Saturday, August 14, 2010


There is a snippet in this morning’s paper that sounds science fiction. In America an x-ray of a man’s lung revealed a spot, so they operated. They found a pea, which he’d swallowed the wrong way. The wonder of it is, it had sprouted. It’s hard to believe, but it is claimed to be true. The life-force is at times miraculous.

Today in 1040 Macbeth killed Duncan to take the throne of Scotland. He ruled for seventeen years. Watching Shakespeare’s play the audience sees a piece of collapsed time – events seem to happen fairly quickly one after other. Some historians claim Shakespeare gave Macbeth a bad press. Never mind, it made good drama.

Today in 1945 was VJ Day. The guns fell silent over the Pacific and Asia. Re-building could start again. One lot of bloodshed was over.

Today in 1947 India and Pakistan (which included Bangladesh) were partitioned. There were massacres, and bloodshed has continued to the present day. It is idle speculation but if partition had not gone ahead?  India is an emerging super-power. Would it have been stronger as one country on the sub-continent? Or would it have been so riven by religious strife as to be relatively non-functional. The historian can only go on what happened.

Pakistan reels from massive floods caused by the heaviest monsoon rain for ages. The poor people. Those up in the mountains face slips and flash-foods as torrents of water rush through the ravines. Many inhabitants are refugees. And the rain continues. Down on the plains and especially in the low-lying Sind area the waters slowly rise.

In the uplands the danger is swift in arrival and non-predictable. Mud, bough and rock are unforgiving. People on the lowlands face a different danger. Death is there in the upward creep of water. The impoverished peasants watch home, village, livestock go under. TV has footage of people unwilling to leave their homes. Understandable. It’s all they’ve got. It’s being claimed that corruption has channelled away much of the money set aside for stop-banks.

And to top it all off there is a war going on just across the border and in the NW hills and mountains and the dispute with India over Kashmir has flared yet again into conflict. On top of nature’s neutrality, we have human cruelty and helplessness. Homelessness, hunger and disease will be around for some considerable time.. That sprouting pea may be symbolic but it is of little comfort in contemplating a disaster of this scale. Recovery will be a slow process. It is ironic that the army raised for fighting is able to assist with damage control and recovery.

Political instability is a worry. Duncan’s killing by an ambitious war-lord is not just the pattern of medieval Scotland.

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