Wednesday, 23 March 2011

new metrics or libya the tattooed lady

Continuing incidents in this lead up to Spring have proved to be incommensurate with the conventional public systems of measurement and we are all being educated with new units of dread and hope and ways to gauge the appropriateness or irrationality of one's reactions. In addition to the millisievert, the gray, and the rad, conditions are described in terms of chest x-rays per hour or airport naked body scanner-equivalency. It is like speaking of budget short-falls and economic hobbling in terms of trillions of whatever denomination one chooses, as inflation's impossibly big numbers is a great equalizer--or telescoping figures of personal loss and devastation across whole regions.

At odds with these metrics, impoverished ambitions, beggaring their neighbours and sending mixed messages about thrift, restraint and dissolute decadence though money can always be found for making war, each tomahawk missile launched is equal to the average annual salaries of twelve civil servants. Such abstract connections are held up to the spectre of a forced-furlough and US government shut-down--like the low-hanging austerities threatening other nations. Given the level of control over each situation and the real risk associated with it, the response seems inverted: there is no panic and whirlwind of blame and litigiousness despite the dire conditions--the Japanese remain civil, continue to recycle their trash and in some areas what utilities remain are powered by wind-mills that weathered the earthquake and tsunami intact. In contrast, there is delineated anarchy over Tripoli with no nation wanting to take the leadership role and arguments about strategy and goals. However much divergence there is between causes and corollary, it seems that both have root in human miserliness and greed and growing demand for cheap energy.