Apr 15, 2008

The world is a supermarket

While the store was crowded with customers the manager of a South American supermarket discovered that a fire had started in his establishment. Fearing that customers would flee with their groceries unpaid for if he raised the alarm, he ordered the exit doors to be locked. In the ensuing blaze many hundreds of people died, and the incident was widely reported in the world press in 2005.

Weren’t all his groceries also destroyed in the fire? Yes, of course. Weren’t all the cash registers, cash, checks, and financial records also destroyed? Yes, of course.

The British poet William Empson describes how the piece of land he bought lies at the center of a cone of ownership. He owns the grass and the trees, the birds that fly onto his land and broadening out into the heavens like a searchlight beam his ownership embraces stars and planets that swim into and out of the searchlight beam. Empson earned the cash to buy his land. The US government recently took the easier path of simply declaring “ownership of space,” all of it. Down in “Hell’s pointed exclusive enclave, where all owners meet,” Empson declares is the other end of his cone of ownership.

The husband and father feels a bit itchy after a hard day at the office? A new consignment of girls from Lithuania has just arrived at the massage parlor. Having declared the earnings of workers in the sex trade to be legal, and therefore taxable, the German government found itself in a logical dilemma in paying unemployment benefits to a woman who refused to provide sexual services to her employer. Was she not refusing legal employment? Yes, she was.

Won’t the voters elect people who throw out these laws? This problem is well within the competence of our technicians. In the hundreds of elected officials in California in 2004, how many incumbents lost their posts? Rumor says not a single one. Reliable figures would be interesting. Is this confined to the rich developed countries? Not at all. In Algeria and Burma (now Myanmar) the party winning a landslide majority was declared illegal by the government that controlled the military, Sudan continues to send in government forces to eradicate the people unlucky enough to live over oil fields, and the legally elected government of the Palestinians in another landslide continues to be described as "Islamic extremists."

Ownership is ownership, after all. How did the ownership come to be in those hands, particular countries and particular groups of people within a country? That’s where you require the philosophy of “Intelligent Design.” Noah must have had not one but two Tyrannosaurus Rex on the ark, and it is not for us to wonder how he kept them under control. The entire system has been designed by a superior intelligence.

“I thought the problem was terrorism.” Indeed it is. What do you call a declared strategy of “Shock and Awe,” to terrify a population into abject surrender and handing over their daughters for questioning by massive military force? When a government does it, that’s security. When anyone else does it, that’s insurgency, terrorism.

“This is a very bad animal. When attacked it will defend itself,” Voltaire.

Sunday, 2 Oct 2005

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