Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Back in business - and it's business as usual all round

About time I broke the radio silence, don't you think?

You will be pleased to hear – one hopes – that I am not dead and neither have I given up blogging. But despite the obvious raw material over the past few weeks, I have found the situation in Greece too overwhelming to write about and the UK election too underwhelming to write about.
So radio silence it was.

Not because I've lost my interest in politics, not because I've lost my sense of profound engagement with, well, everything but because my usual outrage has recently been replaced by stunned disbelief and an ever-spreading sadness.

But I will confess that I have been perking up recently.
Things in Greece are stable for the time being, which is the best one can hope for; this United Kingdom of ours has a government and it's not an all-blue one (thank god for small mercies) and the World Cup is about to kick off. What's not to like?

Although the French Open is keeping me from switching back to the news channels as frequently as my natural proclivities would demand, there is no avoiding the fact that the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico is still not off the headlines, with six weeks of recriminations and environmental horror pushing us inexorably towards a criminal investigation, empty talk and an as yet unknown impact on our life and health as a species.
At least BP's shares plummeted by 13% yesterday. As I was saying. Small mercies.
According to the Guardian this was the worst one-day fall for 18 years for what was once Britain's most valuable company.

But have the mighty fallen?
Will Obama ban BP from operating in the US? For a time? For ever? Will he take the whole industry to task? Will he find scapegoats and allow the industry at large to proceed in a business-as-usual fashion?

Business-as-usual is a powerful motivator.
Keep things ticking over, restore public confidence, avoid dips in the stock-market, work-force contractions and costly regulatory adjustments.
Of course it all makes sense.
Until the next time we fail to prevent bad things from happening because we focused more on functional continuity than systemic soundness.

Big words, fancy talk and yada yada but it's not just oil spills I'm talking about.
We seem to be living in a chicken-and-egg, told-ya-so universe where nothing gets fixed for fear of missing a beat.
Issues big and small don't get dealt with until they explode and then all they get is a band aid.
If Britain had a different electoral system, legitimacy would not be such an elusive concept for its elected representatives but to achieve electoral reform you need to disrupt government business-as-usual for at least 5 minutes and we can't be having that.
If Greece streamlined and cleaned up its state sector then you wouldn't need to worry about having to bail them out again in 10 years or this current bailout going off track. But cleaning up the public sector will delay the implementation of the bailout and we can't be having with that.
And on and on, business-as-usual.

And forgive the cynicism when I say this, but what was Israel's raid on the aid shipment to Gaza other than business-as-usual? They do their thing, counting on the world's obsession with moving on and going back to normal.
Bullets, zodiacs full of soldiers and submarines. Outrage. Riots, Diplomats shaking their heads and the threat of an investigation.
Oh no, now the Israelis are shaking in their wee boots.

Are we missing something?
With at least 9 dead and insane confusion around what exactly the Israelis were thinking, the explanation that Israel is a big bully isn't quite enough to cover the 'what the hell?' moment we all had when we heard the news a couple of days ago.

And my overwhelming sadness threatens to return.

What sort of a world is this?
So we'll get an investigation. And Israel may even get a slap on the wrist. While everything will be moving back towards business-as-usual. And we can't even hope for small mercies.
Hilary Clinton described the situation in Gaza as 'unsustainable'. At last she noticed.
Now what Hilary dear? Now what?
Now nothing. Now, it's business as usual.

And the cherry on the cake of world madness?
Snazzy, cuddly, pretty Apple had to deal with the embarrassing news of a string of worker suicides allegedly linked to horrible working conditions at the Chinese factory where iPhones and iPads are assembled. Oh the irony.
Steve Jobs must be hating the job now, having to comment on the intimation that cuddly Apple is using sweatshops for fabricating its fancy toys.
And nothing. Apple is selling like mad, overtaking Microsoft as the world's largest technology company by market value and iPads are selling like hotcakes. And although the US justice department is making preliminary inquiries into whether Apple unfairly dominates the digital music market through its iTunes store, it's business-as-usual for Apple despite it all.

If it's business-as-usual for everyone; if all we can hope for is small mercies; if I-told-ya-so is the best we can do, then it better be business-as-usual for me too. Because I may not be able to change a damn thing but I can roll my eyes at the newspapers and shake my fist in anger.
In short, I'm back. Yeah yeah, small mercies indeed.