“Not many lives have lasting legends
Though most are important to the ‘liver’
To all-forgiving the Messiah bends
And God blesses the forgiver
My grouse with our present age my friends
Is that triviality steals
All significance as humanity sends
Photographs of each other’s meals….”
From Hunji the German Sikh by Bachchoo
Friends. aliens, countrymen, I am taking this public opportunity to declare a conversion of belief. I renounce my cynical belief which hitherto took into account the cost of windfarms, the ugliness of the Quixotian giants and the threat to flying species by the fans driven by the unreliable wind.
As for solar panels, the paucity of sunshine in the sceptred isles of the United Kingdom where I partially reside was a factor fuelling my scepticism. This was coupled with the fact that in certain countries where the garnering of solar power was subsidised by the state, huge scams to gather money rather than energy have been unearthed.
Let’s imagine that the political parties facing an imminent election in a country, which shall remain nameless, choose to promise subsidies to firms, corporations and individuals installing solar-power-gathering devices. Imagine the corruption that would follow — mega bucks in pockets rather than mega-watts in power stations.
Then there was my contempt for wave power. Unharnessable.
I confess I once toyed with the idea of inventing pavements which turned human footsteps through converting pounded pressure into the whirling of dynamos. (still copyright F. Dhondy so don’t even think about it!).
By now, gentle reader, it may have crossed your mind that I have succumbed to the powerful arguments for limiting carbon emissions and saving the planet from climate change. You will be wrong. My scepticism has been swept aside by no such consideration. I haven’t turned coal-oil-and-gas-fuel sceptic through any material or ecological consideration My conversion, prompted by the nastiest announcement of this week (no, nothing to do with Brexit or the rivalries of the Indian election) is concern for civilisation on our planet. It comes with the realisation that the nastiest regimes or partial regimes on earth owe their influence on our hunger for oil and combustible gas.
Take Saudi Arabia. Before the discovery of vast reserves of oil on its soil, these Wahabi fanatics had no levers to interfere in and disrupt the Islamic world with wars and dissension and with terrorism in the Western world. Oil has given them vast funds and the impunity to buy arms, to fuel the property markets and the hotel, casino, alcohol and prostitute economies of the West.
It has given them the ability to buy lethal weaponry from Europe and the United States and wage wars and kill thousands of people in Yemen. It has supplied them with the impunity to kill dissidents and then pay their families hush money and use the leverage of their arms contracts with the UK and the US to silence any opposition or critically crucial international protest.
The madrasas and mosques they finance distort the message of Islam and pervert the role of that religion and its adherents throughout the world.
And now the fanatics of Brunei, an isolated non-Arab land of converts to Islam, have announced that they will immediately implement their version of Sharia law which entitles the state to judge the acts of sexual or even romantic contact between consenting adults.
The law this week prescribes stoning to death for the supposed sins of adultery and of homosexuality. Male gays are subject to death in this way and lesbians get 40 strokes of the whip.
I don’t understand and am asking my scholarly Islamic friends to explain why this barbaric punishment, taken from the Old Testament book of Leviticus 20: 10 has been adopted by this interpretation of Islamic law. Surely the Prophet Muhammad enjoined his followers to respect the teachings of Issah-al-e-salam, Jesus Christ who is the one prophet most mentioned in the Quran. It was Issah who said “let him who is without sin cast the first stone!”
Doesn’t this very directive apply to Sultan Hassan-al-Bolkiah and to the citizens of Brunei who will pick up these stones to “cast” them? Without sin?
Besides, in this day and age, what does the state of Brunei propose to do? This week Sri Lanka advertised the job of a hangman. Forty-seven people applied. The state says it intends to pick two to do the job. What does Brunei propose? Will they advertise the job of “stoners”? How many will they recruit and will they be on a weekly salary or paid by the task and perhaps some assessment of their enthusiasm for it?
The laws that come into operation this week in Brunei, some of which are actively operative in Saudi Arabia already, prescribe the cutting off of hands and other mutilatory practices for crimes such as stealing. Will this apply to children stealing a packet of gum? Or to Jean Valjean “liberating” a loaf of bread?
It is a dire prospect and despite protests and virtuous pronouncements, the defenders of democracy and civilisation — the invaders of Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya — will do nothing to overthrow these barbaric regimes. There’s oil in them thar hills!
There is now an attempt by the actor George Clooney, the singer Elton John and others in those sorts of professions to call for a boycott of the hotels that the Sultan of Brunei owns all over the world including, the Dorchester in Park Lane and hotels in Ascot, Los Angeles, Milan, Paris and elsewhere (complete list on the Web, if you’re looking to avoid booking)
Their boycott call may result in travelling celebrities of America booking the next hotel in Park Lane or in Paris. It is not probable that the Saudis or other rich Arabs or the Russian oligarchs who are patrons of these hotels will respond to the gesture.
The only way is zero-priced oil. Alternative energy.
Or, gentle reader, am I whistling in the wind?...