They’ve Tied Themselves Up In Knots.


Deja Vu?

Here’s an article I wrote for Kenya’s Karengata Chronicle on June 9th, 1984. Thought it might make you chuckle…

If I were a Martian, up in my satellite monitoring the people and events on earth – earth, that little pinprick of a planet in the vast expanse of the Universe, in the even greater immensity of space – if I were a Martian, I would report back to HQ that this colourful planet, with its abundance of beauty and immense potential, can be classified no better than one pathetic little loony-bin of mismanagement.

Take man, for instance. The basic needs for his life are food and good health. To attain these simple goals, he needs education. Simple enough, thinks the Martian as he surveys the great granaries of the world from his satellite, sails over the oceans teaming with fish, and scans the vast herds of animals below.

Man has begun to discover how to extract his nourishment from nature. What is more, he is actually continuing to improve his methods by research. So far so good. But what on earth is happening now? The Martian almost falls out of his satellite in astonishment as he sees members of the European Economic Community actually cutting down on their milk production and forcing their members to comply – when just a glance away in blazing Africa there are thousands of starving people who would give their eye teeth for a cup of the precious liquid.

They are also actually destroying vast quantities of fruit, and creating mountains of surplus meat, butter, cheese and wine – all in the name of protecting the prices of these goods on the local market. “Protecting the prices?” What is this strange idea which is permeating the Earth at this time? The Martian may well ask.

But that’s enough of nourishment. What of health? Surely, the Martian believes, this is just straightforward progress; and indeed it is. Medical research is healthy. It has its ups and downs, but look at the great steps forward: the stamping out of smallpox, the control of malaria, and the progress in cancer research. There’s nothing wrong with their scientists. The basic necessities for good health are understood by most of the world, and education programmes are sending tentacles into the far corners of the earth. People are living longer, healthier lives as time progresses.

But now what are they doing? In Africa there is talk of controlling the rising population because they cannot feed themselves; while in Malaysia they try to increase their numbers in order to step up demand and increase production. And in Europe and Japan, the sharp drop in birth rates has stunned them into realising that their biggest problem will be the support of their aged.

“Perhaps they’ll learn in time,” the Martian hopes, “to learn from and help each other.”

But even in the field of education he can see such vast anomalies from his perch in the satellite, that he wonders where it will all end.

On that minute little isle, Great Britain, the Martian witnesses with astonishment the closure of advanced faculties in world-renowned universities. They throw teachers and professors out of fruitful employment and turn away potential students with adequate qualifications – even medical students. Why? For the sake of economy – money – prices.

What is this strange commodity which is of such importance to those earthlings – so important that it transcends even the priorities of nourishment and education?

And at the same time in Africa they are frantic in their efforts to build more university colleges, provide more education at all levels for their people; their people who cannot get places at home, and yet who are prevented from filling those “empty” ones overseas, because the prices of the courses have been elevated to far beyond their resources.

Money, economics, inflation, interest rates, loans. The Martian does not really understand all these words, even though he’s been reading them over the shoulders of the earthlings for some time now. He wonders if the people themselves really know what they’re talking about.

“They’ve tied themselves up in knots,” he concludes.

But wait… what’s this: A bank gone bust in the US? Now there’ll be panic – or will it be covered up? The Martian remembers something like this happening in the 1920s. He wonders as he turns his satellite away and boosts it off into space, if the earthlings will ever learn.

In the meantime he prepares his report, and as a final recommendation considers that perhaps another monitoring exercise need not be planned for at least two earth-centuries. By that time, maybe, Man will have learned to pool his resources and be in a consolidated position to undertake negotiations with Outer Space. Or he might have blown his world apart in a nuclear war. But this item was not, thankfully, among the Martian’s terms of reference.

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