Sunday Evening, March 2, 2008
In Richard Bassett's intriguing history of the German Naval Intelligence Chief, Wilhelm Canaris, there is a sweet story about Arthur Conan Doyle. The great man was returning from holiday in Cannes, and took a taxi between the Gare de Lyon and the Gare du Nord. He fell into conversation with his driver, without telling him his name. At the end, pleasantries were exchanged, and 'au revoir Sir Conan Doyle' slipped from the taxi man.
'How did you know?' asked an astonished Conan Doyle (remember, this was an age before photography made everyone's natural appearance public property). 'Well', said the taxi man, 'your hair was cut in the Cannes style; there was Marseilles mud on your shoes' and the newspapers are full of your itinerary'. 'Amazing', replied ACD. 'Oh', the chauffeur also said, 'your name is on all your bags in really big letters too'.
I had a moment like that once when I tried to put a building date on the Middle Temple Hall during dinner and the excellent Christa Richmond, who is Deputy Under Treasurer, pointed out that the numerals '1573' (I think) were carved in three foot letters on the gallery behind me. It is funny to be fatuous sometimes.
However, don't think that I haven't noticed how repetitive I can be. Every Sunday, it seems, I have been banging on about the arcs of instability--the vast areas of human displacement and war connected with our dwindling energy supplies and the demographic strains of population explosion. There seems to have been a new war threat every week, and a new indication of the coming peak oil crisis and pressure on food that will dominate the next few decades.
Really though, do I have to join the dots? Tonight, Venezuelan divisions are massing on the Colombian border. The Iraqis, Iranians and Turks are discovering common ground against the Kurds and a disenchantment with the West. The Armenians are discovering what it is to be on the fringes of the new global game the great powers are playing of tearing up countries and accommodating their governments to energy pipelines.
If any of these factors of a Sunday night flare further, we are in for a rerun of the 1930s, albeit with i-pods. I did mention the sound of drums, a long time ago, and recently.
The military industry magazines are full of stories of the effects of the vast human attempt to escape African regimes. How long will it be before Italian plans from 2004 to build 'concentration camps' of immigrants run by the military replaces the present EU-funded regime of national camps in North Africa?
Don't dismiss this as a mad idea. Silvio Berlusconi used Rocco Buttiglione to promote it in 2004, which was one of the behind-the-scenes reasons he was rejected as a European Commissioner. Australia already does this sort of thing after all. Berlusconi is about to win again in Italy. There are camps in the Canary Islands. There are holding camps in Britain. Libya, Algeria and Tunisia have established such places. These places are, in the original meaning, concentration camps. In America, they exist and are run by state and private corporations and make a lot of money.
And of course, oil matters there too. Here is a link to 'Petroleum Economist', the respected industry magazine detailing the relevant North African sites. How long before the secret war against Al-Qaeda in the Horn of Africa spreads over there? Are French and German arms already there, protecting those pipelines?
Here is Paul Cherfuka's excellent, non-Malthusian, non global-warming site. It warns of how predicted and predictable oil depletion, accompanied by verified effects of HIV and AIDS, have put Africa on course for half a billion early deaths over the course of the next twenty years.
Here is a map of the Georgia-Azeri-Turkish pipeline. It was opened nearly six years ago and if you want an explanation of the energy politics of the Caucasus, and it's 'revolutions', squint and imagine where they fall on the map.
Here is a similar map of the gas pipelines from Eastern Europe into the heartland of the EU. Again, the only state not now in the EU orbit is Belarus. Wait for the pressure for a revolution there. The map comes from the right-wing Heritage foundation in America, one of those organisations that analyse problems and then come to exactly the wrong conclusions. A map is a map, anyway. The CIA ones are too complicated, but you can get to them via the link at the side of this blog.
If you have read this far, let me test your patience just a little bit more. Here is a link to the Central Asia oil and gas pipeline maps. Expect wars and clashes along the proposed routes.
Time is running out. Silly green follies about recycling shopping bags and quotidian smoking bans are not the politics of tomorrow, as Hillary Clinton's absurd guru Mark Penn and other risible theorists of 'herd behaviour' and 'micro trends' are finding out.
We are now in a pattern of descent. James Lovelock's advice? Enjoy yourself, we have twenty years.
I persist in believing, however, for all my Sunday night gloom, that reason and faith together--the twin radical elements of love that I think have the highest expression in Christianity, though you might disagree--can get us out of this. You can go a long way with the Bible and Plutonium, though which is more dangerous and in need of control I'm not wholly sure.
There are songs, along with the Brandenburg Concertos, that have gone into deep space as a mark of what we can do. The Beatle's Across the Universe is one of them. I thought it was a poignant way to end, since it suggests that we can't change, and comes from the time the Beatles broke up.
But we can change. So I put Roger Walters below. Have a listen, and ask how we can defy the waters and turn the tide. Again.