Some things are blindingly obvious, and others are astonishingly surprising. Here is an exhaustive list of them:
Blindingly obvious thing No. 1: The Democratic party nominee for President of the United States should be Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez.
What? Too young, you say? Don't be daft. That young man with the unpronounceable name who is one of the line-up of 20 prospective presidents, a young man who has never done anything except be mayor of some forgettable town in Indiana or one of those eminently forgettable mid-western states, and who seems to be doing very well in the preliminary skirmish towards the nomination, is only 37. So what’s the difference? 29 or 37, or 75 like Bernie or Joe?
One difference is that, if, as the pundits say, 60 million Trump-voters were so discontented that they looked to Trump as the best guy to “shake things up”, then they made the wrong choice, not realizing that Trump represents the very forces that have consigned millions to a marginal existence among all the promised glories of the so-called American Dream. It should now be blindingly obvious to them, as it is to me, that if they are still looking for someone to shake things up, AOC, as she is now known everywhere, should be their choice next time. This young woman has everything: she is not only gorgeous, but brighter than hell, mischievous, fearless, determined, and an organizer of the first class. Accused of undignified dancing, she threw it back in their faces by dancing into her Congressional office for the first time. Reason enough, right there, to elect her president. All those discontented people out there should remember that, although she had received a good education, she had been reduced to working as a waitress, in order to support her family that had fallen on hard times, a status in life that had reduced her to almost permanent depression until she decided to do something about it.
In other words, she not only talks the talk --- and brilliantly, describing the state of the nation and the world with pitiless honesty --- but has already walked the walk, and her vision for America’s future would place that great nation again at the forefront of progressive forces around the world, spearheading at last the struggle for global policies to confront the imminent dangers of global warming, brought on by our inability to reach past the interests of 240 individual nation states.
The woman is a socialist, they say, and socialism is a dreaded disease that threatens all our freedoms. You idiots: don’t you realize that socialism in one or other of its forms, is the essential ingredient of any shaken-up future for human kind? In other words our descendants appear to have little future worthy of the name so long as the established built-in conservatism prevails in human affairs.
Okay, that’s enough of what is blindingly obvious. It struck me a couple of days ago that in our information-jammed world, some information can be astonishingly surprising. Here is a list:
Astonishingly surprising information No. 1: I read in an article the other day that 350,000,000 eels are trafficked out of the European Union every year, worth more than $3 billion, making it the biggest wildlife crime in the world.
I am terribly sorry, but my mind cannot hold the idea of 350 million eels. It makes me think of one of those pits in southern Saskatchewan that every spring become full of thousands of squiggling, sliding baby snakes. I know the eel can be a delicious gourmet dish, but I cannot think of eels in the mass: I can think of only one eel, or perhaps it was a sea-snake, and that is the eel or snake that I suddenly realized was sitting right there within touching distance, gazing at me, 43 years ago, as I was doing what an elderly acquaintance of mine called some ‘sea-swimmin’ in the delightfully-warm Caribbean sea. Unacquainted with eels except on the dinner plate, I immediately panicked, lashed out in my pathetic effort to swim to safety, forgetting that beneath me was a nest of the dreaded sea urchin. All I had to do --- and I did it --- was to brush my left hand across a sea urchin with the result that the hapless animal injected me with dozens of tiny spikes which are its weapon of self-defence against lumbering monsters that might be lunging around in the waters above him. Or her, as the case might be.
This inglorious excursion into the wildlife kingdom resulted in my trying out numerous folk remedies, such as peeing on my hand, without effect, before appealing to modern science in the form of a doctor with a tweezle picking the spikes out one by one.
Talking about snakes: I have often explained to people, and I do so here to my small Chronicle audience, that there are such differences between New Zealand and Australia as to make very doubtful their being bracketed together in the public mind as they usually are. For one thing, they are as close together as London is to Moscow. For another, New Zealand is completely free of snakes, and of all other dangerous, man-killing pests (except for the world’s biggest mosquitoes); whereas Australia, and especially that northern, tropical part where I went to live when I left New Zealand, has more crawly and sliding animals that could kill you at the slightest contact, than almost any other country on earth.
Having no experience of snakes, I was terrified by the very idea of them. The bravery of Aussies who, spotting a snake crossing the road, would calmly seize it by the tail and end its life with a sudden flick, was something beyond my imagination. I heard that they were in the habit of taking up residence in the rafters of houses, and occasionally settled over door-jambs, from which, when the door was opened, they could fall down upon you. (But whereas Aussies took all their snakes for granted, fearlessly, along with bats, crocodiles, sharks and other wonders of nature, they were very nervous about earthquakes, which, in New Zealand are almost always sending up tremors that we, in our innocence, took completely for granted.)
Another animal that does not rank among my favourites is the bat. In Australia they have a particularly gruesome variety that they call a flying fox, a very large bat with an average wingspan of three and a half feet, that can be spotted hanging upside down from a variety of trees. Despite its gruesome appearance, it is said to play a very important ecological roll because it dispenses the pollen and seeds of a wide range of Australian plants. In recent years, it has become more common within the major cities, and there are said to be 30,000 of them gathered in the trees around one golf course during the Melbourne summer.
The fact is, although I have never been threatened by a bat, I have always been unreasonably afraid of them. During a holiday in Antigua in the West Indies one summer, it was our habit to observe what we called “bat hour”, when at dusk tens of thousands of them would emerge from the heights behind our beachside cottage, and we would settle, gin and tonic in hand, to watch them as they swooped high above us in their search for an insect-dinner.
Apart from that, my acquaintance with bats has been limited to the odd one that would penetrate our house in Ottawa during our years of house ownership, now long past. Having never been exposed to such an animal during my childhood in pest-free New Zealand, I tended to shrink under the blankets when the bat appeared, and let it fly around the room, hoping it would never descend upon us, and calling for our ten-year-old daughter to come and do her fearless stuff. She would stand in the middle of the room holding up a tennis racket, which apparently did not give off the sound waves, or whatever it is that bats navigate by. Usually they would simply run into the racket strings, fall to the floor, momentarily stunned, and we had the chance to scoop them up and put them outside where they belonged.
It wasn’t until I heard a McGill University scientist giving evidence on behalf of the Crees in their monumental court case of 1972 against the promised James Bay hydro-electric project being built in their hunting territories, that I came across a man to whom the welfare of bats was everything in his life. I was pretty amazed to hear with what affection and concern he spoke of them, and he opened my eyes at least partially to the need to think more clearly about these fearsome animals of all kinds, and especially to those which, like bats, pose no danger to anyone, and are generally suffering from no more than their poor public relations.
Nowadays, though I still have to admit to the terror struck in me by bats, and more especially snakes, I have to recognize that they, like us, are species that have as much right to their place in nature as any of us.
Well, that’s enough of astonishingly surprising information: I realize all these wild creatures have to be cherished and saved from extinction, although I am glad their defence falls to someone else, not to me. All I can say is:
Wot the hell, wot the hell? Nature is wonderful, right?