Saturday, 24 December 2011

Merry and bright

Since Mrs QO and I don't have children, and since we're fortunate enough to be close enough to walk to my sister's tomorrow to spend the day with the family, we haven't had too much to do today. Which is nice. There has been time to take the Aggravatingly Fit Elder Parent out for a beery lunch, to fit in an afternoon sleep, and to watch a soppy film tonight. And drink a little brandy.

And in a few days' time we will be heading into the north country to spend a week with Super-disreputable Friend and his appalling wife, with whom we've spent the last 25 New Years. And I fear that once again there will be far too much merriment and alcohol. An awful prospect, I'm sure you'll agree.

And so at two minutes till midnight (here on good old-fashioned Greeenwich Mean Time), I wish you all a very Merry Christmas, be blessed and peaceful, and all good things in the year to come.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Who really runs the world?

This is a question that many are asking in the light of the financial crisis. The 'Comment is Free' part of the Guardian website is particularly rich in speculation at the moment, with what seems to this Observer to be a preponderance of opinion in favour of a cartel of international financiers determined to bleed the ordinary working peasant dry so as to keep the financiers in private jets and yachts and other cool stuff.

My brain works at such a pace that I have to give it a couple of hours cooling-off time after lunch, and while preparing myself today for this inconvenient but necessary hiatus, settling into the old armchair in the study and pulling up the blanket, I dedicated the last 30 seconds or so of mental processing time to considering the question of who really runs the world. I hereby present the results.

In no particular order, let's ponder the chief candidates and award scores for likelihood.

1. God (singular, albeit in various flavours) – the obvious choice for many, but a moment's reflection questions the notion. A Creator capable of bringing into existence the Universe we see around us could not possibly do so bad a job of running just one tiny bit of it. For example, we know from various books written, translated and edited by men a long time ago that the Judeo-Christian God is perfect and omnipotent. However, a brief look at, say, Wolverhampton, suggests powerfully that there's no such divinity on the job. There is, though, an argument (also in the books written, translated and edited by men) that God is testing us through hardship to see what will happen. Wolverhampton is what has happened, so the theory is just barely tenable, and we will therefore, with a certain reluctance, put a positive score on this option: 3/10.

2. Gods (plural, various flavours, sizes and colour schemes) – Greek and Roman myths in particular offer a whole shedload of gods, mostly quarrelsome, arbitrary, illogical and downright unpredictable. They were known to favour some humans, pick on others, have fights with their sibling deities, sometimes even coming down to earth for a bit of trans-species naughty fun. In other words, just like us only more so (even the trans-species bit, but let's not drag the Welsh into it right now). This is indeed a tempting notion, but Occam's Razor says that if something like humans is running the world, the most likely candidate is humans. So despite having a rather rusty and blunt Occam's Razor, to diverse deities we award: 1/10.

3. A secret world organisation – well, as I said above, plenty of these are being suggested as candidates at the moment. Opus Dei, the Illuminati, Freemasons, the Bilderberg Group, SMERSH – take your pick. In every case, the secret organisation in question ('it is said... it is rumoured... some believe that...') meets from time to time, usually in a mountainous, remote region, and the members sit around smoking cigars, sipping expensive liquor, and making their fiendish plans to control all the world's money and keep everyone else working for a pittance to fund their insane plans for world domination. (Some of them are even said to stroke white long-haired cats while doing so, the evil bastards.) Now this idea really has some serious legs, though we do have to ask ourselves: 'If this bunch is running the world to make money which they want for themselves, how come they're doing such a crap job of it?' Presumably such a group would have to include top bankers, as they're the ones with their hands on the money at one point or another; if the world really is run by people like Sir Fred Goodwin, we might as bend over and kiss our arses goodbye, because we're seriously fucked. So I think we can discard this notion... excuse me a moment...

'Waiter! Another glass of the Hennessy Paradis Extra Rare Cognac, a hand-rolled Romeo y Julieta and a dish of caviare for Tiddles here. Oh, and pass the word... Goodwin is to be disposed of quietly by next Thursday. Off you go.'

So, as I was saying, we can put this ridiculous idea right out of our heads, not even worth considering. 0/10.

4. Aliens – well, David Icke thinks so, which is a very strong argument against. Still, it's a big universe, there may be another species out there coveting Wolverhampton and its lovely womenfolk. And I was brought up on Captain Scarlet fighting the Mysterons, and I'm not entirely convinced they've gone away, so let's give this one: 4/10.

5. Our elected representatives – ha ha ha ha! Yes, I know, quite unthinkable, but I wanted an excuse to post that pic, to be honest: 0/10.

6. Happenstance and natural selection – by far my favourite option. Every time we consider a candidate for an agency actually running the world, we bump into the problem of 'well, why is it so crap and random, then?' I suspect what we take for organisation is no more than an emergent property of chaos (much like me trying to tidy my desk every January), and that all our attempts to ascribe purposed direction of the world are no more than a comforting rationalisation in the face of something entirely out of our control (much like my desk for eleven months of the year). We are no more in charge of the world than the prawns are in charge of the Atlantic. We are not rational, logical beings, we do what we do out of ancient instincts, and what seems to work, mostly, at the time, for most people, is what tends to be carried forward. Okay, this doesn't really explain Wolverhampton, and I'm minded to leave that to David Icke, but it's got the rest of it sewn up: 9/10.

So there you have it. No big conspiracy, but no comforting 'well, at least someone's in charge even if I know it's not me' either. Frightening, or liberating? You choose. It won't matter what you choose, but go ahead anyway.