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Farts and Fanatics

The two main front-page stories in my newspaper this morning tell us something of the Human Condition, though I’m damned if I know what it is.

One was of an American space probe that may have found signs of life on Mars.  Some readers no doubt will find this news exciting, even if the only evidence so far is of a fart, or as the prissy American space agency NASA prefers to put it, a burp.  (As the source is methane gas, I think fart is the more appropriate word, but that is a minor quibble.)

Fart or burp, the expulsion is a little disappointing to space travel enthusiasts who may have been hoping that the probe would be greeted by little green men with antennae led by one demanding “take me to your leader”.


The other story told of an attack on a school in Peshawar, Pakistan by Taliban suicide bombers and gunmen, who left 132 pupils and several teachers dead and many injured.  Those who survived the bombs detonated in the playground were sought out and shot systematically in cold blood.  A spokesman for the Taliban said the attack on the school, which was attended by children of military personnel, was a reprisal for the killing of Jihadists by the Pakistani army.

So there we have it laid bare, the two faces of a coin representing the conflicting aspirations of mankind.  On the one side, teams of brilliant scientists in one country, backed by billions of dollars of public money, bent on exploring the frontiers of space in the name of progress; on the other, gangs of religious fanatics in another place mowing down children in the name of a religion that is bent on taking us all back to the Dark Ages of ignorance and fear enforced by repression.    

In between those two stories, by the way, another front-page piece concerns a rival religion, the Church of England, apparently ‘poised’ to announce the end of centuries of male domination of its hierarchy by appointing its first female bishop.  Trust the dear old CofE to carve a spot between two extremes, combining progress (of sorts) from an ancient prejudice.  But that is by the by.

Neither space exploration nor religion bring the slightest relevance to the problems of an over-populated and polluted planet hurtling towards its own destruction, but to point that out is merely to state the obvious.  The obvious is something that the world could well ponder, but doing so lies beyond the realm of sophisticated discourse, relegated to the status of a naïve waste of intelligence.  

I know that.  I just thought I would just use the opportunity of sounding off anyway.

Perhaps, one day in the not-too-distant future, those little green men will indeed appear – in which case I can only hope that they will come down to earth in some Spielberg-imagined flying saucer to sort out that which we have been rendered incapable of doing on our own. 

I can’t wait.

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