Dreams have a distressing habit of turning into nightmares - depending on the day's events, recurring stress levels, and other psycho-phenomena nobody quite understands. And dreams, if one is not careful with the manner in which one manages reality, can readily deteriorate into that reality.
So there I was one fine day in the week gone by, day-dreaming of avoiding three contemporary scenarios in which I'd rather be anywhere else but there! (Well, with the possible exception of Haiti, which the universe seems to hate.)
One, a financial hub whose grandiose dreams of unlimited wealth for the greediest are rapidly going from bad to worse. Two, a staid cosmopolitan capital whose worst nightmare became true for a week or more. Three, an imaginary country where mistakes are not made, then made up, and subsequently made a right royal mess of.
A City in distress
For the first time in its financial history since 1917, its sovereign rating was downgraded from the much vaunted AAA to a (by its erstwhile standards) measly AA+. While the ramifications of this kick downstairs are largely for corporate entities, there is no denying that average consumers too will eventually suffer the fallout.
What is more worrying for those in the world's only extant superpower is its burgeoning debt burden. When its government talks about a fiscal deficit of US$ 1.7 trillion, that's the quantity of greenbacks the treasury borrowed in 2010 to run the country. To put it in perspective: if you spent US$ 1 million a day since 1 January AD 1, you could not have spent a trillion dollars by today! This pales into insignificance when one considers the gargantuan volume of 15 trillion dollars. That is what US national debt - literally its unpaid credit bill - will look like by the end of this year… if the government doesn't fix its budget.
A Town in flames
After some 25 years since the last such incident, one of the planet's most ancient capital cities - proud of its sense of peace and order - fell into the pit of anarchy for several turbulent days… In which rioters looted and pillaged, and arsonists battered and burned, while an under-fire on all sides police force was hard-pressed not to arrest more than their cells could hold.
Everyone from Bobbies on their doubled up beat to a frantic returning premier who cut short his summer vacation had a theory as to why the violence occurred and how rapidly it spread (like London's long-ago plague, really) into outlying boroughs and distant metropolises alike. A moral vacuum, apathetic government, unpunished police brutality, inner city vandalism giving vent to economic frustration, hooliganism that sought opportunity in chaos highlighting the worst in human nature, the existential angst of a lost generation…
Now, and not without a sense of irony, certain people in parts of the Commonwealth are watching to see if the Brit government will deny any wrongdoing on its part, or that of its legal agents. More so whether a Channel 4-type exposé will emerge to critique and condemn the regime in power, or the international community raise a stink about the state of that nation. Least of all if a scurrilous filmmaker will denounce the incumbent administration, and provoke the powers that be to manufacture a spurious tape of their own?
A Square on the hypotenuse
In the final, bitter, brutal stages of a battle against terrorism, a republic which shall remain nameless launched a concerted attack on the beleaguered guerrillas fighting a losing war. In the process, civilian lives were rumoured lost (no reporting was possible then) in a way that left no one in doubt that the cost in terms of collateral damage was counted insufficient to exercise caution. War is all hell, and the western observers may have been much less cynical or critical had the state in case admitted that mistakes had been made in the heat of the moment. They, too, have fought shameful campaigns with superior weapons against ultranationalist opponents, and rued the day they took them on.
But no. Staunch denial of civilian casualties - an official stance maintained for over two years - brought hostile reactions mixed with disbelief at this tiny island-nation's incredible naïveté. Now, a belated admission that civilian lives were indeed lost has unleashed the dogs of the propaganda war, both home and abroad. It may be why warplanes from the city in distress above allegedly invade our airspace - or, at least, our flight information region - with impunity. And it might be the reason for the town in flames to turn down request after reasonable request for visas on the part of a cross section of islanders.
Give me a choice and I'll take the island any day. Because while the city dreams and the town sleeps, at least the islanders can still hope to wake from the nightmare they don't know yet they're having. Into a day and age when, finally, it's hip to be square.