DAY 60 Eст, стреляет, и отходит

September 19th, 2013 § 0 comments

It’s always happening in bars, this eat-shoot-leave pattern, and pandas aren’t the only offenders.

eats The much-advertised Kant argument in Rostov-on-Don is a case in point – thank God (or слава богу) that they didn’t start in on Heidegger. Since these days, I’ve heard, the human rights writ of the European Court extends to Russia – see for example Aslakhanova – they might be persuaded to intervene to stop this kind of thing; as Kant himself envisaged in Perpetual Peace. (‘The state of peace among men living side by side is not the natural state (status naturalis); the natural state is one of war.’)

barbecueLife in Somalia

But to return to the everyday; I was in Dalston the other day, as one so often is, helping some asylum-seekers with a barbecue in the pouring rain; and I started meditating (some of the burgers got burnt as a result) on the strangeness of the phrase ‘bogus asylum seekers’. Why, if one were, say, in Somalia, a country more or less perfectly adapted for barbecues, would one endure countless dangers, torture, intimidation from the UKBA and so on, with the aim of fraudulently entering a country where it rains every time you try to organize one? Merely because it’s notorious that the UK is a soft touch for asylum seekers, houses them, finds them jobs, and gives them first-run movies and wi-fi?  It would be madness; only good manners stopped me from suggesting that we should relocate the barbie in Mogadishu.

Here – to depart from the blog’s straitjacket ordering – is a poem by Ghana’s Ama Ata Aidoo (1986), which could have some relevance:

After a Commonwealth Conference

Because

you are here
to remind me to be grateful to
- it must be The Lord –
for small mercies,

I shall not
wail
shave my hair or
do another fasting trip at the dawn of a
day that has put more bile on my tongue.

But Child,
out there where
our thousands are dying and
our millions
do not have food to
choose to eat or
not,

how does one tell the story of men
who are nothing at all, and
leaders who are only
skilled in the art of anti-people treachery?

Child,
I hear you: and since
wisdom
does not always grow with our grey hairs,

may be,
you can tell me
what to do with
my shame, and

Our Continent once more
betrayed?

After the wet barbie, I was in church, once again being subjected to more incoherence. I refer to the Argument from Design, in the form of a hymn asserting that there are a lot of cute things around (bees, trees, kingfishers, gladioli and so on), and that a superior architect must have been responsible. Oh yes, I found myself thinking, as Voltaire might have; and what about all them pretty viruses from measles to HIV, and their neat ways of propagating? Whose idea was it that the Spaniards should develop antibodies to measles and then spread it to the Aztecs, who didn’t have the resistance?

nsmb1342-F1

Measles

I suppose it was God who designed the life-cycle of Plasmodium, from human to mosquito and back via mosquito spit and human blood; and its complicated breeding in the liver every three or four days – and then, in a neat tweak, designed sickle cell anaemia which really screws you up if you’re homozygous, but helps ward off the malaria if you’re heterozygous. All things bright and beautiful, you might say.

God really owes a great debt to Mr Darwin for suggesting that he’s not an evil-minded or incompetent designer; that the only things he designed were (perhaps) genetics and natural selection. And those in themselves could be thought just as dreadful as the free market. Did God design that?

To get back to Somali (why?), you will be relieved to hear that it has ‘about’ twenty vowel sounds, which puts it on a level with English. [And today's competition is to name as many of the twenty sounds - the English ones, that is, as you can. The prize is a telephone call telling you that you've won, with details of a number you can ring to claim your prize.] Also the Somali alphabet, as recipients of multilingual mail from Islington Council know, is the same as our own, even if the letter ‘x’ seems to come in rather often. Chechen, on the other hand, if you’re looking for a job translating for asylum-seekers, has a forbidding forty-four vowel sounds. It seems to win against Russian on most such competitions, in particular verb tenses where the Russians are notoriously feeble (no future, and no subjunctive). This could account for the more destructive forms of nationalism, particularly if Russian officials were trying in an Enlightenment spirit (Can’t you keep away from Kant today?) to weed out what they considered superfluous vowels. What does the European Convention on Human Rights have to say about that?

My real listening experience of the week, nay of the month, was Nico Muhly’s Old Bones (for lute and counter-tenor), a piece about the discovery of Richard III’s body. Since it was premiered at the Wigmore last night, I don’t hope to see it on Youtube or Spotify in the near future, but I just thought I’d pass the news on. I was shocked to see that pensioners in the North of England (specifically, Tyneside), are less likely to use the Internet than their Southern counterparts. Like me, they probably prefer to go to the races, walk their whippets along the beach

Bamburghor read Henry James; but if one is smitten by the urge to tweet or email, the bar in the Victoria at Bamburgh seems a possibility, even if you might have to pay for an expensive Newcastle Brown. I recommend #blaydonraces as a site to start with – some of the aficionados must be over 65. In any case, to lure them back, here are both ‘Cushie Butterfield’ and ‘Keep your feet still Geordie Hinny’. It’s the best I can do.

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