Hosni Mubarak is a natural-born opinion-splitter
Like a boxer's punch, the ability to inflame opinion is often the last remaining weapon in the fallen despot's arsenal. Hosni Mubarak, the former 29-time Egyptian President Of The Year, has this week had the world bickering over whether or not (and to what extent) he is or isn't still alive, just as, for so many years, he had had the self-same planet squabbling over whether or not (and to what extent) he was or wasn't a goodie or a baddie.
America seemed to view him predominantly as a valuable ally, if a flawed leader. The Egyptian legal system recently convicted him of being slightly more than flawed. Tony Blair ‒ a man who himself does not merely split opinion, but slathers it with ice cream and pops a glacé cherry on top ‒ described the ailing sphinx fan, 84, as "immensely courageous and a force for good", even as Mubarak's own people were taking to the streets to bombard him with significantly less complimentary messages.
Compromises were made, human rights glitches overlooked, as Mubarak's Egypt played a crucial role in maintaining the delicate status quo in the Middle East. One man's crackpot dictator is another man's bulwark against chaos. In fact, he can be, and often is, the same man's crackpot and bulwark. Mubarak, and many others from the same leadership stable, highlighted how international politics is an unending game of high-stakes Jenga, which explains why America and Britain viewed him much as most ordinary people would view being whacked in the face with a toy hippo ‒ not ideal, but could have been worse. We could have been whacked in the face with a real hippo, carrying an anvil.
Even from beyond the grave, if and when he ever officially resides there, Hosni Mubarak will continue to polarise opinion like a man painting a bear head to toe in Tippex.
[You can follow Hosni's is-he-isn't-he saga on his official Twitter feed, @HosniMooBoo.]
Human beings prefer football to the prospect of environmental Armageddon
This week's Rio+20 Summit, which has kicked off in the now traditional cavalcade of gloom, has not captured the public imagination here in Britain quite as much as the England football team's heroic efforts to stodge-fluke their way to glory in Euro 2012.
Before the summit began its crucial negotiations over what sort of negotiations to negotiate over in the coming years, a panel of Nobel laureates, ministers and scientists issued a declaration stating that human society is "on the edge of a threshold of a future with unprecedented environmental risks".
The sceptic lobby hit back with its usual snappy rejoinder: "Nah, it's fine." Besides, history shows that being on the threshold of something nasty is not always enough to prompt evasive action. Therefore, being on the edge of the threshold of something nasty is even less likely to catapult us all into a new green future of envirosociologicopoliticoeconomicoscientific responsibility.
Moreover, the use of the word "risks" suggests that there is still a chance that everything might be fine. Until those risks become annihilative certainties, and until we pull back our curtains in the morning to see polar bears wrestling penguins on our front lawns, many will remain doubtful of the need to take costly long-term action, the benefits of which we are unlikely to still be alive to appreciate.
In any case, a powerful international lobby remains to be convinced of the economic benefits of saving the planet. Looking at the state of Europe at the moment, they may have a point. Fiscally, Armageddon makes reasonable sense. And the football is on. For which we should all be truly thankful. Football is more fun than ecological brinkmanship, as the TV viewing figures will testify.
Human beings prefer football to the prospect of paying tax
Britain has been rocked by yet more tax aversion scandals this week. After a slew of allegations over recent years that various significant donors to, government advisers appointed by, former treasurers of, and businesses swooned at by, the Conservative Party had been less than entirely patriotic in their tax affairs, Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron felt duty bound to preserve his beloved Inland Revenue's dignity, and lambast comedian Jimmy Carr for being less than entirely patriotic in his tax affairs.
Most human beings are congenitally tax-averse. It probably goes back to cavemen and cavewomen having 25% of their children eaten by dinosaurs (50% in larger families). The problem is exacerbated by the fact that we do not introduce our children to tax at a young age. We introduce them to football, and they learn to love it. So too music, food, choo-choo-trains and pulling silly faces. If only we had the moral courage to discuss the ethics and practicalities of taxation with our children ‒ ideally whilst still in the womb, if not earlier ‒ then more of our rich and famous might grow up to be better disposed towards the Inland Revenue, our much-abused modern-day Robin Hood.
Andy Zaltzman is one half of the worldwide hit satirical podcast The Bugle, alongside John Oliver from The Daily Show With Jon Stewart.
Andy is touring the UK with Armchair Revolutionary and performing Political Animal at the Soho Theatre. For tickets and info follow @hellobuglers
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