Alessandro Tome on plagues of black cats, unprepossessing politicians and other unseemly augurs of ill fortune
LA ISLA BLANCA, they call it. The White Island, Ibiza. And I love this island, ever since my Angel wife took me there nearly twenty years ago. In spite of my great reluctance and preconceptions, I immediately fell in love with it as I had done with Angel wife. Just like with her, beyond the great beauty and naked sensuality, there lies a deep-seated positive power and inner strength that gives an aura of secure, timeless happiness. Twenty years on and I still adore my Angel wife, possibly more than on the first day I met her. She just about still puts up with me. The End!
As for the White Island itself, a few cracks have cropped up. One in particular appeared early on, has no obvious remedy (other than terminal ones) and is increasingly unavoidable: cats, too many cats. So much so that Puss Island would be a more appropriate moniker if it weren’t for the fact that it would exacerbate the influx of ignorant yobs thinking this is the place where their libido will be sated in spite of the fact they can’t string a coherent sentence together, even when sober. And more to the specific point, black cats. White Island it may be, but Black Puss Island it should become. So what’s the problem with black felines, you ask? But superstition, of course, I say.
See, I was brought up in a very superstitious environment. Ladders, scaffolding, hats on beds, thirteen at the table, you name it. But beyond the obvious ones, we all have our little ‘habits’. We may not call them superstitions, but they are still behaviour patterns influenced by unexplained or non-rational thoughts. Lucky shirts, pants, ties and so much more — all to reassure us things will be fine, go well or get better.
In spite of all our technology and science, iPhones, iPads and iPods, while waiting for the missing iPeds, iPids, iPuds and iPyds, we are thankfully still not able to explain, master and control everything around and about us, which is when we revert to some of our more fundamental beliefs in religion, family and anything we can think of that will make things better. We go back to our ‘habits’ because they make us feel less helpless.
The problem I find, though, with most superstitions, and as I really discovered on Black Puss Island, is that they don’t help us feel better by believing they will make things better. Most superstitions tend to go the negative way, they tell us to avoid things in order not to have something bad happen, rather than do things to create positivity. Avoid the stick rather than get the carrot, a very medieval, burn-people-at-the-stake approach.
I already had nearly broken my leg falling in the pool after I had seen a black cat lurking around the house, but tried to not blame it. So when on Friday the 13th (bad day) I was driving back from a fun party with Angel wife and Mowgli, aka Arun, and a black cat crossed the road (very bad thing), both my passengers decided it was better not to confirm to me it was indeed a black cat, so as to not have to stop in the middle of nowhere while waiting for another car to drive past and ‘break’ the line (the cure in this instance — they mostly all have cures). I reluctantly pretended to agree with them, but now expected things to go wrong.
Within a day I had spun the car with my kids in it, got electrocuted by one of our technological gizmos for music, and my iPhone had fallen in the pool. Within a week I had spent three days in bed with a bad stomach bug and finally got back to London and broke the key to our building in the lock. All because I had not stopped for the black cat. I hadn’t avoided the bad luck; I had got the expected stick. But only for me, so I must have been bad somewhere along the line.
And then I realised I was looking at this the wrong way. I had had too much indoctrination in the avoidance of trouble. In reality, I had been very lucky, not very unlucky. The key was broken, but the door was open already (good). I could have broken my leg, or even, as they initially thought, torn my ligaments, but I hadn’t (more good). I could have wrecked the car when we spun and we could have been injured, but it stopped a few inches short of a wall (very good).
The electrocution was no more than a good stimulant for the brain rather than frying it, and the iPhone worked after a day of drying out, so I lost no data and gained a day of freedom (excellent). As for the stomach bug, I have never looked so good after losing five unwanted and unneeded kilos (brilliant, that one).
So as a matter of fact, it had all worked out really well when it could have gone really badly. Many carrots, no real stick, except at the time in my mind. Or as my friend Marco said, if I had been not on holiday but in the office instead, I couldn’t have hit my leg in the pool, spun the cars with the kids in it, got electrocuted with the wet Sonos system or dropped the phone in a pool. We are still debating the stomach bug part of things, though.
While I will keep some of the practical aspects, such as being careful not to pass the salt hand to hand so as to not spill it, and staying away from ladders and scaffoldings (just a smart thing to do), I will no longer indulge in negative avoidance through superstition. As Stevie Wonder sings, ‘Superstition ain’t the way.’ But positive ‘habits’ sound good. You didn’t think I was just going to let it all go at once, did you?
IS OSBORNE SIMPLY BARKING?
THE OTHER DAY I ran into a new interbreed: a giant poodle and a labrador, or giant labradoodle. Looked a bit like a brown labrador on stilts with curly hair. Odd, but somewhat cute enough to give it another look.
I feel the same with the LibCon puppies. Not sure about them yet — good soundbites, not much action. Honeymoon over, baby blues starting soon. They still have to convince me that you can really achieve the changes needed in this country by compromising with each other all the time, but we have to give them a chance before setting the hyenas you call press on to them.
Where did you find these people you call journalists, some street dump heap? Utter delight in the destruction of other people’s lives, nice trait that. Doesn’t say much about you lot reading or listening to them either. Humans have never showed a propensity to self-control when given too much freedom, just like the press in this country has, with little remedy or real painful bite to chastise excesses. Benign dictatorship would do them some good.
Nonetheless, I am a bit worried at this feeling of trying to re-create Avalon, the English Kennedy years. Frankly, they didn’t turn out too well. Too much union influence, alleged mafia links, Hollywood mistresses… a shining example to aspire to. Hopefully they will outgrow that phase and try to rule on merit. The spanner in the works there may be the Jack Russell in the pack, Osborne. Thinks he’s a big dog in a small body. Problem is we may all find out too late he’s just a small dog in a small body and only a loud annoying bark…
Whichever way, can’t be much worse than the great saviour, redeemer of all evils and answer to all prayers, Obama. He is finding out the hard way and so are the American people that, as Bob Marley said, ‘You can fool some people sometimes but you can’t fool all the people all the time.’ And now he ain’t fooling nobody no more, it seems.
I WANTED TO recommend a must-read for all you wannabe economists. It is entitled Seven Deadly Innocent Frauds of Economic Policy and is written by Warren Mosler, who is running for the US Senate as an Independent as ‘a matter of conscience, not ambition’.
He has been described as ‘one of the brightest minds in finance’ by CNBC and ‘a rare bird: a self-taught economist who is not a crank’. One of his points is that US government spending is not operationally constrained by revenues, and he will pay $1 million to any senatorial candidate who can prove he’s wrong.
I am no keen reader of economics books. But I first met Warren nearly twenty years ago and I still remember being astounded by his incredible ability to make the most obscure economic principles crystal-clear even to a heretic like me. This pamphlet is a brilliant illustration of that talent and will make you question so much you thought you knew or assumed of the mechanics of economics and the origins of and solutions to the current ‘crisis’.