The world, friends, is a preposterous place. I thought that this week when, intending to write a newsy column, I started perusing headlines. Very soon my head was aching from all the absurdity and violence.
Consider for instance, the most recent protests over Putin’s reelection. Over the weekend I was watching TV and saw a crowd on Moscow’s Novy Arbat Street that appeared to be slightly smaller than the ones that used to gather in the same place every St. Patrick’s Day to celebrate the existence of Guinness. As usual the fractured opposition can’t get its act together and succeeds primarily in marginalizing itself.
Meanwhile I am starting to get irritated by the Moscow-centric nature of the news coverage. Journalists can’t even be bothered going to St. Petersburg, which is just four hours away by express train. Who cares about Moscow? It is not Russia, as every Russian will tell you. What about Izhevsk? Yekaterinburg? Ak-Dovurak? Do they hate Putin there? The media dismisses the provinces, where the majority of Russians live. No wonder the picture of events it paints is so skewed.
Maybe I’ll write about Syria, I thought. Terrible things are happening there, and nobody knows what to do. The Arab League has just accused Bashar al-Assad of crimes against humanity. Fair enough, although it must be said that many members of the Arab League routinely abuse women, gays, religious and ethnic minorities and their own citizens. I mean, come on- Saudi Arabia? Somalia? Sudan? The Saudis dispatched their own national guard to help the Sunni monarchy in Bahrain crush an uprising by its Shiite majority last year. In 2008, the Arab League criticized the ICC for charging Sudan’s president with genocide. Meanwhile, in November, Foreign Policy magazine reported that the head of the human rights observers dispatched by the Arab League to monitor Syria late last year is the same man who (allegedly) formed the genocidal Janjaweed militias in Sudan!
I am confused.
OK then, what about this story from Iraq? Having successfully purged half of the country’s ancient Christian populace, fanatics are now turning their attention to gays and…. emo kids. In the last three weeks, in East Baghdad alone, fourteen fans of the mawkish but harmless musical subculture have had their skulls bashed in with rocks or concrete blocks. Apparently it’s all a misunderstanding: the killers think the emo fans are gay! The Interior Ministry has denounced the music as satanic, and pledged to dispatch a special police force to deal with the epidemic…. when in fact emo is merely rubbish, and hardly worth being murdered over.
As for America, well, the race for the Republican nomination is so weird I can’t face writing about it. I’m also still reeling from last week’s shenanigans arising from bloviating radio gasbag Rush Limbaugh labeling a middle class 30-year-old student, who testified before politicians that she wants other people to pay for her sex life, a “slut” and a “prostitute.” Limbaugh’s outburst is par for the course in American political discourse, but this nevertheless led to an overwhelmingly tedious outburst of faux outrage from “liberals,” some of whom called for Limbaugh to be barred from the airwaves or prosecuted while ignoring the similarly egregious speech that emanates from their own camp. Because nothing says you’re a liberal like calling for blacklisting and speech trials!
Desperate to escape from stupidity, violence and cruelty, I turned to Australia where I discovered an investment banker had attached a “collar bomb” to a young woman’s neck in a failed attempt to extort money from her parents. I didn’t even know they had such things! And perhaps they don’t because the bomb, as the police ascertained after a ten-hour inspection, was fake.
At that moment, however, another story caught my eye. Over the weekend, a gorilla was spotted on the loose in Alabama.
Suddenly, my imagination caught fire. I remembered an old Batman comic in which a scientist accidentally transfers his intelligence to a gorilla which then goes on a rampage against humans for their “crimes against animals.” For a brief moment I sympathized: there are all kinds of reasons to go on the rampage these days, for all sorts of crimes against everything. But then I remembered that this was a different gorilla, not the one from Batman. He just wanted to be free from his cage, to escape the stupid, gawking humans and roam in the jungle for a while.
Well, I can sympathize with that too. Reading on, the story became more mysterious. The only gorilla known to live in the area (in a zoo 100 miles away) is still in his cage. The authorities aren’t even sure how many gorillas they’re looking for, or if it’s a bear. Heck this gorilla is so free he can’t be pinned down to a single species!
Well, I’ve got a message for him. If you’re reading this, buddy- I understand. Run for the hills! And if you make it round my way, I’ve got a bunch of tasty bananas waiting for you.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s and may not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.
What does the world look like to a man stranded deep in the heart of Texas? Each week, Austin- based author Daniel Kalder writes about America, Russia and beyond from his position as an outsider inside the woefully - and willfully - misunderstood state he calls “the third cultural and economic center of the USA.”
Daniel Kalder is a Scotsman who lived in Russia for a decade before moving to Texas in 2006. He is the author of two books, Lost Cosmonaut (2006) and Strange Telescopes (2008), and writes for numerous publications including The Guardian, The Observer, The Times of London and The Spectator.