The greatest ever #Fail?


What are the candidates for humanity’s biggest #fail? I don’t mean pratfalls off roofs or bicycles, I mean those really epic, cinema-scope sized failures that change the course of history.

There would be some religious ones. Adam’s #fail in the Garden of Eden had real consequences. And the Crucifixion? Wouldn’t the last two thousand years have been a lot more humane, a lot more jolly, if it hadn’t started so agonizingly?

In this country, Vortigern’s bad judgement stands out. He was the king of the Britons whose bright idea was to ask the Saxons For help. How wasn’t that going to end badly?

And, for goodness sake, what were we thinking of when we asked Charles II to come back? We so nearly became a progressive state, and here we are four centuries later drooling over a piece of foolscap paper on an easel in a palace yard because a new prince has been born.

My candidate for the greatest #fail of them all though is happening right now. It’s our complete failure to take any sensible collective action in the face of climate change. As the nice chap in the Age of Stupid says “We could have saved ourselves, but we didn’t. It’s amazing. What state of mind were we in, to face extinction and simply shrug it off? ”

A review of Farisa Khalid’s book Institutionalising Unsustainability started me thinking about this. It’s a serious study of the way that our national and international institutions have signally failed to rise to the challenge of global warming. Worse than that, on her analysis they have provided cover for damaging behaviour on a global scale. Internationally she argues that:

“The present system induces states to comply with global norms in ways that actually exacerbate unsustainable development. By shifting attention away from historical emissions to future emissions, and from domestic mitigation to transnational mitigation efforts, a technical representation of the climate change problem has been institutionalized.”

Looking at case studies in Australia, India and Spain she reports on clear signs of disastrous climate change and contrasts them with the sluggish responses of the governments involved.

If she sees hope it is not in ‘state elites and bureaucrats’ it is in the direct action of smaller groups and individuals. The reviewer calls these local initiatives a ‘sliver’ of hope – but in the face of such a monumental failure you can’t help but feel he is being very optimistic.

The greatest ever #Fail?

Imagining America


We were in the West of Ireland recently and travelled to the island of Valentia almost at the furthermost point of the Ring of Kerry. The legend has it that Brendan sailed from this coastline:
‘he built a coracle of wattle, covered it with hides tanned in oak bark softened with butter, set up a mast and a sail, and after a prayer upon the shore, embarked in the name of the Trinity. For seven years he voyaged to find the Promised Land of the saints.’

Sometimes, when we looked out over the Atlantic, the grey emptiness, the seas that would move great boulders on the beaches, made this seem impossible. On other days, though, seeing the islands stretching one after another, into the blue distance, it became easy to imagine a group of monks moving with a careless, wondering, serious intent, from one island to another, sailing further and further westward, lured on the by the expectation of just one more island until they reached America itself.


Imagining America