Planet 2000

How’s your world these days? I wonder about the world sometimes, the countries that have spent two hundred years meshing with each other and are fast losing power to the fat-cat corporations, China excepted. Here’s how I see the puzzle:

 

United States: They spent 170 years building themselves up, sixty more being an empire, but what are they going to do now that they are faltering? How long will they still be on top? Probably only another fifty years at best. Strange, because Rome stayed put for hundreds of years.

Cheney and Bush killed them, eventually, even as they thought they were flexing American muscle. Now nobody believes them, their credo of wealthy living collapsed last September and proved just as flawed as the theory of communism, and while every country is still bound to America for the moment, they are starting to understand that they don’t have to listen anymore.

Barack Obama is a new example of sharing, thinky policy that everyone (those in power and observers like us) will love while it lasts but that, rather than heralding a new age, will only last eight years. America has a deep conservative heart that will never be denied. They will never get rid of their guns, their cash mentality, their ways. America’s main problem, apart from the fact that they bully other countries around and think there will be no consequences, is that as a people they are too resistant to change. This futile fight against the inevitability of change will ultimately bring them down, probably in the second half of this century.

 

China: They suddenly know the American adrenaline rush of being answerable to no one. When economic strength kicks in all we’ll be able to do is work with their whims. They have the manpower to be able to call the shots, the complete strength in numbers to achieve anything from a construction point of view. They can build anything they may need. For the moment only economics work against them, but that will fade once their economy gets a bit of money seeping into it. The Confucism and family-centeredness of their culture is an honourable backdrop, but money society is taking over in China.

Their fairly primitive rule-the-world ways seem pretty stupid, even stupider than America’s. They don’t care about the environment, they don’t care about local feelings (the way they are currently ravaging Africa is pretty 19th Century). They order people around, yet are hypersensitive to any sort of criticism. Once China takes over the globe people will end up hating them as much as they hated America, because they are too pushy in the way they act at a higher level.

 

Europe: What they lack in current glory they make up for in social advancement. Gay marriage, competent health care systems, an once-upon-a-time openness to immigrants (that by now is finished, they got saturated and got tired of it), to new ideas, an ability to adapt to change, and liberal ideas, are the things that keep me from spitting on Europe’s hypocrisy. Its people tour the globe lecturing everyone on how their countries could be better, while they dine out and relax on the proceeds that Europe plundered from those very places while destroying their institutions back in the days of colonialism.

Europe now is where America will be, a matron reliving past glories, with a bit of clout but likewise no one really has to listen to what any of them has to say.

Europe, unlike America, is not reactionary, and now that they’ve satisfied monetary urges that the rest of the world is still obsessed with, is probably where the advancement of the human race is going to happen, if your opinion of advancement is based on increased social acceptance rather than mechanical advancement, which is probably still slightly America’s domain.

Europe is probably where it’s still at in a day-to-day sense, at a lower level. It is the place to go to make money and get jobs, to experience ‘culture’ (I hate that word!), to learn relatively simple languages, to backpack and meet locals relatively painlessly. Relatively desperate people from Africa and South America will swarm into Europe this century: will they contribute to Europe’s grandeur or lower its standard of living?

 

Africa and South America: The brains will perennially leave these places, seeing a better economic opportunity to save themselves elsewhere (see above). That will leave a bunch of menial people back home doing a bunch of menial jobs, and hence these continents will not improve compared to the rest of the world. The increased wealth of the planet seeps down bit by bit in the form of mobile phones and the internet and all that, but these people will still have to waste their lives working hour after hour at meaningless jobs for scant wages. At the top level, debt servicing to the first world will keep these countries down. Economics forever kills them; we basically keep them down on purpose, and order them around because of the power of our better economics.

Collectively there’s an undercurrent of bitterness that I don’t see going away anytime soon. Colonialism took their possessions and destroyed their once well-functioning institutions, to be replaced by twisted parodies of Western ways that didn’t work too well at the level of governing and business. I’ll go back in 500 years when colonialism is a distant dream and see how they’re doing, and maybe then everyone will be free of historical bitterness and a sense of having been wronged. (Ditto Iraq: see you in 2511.) For a wrong to be forgotten, first the oppressor must acknowledge that what they did mattered, then the oppressed must acknowledge that the second step is up to them to let that bitterness go and let what happened not matter so much. But we never even do the first step, so there’s no chance of the second. In fact, the wrong in these continents is perennial and has never ended.

It must be added that many of their infortunes are also self-inflicted, due to a deep-seated corruption, which must be shed if these places are to have any hope of advancement. Is corruption a product of poverty? Is poverty a product of corruption? Either way, corruption is killing these countries.

 

Middle East: So much money and yet it never seeps down to their general societies. Will they one day mesh with the rest of the world in anything other than business? Probably not, because I feel the deep religion of their society keeps them at arm’s length from the rest of the world, separating them (anti-religious crusaders would say that religion separates people on purpose).

At the top level the Middle East countries have to be tip-toed around as much as China because of their hypersensitivity, and while oil still calls the shots, so do they. What does the Middle East do when the world runs out of oil? I personally will celebrate the day, since it will facilitate the cleaner energy that we should undoubtedly already be using. But does that mean that the Middle East stops being relevant to the world, and becomes even more insular? Have they set up to use oil revenue to benefit themselves in the future? Can it be used to better the standard of living of Joe Middle East? It hasn’t yet, and why would it ever? We’ve been buying oil for years already and the money just goes to the sheiks.

  

So the 2000s are building to become the Asian century at a higher level, but it can’t yet be called that while their people underneath still have no personal money. End of layman analysis.

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Ana Cecilia, or kind things people have said to me

I’ve lost my mojo with this blog, and seemingly my audience too, slim as it was. Maybe I just said everything I needed to say, and need to go through new things to be able to say any more. But there is one night that I still need to talk about: Peru, and Ana Cecilia… eventually, in a roundabout way.

 

“Marty’s too stylish to look at those girls.” It was one of those dirty post-midnight nights where you end up shoving aside someone else’s rubbish and cleaning the table yourself to distractedly eat McDonald’s across from Flinders Street. I had blazer and collar, dolled up, and was with my best mate and two women across from us, one of whom I had mistakenly hooked up with the year before. That night I had not been able to hide just how nuts I am; I particularly cannot hide it in the moments I get dragged out to the bar scene on Saturday nights. I weirded out my mate and also the girl I had once dated, who mentioned that I seemed to have a lot of anger against Australia and my mate consented with, “Against the world. It’s not a good way to be. He probably has to get past that,” but I never did. The girl’s friend gave me a few minutes of kind respite where I actually got into a conversation that I enjoyed. I’d spent the rest of the night kind of staring off into space, and they had both turned to look behind them a few times to work out what the hell I was looking at. I wasn’t.

Anyway… two little ho-ey teenagers in their skin-flashing apparel were sitting next to us, and my sort of ex looked at them and made some remark about me. But my best mate knew me better and responded, “(see above)”. I felt so vindicated in my approach to the world, for a moment. Someone had noticed my feigned or maybe real elegance. He had fed my vanity, but also, he was right: I would never have been interested in them. They just sent out the wrong vibes, the wrong age, the wrong level of politeness, of intellect. A body without a brain or at least a level of understanding, is kind of repugnant, just a germy other person. No girl who would assess me on external matters is ever worth wasting time on.

 

“You seem like a bit of an intellectual.” I was in Queensland one weekend in 2007, the lost year (as opposed to 2004, the lost year). We had all hit the piss on Sunday, and on the Sunday night a girl walked out on a guy. He was a bricklayer with dreds, who mentioned the following morning that “I could go out and get drunk today, or I could get on with my life.” We laughed our asses off and naturally chose the former option.

I didn’t know him, but I sensed that if you lose your girl then it can hurt, and perhaps a lot. She was a prize: a good-looking lawyer, and they’d been together two years. So as I found out repeatedly that day that Bundy and Cola is on tap in Qld, I said what needed to be said without saying anything. He was a man’s man, but I listened as he told me that to be a brickie you have to put your emotions aside even if you’re feeling off the ball, because you are paid per brick so you need to keep your focus. Somehow he had noticed me amidst all the blokes standing around and felt like talking to me, and said, “(see above)”. Like the comment about style, the brain bit was how I had tried to paint myself and was happy to have been noticed as a thinker. It’s harder to show that than what you might suspect.

I went through a series of half-conversations with him about his spot. I didn’t say too much, but I showed him that I understood, that I got him, that he was perhaps going through shit but that as blokes we couldn’t say too much about it, and he knew that I knew. At the end of the day he told me that I had been a bit of a legend to him. Thank you.

I’m sad that no further chances have since popped up for me to be kind to anyone, to help someone. Later on I paid for three of a woman’s uni semesters and saved her each time, but that was only because I loved her.

 

“No. Te conozco.” This one was very beautiful. I picked up Ana Cecilia, a pretty, mature, young 19-year old Peruvian, when I was 24 and passing through, you guessed it, Peru. We danced together as the centre focus of the club and I ended up kissing her.

It was my greatest night, and I would write an entire blog about her if I hadn’t already done it, if I wasn’t so lazy and if the story wasn’t so old. Ana Cecilia was my what if, my one-night romance, my night where everything came together and I proved myself, without touching a drop of alcohol and despite some dumpy clothes (I had just done a four-day trek; my track pants and purple shoes (!) were the only things that didn’t smell). She was dancing in the centre of the surrounding ring of people and I decided that she would be fun to dance with, so I slid in, popped some moves and held my hand out to her with my chin raised in smirked challenge: who are you to refuse?

Does she still think of me? She said I was the first foreigner she ever kissed. She was the first Peruvian I ever, and the only. She had a tongue stud but hadn’t told her parents about it, and I enjoyed it. She had had her heart broken, same as me. She was studying architecture in Cuzco. We whispered these things to each other as we danced in each others hands and arms, and occasionally kissed.

She walked me back to my hostel with her friends, because I was alone at night and a foreigner, a tourist ripe for the picking. Thank you Cecilia. She mentioned that she had to keep an eye on her friends, because they were with guys she couldn’t trust. I asked: “How do you know you can trust me?” And she replied, “(see above): No. I know you.” I know you. We had met each other only a few hours earlier, and I could hardly have dreamed of getting her on any other night, but my dancefloor confidence was soaring that year and I managed it. She had seen something in me beyond the funk, and had decided for herself that I was real, that I had already given enough for her to trust in.

It was tender when we said goodbye. She kissed me on my mouth, then on my nose, and asked how we could see each other again. So we arranged a time for the next morning, but she never showed up. She said the word goodbye, in English, then kissed me, then said goodbye, then kissed me, then said goodbye, then kissed me. I don’t remember her face in detail but a vague shadow still floats in my mind. Her skin was light brown, her hair was cut at her neck. I wrote: I would have liked for her to be more than just a memory.

And there she is still, the briefly attained but eternally unattainable, the girl who saw something in me as I saw something in her, our attraction but also something beyond that, and that something I could not have kept but have wanted to every day since I lost her, even if I didn’t have her beyond a few wonderful hours. And so I have to ask…

Ana Cecilia, born in 1986 or 1987, studying architecture at university in Cuzco, in a small nightclub in Machupicchu (“Aguas Calientes”) with her university group on the night of Saturday, May 6, 2006 and who went to see the lost Inca city Machu Picchu a day later, who danced with a tall foreigner who had his most inspired night despite his ugly, heavy shoes, who danced fluidly and spoke Spanish to you: Ana Cecilia, do you remember me?