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August 12, 2011

Burning London

Roy Meachum

In my Tuesday’s column I made a big mistake. I know better. “America’s Worst Week” should have been “The World’s Worst Year.”


It started in January when ideologue politicians seized control of the Congress; they completely forget “politics is the art of compromise.”Dubbed the “Arab Spring,” February unrest in Muslim countries upset notorious regimes, seriously threaten a third, Libya’s Muammar Gadhafi. Tunisia led off.


The Egyptian government of Hosni Mubarak fell 30 years too late. He should never have seized the fruits of his horrendous crime; I accuse my own government of complicity. readers know, after two years in Cairo, I am convinced that the fallen president was the master planner of Anwar Sadat’s assassination. Ma’alesh, as the Egyptians say. The weight of his vast corruption and dictatorial ways “done ‘im in,” to paraphrase a lyric from “My Fair Lady.”


That’s what I thought this Arab Spring and during the debt ceiling crisis. While that view holds firmly, I now have a better perspective.


Hopelessness has driven hundreds of thousands of people into the streets in Spain, France, Greece, Yemen, Bahrain and Israel, to mention the foremost countries cited by the media. In Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, the demonstrations are staged not against Benjamin Netanyahu and his government but over high prices, maybe the true cause of much of the international turbulence.


The worldwide binge caused the financial crises. Greed assumed another face in paying executives and stars ridiculous salaries and bonuses. The money Babe Ruth earned in his best years typically is dwarfed by rookies in the major leagues. Washington Redskins all-time star, Sammy Baugh, took in less cash than the cost of a single sky box. Movie stars in many countries command such riches that financed entire films in the past, including actors, crew and all the equipment – including film and construction.


As for executives, they pay themselves such wealth as all the profligate Caesars would envy. Governments lined up early at the trough, spending and taxing. And while several eminent authorities have declared offensive wars not worth anybody waging, they go on – pointedly in Iraq and Afghanistan.


While once Washington was the spiritual guide for several clusters of nations, U.S. leaders deliberately abandoned the role for areas of hard-hearted influence. Taxpayers financed manipulations in places that Americans neither knew nor cared about. In essence, we live under the circumstances that our ancestors revolted against. And we’re very much not alone. The disparity rolls on around the world, capsulated in the Roaring Twenties’ ditty: “The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.” The song’s title? “Ain’t We Got Fun?”


The Great Depression sucked all the fun out. Lack of regulations and official guidelines leave all of us in a similar situation. People delight in admonishing Greece, Portugal and other European Economic Union members for their frivolous life style. Pounds-loving Britain coasted along on its notoriety for moderation. The burning skies over London, Manchester and several English cities knocked a huge hole in their vaunted reputation for sensibility; in speech and style, yes, but never the distribution of national wealth. The inbred class system is only partially to blame. The newly established middle class’s ostentation more than matches the nobility’s past vulgar displays.


Germany so far has escaped demonstrations that wrack many places in Europe. The Wirtschaft economy that brought about 1948’s “miracle” relied very strongly on soothing any jitters among the middle class that included workers. But the infection may be spreading from Great Britain.


Meanwhile, Democrats and Republicans try to make partisan music while the whole world is burning.




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