J’accuse: Thinkaboutit! (Tech-no-log-ic)

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This article and accompanying bertoon appear in today’s Malta Independent on Sunday.

Nordic (Buy it, use it, break it, fix it)

The fish shaped island with an almost insignificant population had weathered more than one storm in its centuries old history. Discoverers had passed through it on their way to other continents linking the old and the new. It had recently reared its proud head and tried to stand alone notwithstanding its size. Its fishermen had braved the high seas for centuries and its hunters proudly defended their culture. Its people were ambitious and they travelled the world far and wide to earn good money to send back home. Then one day the big storm came… the one that was too hard to weather… the one that crippled their savings and threatened their very livelihood. 

Iceland expects to apply to join the European Union by March. They’d love to get in as soon as possible now. The Economic Crunch was a huge blow to euro-less and EU-less Iceland. One of the stalwart examples of the go-it-alone outside Europe prophets sank so fast some hardly noticed. The Icelandic banks, once flush with money and bankrolling local councils in Kent shrank to neverland and all the sons and all the dottirs were suddenly pining for a home far from the fjords. Not that Iceland has not been living the European Union reality. Far from it. As a member of the EEA the country already assiduously applies directive after directive. 
The 300,000 citizens of the island which is three times the size of Belgium have the right to move freely around Europe. They have also managed to keep their beloved whale hunting traditions out of the sights of the EU and its Fisheries Commissioner (who is rather busy congratulating Iceland for the management of its fishing stocks – don’t blame the guy, he did  not exactly graduate from a party with the greenest of credentials). What the Icelanders want is the euro. Their currency – the krona – is almost valueless and their economy desperately needs a stronger currency to keep it afloat.  To be fair Iceland has toyed with unilateral adoption of the euro but bosses in Brussels threaten to cut relations should they go down that path.
The story does not stop here but we will have to look away for now. In the meantime just spare a thought for those naysayers who five years ago bandied the Icelandic, Norwegian or Swiss flag around claiming that there was life outside an economic block in today’s world. Some of them might be running for the European Parliament but it’s not thanks to them that the Agiuses and the Zammits are not in the same predicament as the Bjornsdottirs and Gustafssonns up north.
Logic (Name it, rate it, tune it, print it)
It did not really make it to the front pages of the journals and rags but it was quite an interesting move. Somewhere among the cacophony of voices clamouring on how best to fill the Opera House space in Valletta was that of one of Malta’s ill-treated sons. Edward De Bono had called for a National Palace of Thinking. The government must have seen this as an opportunity not worth missing and suddenly… without too much ado and without too much forewarning the National Library in Valletta was being designated the National Palace of New Thinking. 
Somebody beat me too it but I will not hesitate to say it again: It really sounds like something out of Maoist China or Ghaddafi’s Libya. Now I am sure that Ed De Bono had genuine intentions about all this but really, does the government really think that by slamming a name plaque onto a building in the middle of Valletta this means that another box under the heading Great Achievements of the GonziPN Era will be ticked? The painful sword of irony was dug further when the first two talks where announced – someone was playing a sick joke on us all. We will have a Palace of New Thinking bang in the middle of our capital where some undoubtedly intelligent personalities will be working the meninges to find new ways of doing politics … for the international scenario. Ah well. So long as we are happy with our black and white politicians.
Once we are on the subject of buildings and palaces and irony. Wasn’t it just extraordinary to see the new structure just built by modern architects intended to protect temples that are thousands of years old from the elements be blown off by the gale winds? They told us that they had not harnessed the damn things yet but please… it really is beginning to look like a farce isn’t it? 
Rhetoric (Plug it, play it, burn it, rip it)
Didn’t we all tune in somehow or another? Didn’t we flinch when he fluffed the oath (or when the Chief Justice fluffed the words and then Obama fluffed it better) and then think it was more human and more warm to have that unscripted moment thrown in? Didn’t we all listen to the speech of hope and challenge and once again wish we had just an inkling of the man’s capacity for rhetoric. For he is the Cicero of the modern age and whether using anaphora or epiphora or whether drumming his points using tricolons he is up there on the stage warming the crowd to his words and readying them for the next challenge.
Every step of the Obama campaign was just as carefully orchestrated and laden with symbols as the grand stages Albert Speer had planned for an altogether very different individual. Obama’s is not a message of destruction and conquest with the iron fist but one of rebuilding, recovery and reaffirmation of a strong democracy that begins with the rule of law and transparent government for the people. The picture is slowly forming and not everyone will be pleased with what they see. In his first week Obama has already announced closure of Guantanamo but he has also reopened funding for NGO’s who send mothers abroad to perform abortions.
His message was an invitation to work hard through difficult times and suddenly that envy of all things American that had long been buried under an anti-Bush sentiment began to return. You wished to participate in the reconstruction. You wished to give a helping hand. You thought for a second that the “We” in “Yes We Can” meant you too. Meanwhile for the trivia freaks (and I’ve just discovered a precious one close to home) Obama is the fourth president who signs documents with his left hand since Ronald Reagan sat in the Oval Office. The exception? George W. Bush (right handed). The only time when Dubya stands alone in the right I guess.
Journalistic (Write it, cut it, paste it, save it)
If you are reading this article on Sunday morning (as you should, while the smell of roast is still sweeping across the house) I will probably be sitting on a train on my way to Brussels. I’m off for a three day Conference entitled “Thinkaboutit!” organised by the European Journalism Centre. Bloggers from all across Europe will converge on Brussels to launch a five month blogging saga during which they will cover the European Parliament elections. I am looking forward to exchanging tricks of the trade with fellow dabblers while meeting professionals from such illustrious blog pages as the online BBC and Financial Times. 
The Maltese blogosphere has already begun to take chunky swipes at the EP campaign and I am proud to report that The Malta Chronicle (themaltachronicle.wordpress.com) is up and running on schedule. Until now two outside contributors have joined the team and we expect more opinions as the race heats up. One question we will be tackling in the coming week is the stuff that EP candidates are made of. What, apart from an ego the size of a trailer truck, are the qualities that voters believe a candidate should possess to make the grade? Pop by and give us your ha’penny worth of ideas… it may not be your average Palace of New Thinking but hey do we give it a try!
Elsewhere on the net Pope Benedict has his own youtube station and claims to be the oldest Head of State to do so. Sadly for Ratzinger, Bess the Second who is older than his Holiness by almost one full year beat him to it. He cannot even say that he is the oldest head of a church to be on youtube can he? Do not mention Henry VIII anyone… Still. Papa Ratzi told his internet listeners that the net is a gift of God. I am sure Tim Berners Lee might have something to say on that one… just don’t try to email St Peter just yet (I hear he’s having trouble with the passwords).
Opportunistic (Trash it, change it, mail – upgrade it)
One interesting development early in the day of the EP election race has been the backfiring of the notion of “Umbrella Party”. I have long pointed a j’accusing finger to the idea that parties like the PN try to pull off of being an all encompassing party that harbours liberals and conservatives under the same umbrella. There was bound to be a point were the elastic band of hypocrisy was stretched a tad bit too far and Hooke’s Law would come into play. Ut tensio, sic vis… and the tension came from none other than the Hunting Field.
There’s more about this on J’accuse but in essence the PN found that having an eager anti-hunting MEP candidate (Edward Demicoli) and a modern day Saint Julian in its parliamentary group (Philip Muscat MP) did not exactly bode well. Throw in Borg Olivier admitting in an interview that the PN policy on hunting is still committed to protecting the right of hunters to hunt in Spring and you begin to ask yourself how can you not forgive a voter when he feels confused about the real values of the party. Umbrella party-ism can be good for vote hunting when combined with such elements as gullibility and partisan fanaticism. Once people start asking intelligent questions the umbrellas tend to become unwieldy and cumbersome. 
Meanwhile, back in PLPN land, the parties engaged in some more collusive practice, this time because a couple of athletes risk being out of the country for the Small Games or something and therefore its time to amend a law and allow them to vote a week earlier. I wonder if anyone will raise the question of the voters abroad again seeing how controversial the last couple of planeloads ended up being. Of course the hope of voting in Embassies like Brussels is far beyond anyone’s practical imagination. No worries. A few more years in Luxembourg and as far as MEP elections are concerned I could be voting for Maury Losch or Felix Godaert. Not that it would make much of a change would it?
Climactic (Turn it, leave it, start – format it.)
That’s an ending. This one will not be. Climactic I mean. First of all I have a birthday greeting. The first Mac has turned twenty five this week. It was the first home computer to sport a Graphical User Interface (GUI) which is complicated speak for icons and mouse and all. The project to create the Macintosh was started by legendary computer maker Jef Raskin who also baptised it Macintosh. Why Macintosh? Apparently it was the name of Raskin’s favourite type of apple – of the edible kind of course. Thank god for that, I’d hate to own an Apple Granny Computer.
Time to say goodbye. Allow me to wish a speedy recovery to my brother the podologist who spent an ugly seven days face up on a bed in Mater Dei courtesy of some renegade nerve in the back that caused tremendous pain. Take it easy bro! 
Until next time this has been J’accuse (with a little help from Daft Punk).
Jacques will be blogging about blogging at the beginning of next week. Follow the goings on in Brussels on https://jaccuse.wordpress.com.

One response to “J’accuse: Thinkaboutit! (Tech-no-log-ic)

  1. Iceland is in need of an economic boost indeed but let’s hope the Euro won’t just be a bandaid…

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