Friday, November 3, 2006


I guess everyone has a quote from their school-days that sticks in their mind.  Mine is Marie Antoinette's famous quip on being told the people had no bread.  She reportedly said "Let them eat cake", but actually that may have been less a question of the Queen's cynicism than of  her  all too human oblivion.

Everyone suffers from it, and that's why we get so much tzuris.  Yesterday's big news, aside from the war, was that experts on ocean fish were caught by surprise when a report came out saying there may not be anymore by 2048 - 42 years from now, within the lifetime of our children.  I think it's less a matter of  insufficient tools or knowledge than ingrained inability to foresee consequences: the French queen lost her neck over it, we'll have to switch to high cholesterol meat - but by that time it's likely there won't be enough meat to feed all the affluent Chinese plus the rest of us.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not against Chinese affluence, just against oblivion.  And oblivion is everywhere: in our conviction that a bunch of scruffy Arabs could do anything sophisticated - or even that they could realize they've been getting the short straw for too long.  Read Sandra Mackey's 2002 book "The Reckoning, Iraq and the Legacy of Saddam Hussein" to find out just how oblivious the Bush administration has been in its pipe-dream for Iraq of its modern history: it didn't come together as a country until Saddam Hussein, much like Tito in Yugoslavian, another multi-ethnic country, systematically bashed heads together.  The idea that we could "transform" that country by military fiat would have been obvious to anyone who would have taken the trouble to read Mackey's book, which also details the failed - and strikingly similar - British attempt to secure Iraq's oil before World War II.  At least the British had a geopolitical reason of sorts for wanting a presence in Mesopotamia: to protect the then crown jewel of India. We just want the oil, and like Marie Antoinette, we don't believe our oblivion will come back to haunt us.

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