The tragedy and the comedy

Robin Williams said “life’s a tragedy to those who feel and a comedy to those that think”.

The writer George Orwell wrote about the use of euphemism. To describe something which is the opposite of what it appears to be – calling a department that wages war the “Ministry of Peace”.

We could come up with our own list of contemporary Orwellian euphemisms. Quantitative Easing a term for the printing of piles of new money. We might also add socialism, the main goal of which is to narrow the gap between the rich and the poor. In China socialism is a type of capitalism which results in one of the highest wealth gaps in the world. That is not narrowing the gap. The West is drowning in debt is now dependent on a “socialism” to drive global consumer demand.

We might also add the European Union to the Orwellian lexicon. It is a Union which appears to incite disunion. There is a desire for fragmentation and autonomy in Scotland, Belgium, Catalonia, Cyprus and Finland. We could add the word “sustainable” in the stakeholder communications of Mining Companies. We all know that mining is not sustainable business without new discovery. The moment you start mining you are blasting and digging your way out of ore and into infinite oblivion. Without exploration one unsustainable mining business has to take over another unsustainable mining businesses. Does it work? Can the merger of two things unsustainable ever make something sustainable?

What is sustainable? Our environment is not sustainable. The energy in our galaxy is fading and is only half of what it was two billion years. We do not have to wait for the lights to go our as we have most likely run out of time to stop global warming?

In the last few weeks red numbers washed over Chinese stocks. Global commodity prices plunged. Small investors in China are curious about this use of the colour red. Red is the national colour of China. Red represents happiness, beauty, success and good fortune. The Chinese give red envelopes stuffed with money to each other during Chinese New Year. Red signifies for me the huge chasm in the cultures between the West and China.

What about the term “Human Resources”. A resource is a stock or supply of money, materials or other assets. A person or organization can use a resource to function. It is one of my pet hates. Human Resources are people not resources or commodities for other people to “use”.

These times are no more tragic and comical and silly as in Orwell’s time. Capital controls in Greece constrict the flow of cash to a trickle. An old woman in Thessalonica cannot withdraw more than €60 from the bank which protects her money. Evil men ferry desperate families across the Mediterranean in coffin ships.

They plough through the wake of super yachts. There are as many 40-metre super yachts as there are billionaires in the world. The destitute flee from war and famine and hopeless grinding poverty. Is it the law of unintended consequences? The rich just flee from taxes and the burden of sharing their bounty.

We are ridiculous and God smiles at the best laid plans of mice and men. On my travels as a geologist I have smiled and sighed. The discovery of one of the largest gold mines in Ghana, West Africa would not have happened but for an IOU on a bad cattle deal.  Tales in May of German POW’s worked to death at the old Igumenskoye gulag gold mine in the Kolyma of the Russian Far East. Why does a former monk try to mine gold from on the hallowed flank of Croagh Patrick in the West of Ireland?  What would pay any geologist to travel 600 kilometres to a gold mine in the sand across Tuareg-held Sahara bringing explosives inbound and gold outbound.

It is the 70th anniversary of the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Japan restarts its first nuclear reactor since the Fukushima disaster. It is the same technology. There is a dichotomy between the physics of nuclear power and nuclear weapons. Maybe it is an illusory distinction. Life is a tragedy and a comedy.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre The falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere The ceremony of innocence is drowned; The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;

Extract from the Second Coming, W.B. Yeats 150th anniversary of his birth


One response to “The tragedy and the comedy”

  1. Interesting read John !!!

    Your Heading is well chosen for what you write following. There is a lot of strange stuff happening “globally ” for want of a better term…Are we missing strong leadership or what ??
    Sometimes I just let your Logo sink in and wonder is it an arrow, a branding iron or a horseshoe for luck. Maybe the world needs the “rub of the green”.
    I am glad to see you including a Quotation from W.B.Yeats.

    One of my favourites as well, almost from the cradle days ?? I have a copy of his Poetry as one of my favourite reads when I am in the mood for same…

    I was back to grass roots today tidying up a garden near where i live !

    Kind regards and all the best for now

    Michael Sullivan

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