Saturday, 13 December 2008

The Rats and the Race

People essentially don’t learn. In fact it would seem that people don’t even listen to themselves when they speak: open mouth, not bothering to engage brain and see what happens. Allow me, if you will, to set the scene.
The Prestige was the name of the tanker. It wasn’t really fit to sail, but due to the companies involved wanting maximum profit and minimum costs, it was decided to send it off anyway with instructions to hug the coast in case of emergency, thus allowing for an easy rescue. The theory was that all the while the boat was off the Iberian coast there wasn’t much to worry about. However, the proprietor of the boat obviously hadn’t looked into the fact that ‘Costa Da Morte’ translates as the Coast Of Death due to the fact that it is an extremely dangerous coast to sail even under the most favourable conditions. This meant that coast hugging here was going to cause an accident and, true to form, it did. One tanker full of oil belched and vomited its entire contents all over the Galician coast, the slick extending to France and down the coast of Portugal: an ecological disaster of epic proportions. There were fishermen out of work, thousands of volunteers to help clean the beaches, people coming from all over Spain and for that matter, the world, just to help with the huge mess that had been caused by this disaster.
Many grand words were spoken by politicians, many beautiful promises were made, and the population at large became avid eco-warriors: or so it would seem. The devastation caused by the accident and then subsequent cleaning was immense, entire ecosystems were wiped out and it was estimated that various rare species were completely wiped out by the oil. We were all totally informed, and the news spoke about little else for the most part of three months. Continual stories about this fisherman that would now have nearly nothing to live on, the villages that were now totally out of work, the scientists that spoke of how long it would take to recover. The message seemed to be universal. This sort of thing should never happen again, and the blackened Galician flag would be a symbol and constant reminder of the damage done.
Human memory is a fickle thing, the news eventually died down, the beaches eventually filled up with tourists again, the fishermen went back out to fish, and the lesson had been fully and properly learnt. Or had it?
Fast-forward to this past weekend. We had gone out to visit family on the Asturian (Northern Spanish Coast for all you geography buffs) coast in a little fishing port called Luarca. It is a pretty little place full of quaint little boats bobbing around, moored up to the quayside. A big fishing market next to one of the last remaining lighthouses makes for a chocolate box cover seaside view. The beaches are granite and so the sand is a dusty black colour, soft as down to the touch, leading up to a small rickety path that winds up to the impressive views from the cemetery on the looming cliff ridge that overlooks it all. There is a small tidal canal that runs all the way through the town; home to hundreds of seagulls feeding on the fish that swim amongst the rubbish.
Rubbish. Nappies, coke cans, rusty shopping trollies, plastic bags, rotting fishing nets, broken forgotten toys from long gone visitors. All of the pain, all of the shouting, all of the hubbub, tears and commotion, for what?
It would seem that our collective reality is based entirely upon what is on the news. We base everything we know on what we are told by two people on a nightly show on TV. Once it is out of sight it is indeed out of mind. The human race only cares about impressing the neighbours. We have become totally shallow, the ultimate in throw away culture, the gone-tomorrow people, those who no longer even have the will to care.
If you say it, mean it, if you want to, do it, if you have the notion, make it happen. The road to hell isn’t paved with good intentions, it is paved with the meaningless words, the chest beating rebel rousing speeches, the ‘would if I could but I can’t’ attitude. We’re getting there people, but this is a one way ticket, last stop chaos.