasion Eyjafjallajokull has blown her top, Katla has followed suit within six months.
The airline companies may yet have more cause to bicker and complain about their cash flows, if Katla gets her way.
Consider how satisfying it would be to gather up all the Airline CEO’s, the heads of powerful and tyrannical governments, egotistical Supreme Court judges, and all the little punks of this world like John O’Hara, and drop them neatly into Katla’s cavernous crater just before she was about to blow her top off.
That way, we could celebrate her eruption, rather than fear the consequences.
 “Supreme Court strikes down animal cruelty law” Reuters, April 20th 2010
 “Neighbor India quietly fencing out Bangladesh” Seattle Times, June 26th 2007
 “Indo-Bangladeshi barrier” Wipipedia.
 “Burma: Foreign Oil and Gas Investors Shore Up Junta” Human Rights Watch.
Filed under: Everyday matters