ONE week today, assuming Emirates flies on time, about now I shall be casting around Amman airport attempting to find the Royal Jordanian desk. Alternatively, catch a shared taxi across the King Hussein Bridge and on to the Damascus Gate, final destination a five minute sprint through the Old City to Jaffa Gate. The walk in the opposite direction is pleasant. Walking through the Gate and turning right takes you past Christ Church, where I used to live and David’s Citadel across the road. Live concerts and fireworks free of charge to us… Keeping left takes you right into the heart of the Old City, cobbled, steeply sloping streets teeming with hawkers, buyers, sellers, the the streetwise, the curious and the gullible. In the Arab quarter, you almost have to ‘eyes front’ since catching the eye is perceived as an invitation to haggle. A fast left past the Church of the Holy Sepulchre gets you back to the Damascus Gate, where squatting street sellers display fruit, vegetables, nuts and just about everything else which might fetch a price. There’s a juice shop at the top of the hill that sells the finest in the city. OK during the day but sometimes iffy at night, a friend had to fend off an attack. Still, might be safer than Karachi at the moment. Nonetheless….I can’t wait. Can I, Susan……
Well, the brouhaha seems, blessedly, to be subsiding. Images, especially in cartoon form, of the Prophet actually published in the Western press shows a remarkable lack of understanding tantamount to blind stupidity. France Soir sacked its managing editor. Seven European publications in total carried some of the drawings, and we all saw a lot of pushing and shoving in the Islamic world, with the burning of a Danish flag. How easy is it, I wonder, to procure a Danish flag to burn? Perhaps someone is asked to run one up for the ceremony.
The cartoons have sparked diplomatic sanctions and death threats in some Arab nations, while media watchdogs have defended publication of the images in the name of press freedom.
Reporters Without Borders said the reaction in the Arab world “betrays a lack of understanding” of press freedom as “an essential accomplishment of democracy.” Yeah, exactly. The word carries a very different meaning in some parts of the world, the West supporting its own flavour in preference to ‘others’. I think we must be fated to develop societies based on an adversarial consciousness. Paradoxically, since most societies have anything more a passing understanding of where they came from, they conceal from themselves the risks that threaten their future.
The image is of a rare orchid, which will lift spirits.
Ah. At last, the 1980’s cult classic ‘The Flipside of Dominic Hide’ is available on dvd. Peter Firth plays Dominic, the eponymous hero, travelling back in time (the ‘flipside’) from 2130 back to the 1980’s to study London’s transport system, in days when you could still park for free behind Harrods after five o’clock and Uncle Ken hadn’t introduced congestion charges and bendy buses. He falls in love and fathers a child with a girl called Jane (what else..). I was reminded of it seeing this image of an island off the coast of Guatemala that someone sent to me, the theme music to FSDH being entitled ‘are there somewhere islands..’ .
With the benefit of hindsight I would surely be able to make much more sense of 1850’s gadgetry than if I were to travel the same time period from now into the future. The unrelenting arrow, the diode of time, pushes us all inexorably forwards. What would Newton have made of mobile phones? Or Leonardo, laptops? Hemingway once wrote ‘the past is a foreign country’. In which case, the future must be a parallel universe.