Pipe Dream


With winter coming I decided to reread Penguin’s ‘History of the World’ by J M Roberts, a giant among great historians. At over 800 pages of tiny font it’s quite a tomb. I use a Kindle, of course, to avoid tendinitis, but find the glacial movement of the progress bar still quite disheartening. Even after toiling through less than a quarter so far, I have noticed a recurring theme. I am not talking about history repeating itself, though that is certainly true, but the propensity of civilisations to hit a brick wall, as it were, and disappear into, well, histories pages.

I was thinking about Britains “BREXIT” in the above historical context while walking the dog this morning. The icy Antarctic wind in my face brought about a rare moment of clarity, an epiphany about an analogy! Wow, two big words in one sentence; clearly I was on a roll!

Anyhow, my epiphany involved using an oil pipeline as an analogy to explain why civilisations, such as ours (the “West”), act the way they did and, clearly still do. Ok, so here I goes: 

As oil pipelines age, they tend to spring leaks. While still strong and prosperous, countries simply fix these leaks via a well funded and run maintenance program. As formerly strong countries age and, inevitably decay, some leaks are overlooked. Bystanders take advantage of these leaks, using pots and pans to catch the oil and nobody seems to mind. Occasionally, the bystanders, due to carelessness or their hidden agendas, cause the leaks to ignite into great balls of fire. Authorities are forced to rush in and douse the flames with water. Some they manage to extinguish, either by sheer luck or a “last stand”, determined effort; others burn on, over time becoming a permanent feature, that are tolerated, because they are either not important enough or fixing them is just too costly.

Some of these neglected  fires become too large to ignore. A desperate effort is made to quench them by pouring ever more water into the inferno. But the flames are getting higher and the general populace is becoming disenchanted by their leaders inability to solve the problem. 

If, by now, you are wondering, why somebody has not giving the problem our modern Digital Era’s equivalent of the “three finger salute”, i.e. hit Ctrl Alt Delete and turned the darn thing off, you are clearly in the minority. Most seem so disenchanted by their leaders, they prefer believing proponents of the lunatic fringes. These lunatics, populist opportunists the lot of them, myopic racists dressed up as patriots, are so devoid of sanguine thought, they actually believe that, since water didn’t help, pouring petrol on the flames is the way to go. 

If you need help identifying modern equivalents of these dogmatists, let me give you a few hints: building a Great Wall (China/East Germany/Trump), blaming foreigners and/or religious minorities (Hitler/Nigel “Brexit” Farage/Pauline “Please Explain” Hanson).

Nobody, but nobody is prepared to do the obvious. Politicians and voters alike are to afraid to loose their jobs and their way of life, even though their very life’s depend on it.

Like lemmings jumping off a cliff, like the proverbial ants, we’re marching one by one, hurrah, hurrah, eyes wide shut, into oblivion…

If, after reading this, you have concluded that I am a doomsday pessimist, you may have point. Unfortunately, clearly, history is on my side!