Friday, August 19, 2005


There was a smart-looking gent behind me at lunch showing off his erudition in hushed patrician tones to a pair of lesser mortals at the same table, which involved saying "extraawdinary" quite a lot. I was trying to read at the time, so his discourse generally manifested itself as a distracting low-frequency buzz in my right ear, but I did tune in when he explained that the difference between the British Empire and its modern American equivalent in Iraq is the willingness of the invading nation to export significant proportion of its own middle-classes to run the colonial bureaucracy.

About the same time, and back on the page, Haruki Murakami was referencing Rousseau's observation that civilisation begins when people start erecting fences. In the past month our own civilisation has debated whether to construct a whole new set of fences around its chief competitors, but perhaps we ought to be considering whether the situation would improve if we actually decommissioned some of those that already define the boundaries between ourselves and the others.

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