Like other life forms, human beings are machines with only one ultimate purpose: to enable a complex bundle of protein molecules to replicate. Given the way we sometimes act, it would be depressing if this were not the case.
Our first outbreak of robotic, irrational behaviour follows the appearance on YouTube of an inadvertently surreal movie (judging by the ‘trailer’) in which the prophet Mohamed is portrayed as a gay, pedophile, donkey-molesting, etc, etc. Since the publication of the infamous Danish cartoons featuring the prophet, it has become apparent that anyone who wants to can trigger mass, mouth-frothing, frenzied, violent freaking-out by Middle Eastern Muslim men simply by publicizing the slightest insult against the man who founded the Islamic faith. Say what you want about Jesus or Buddha, and no-one takes any notice; disrespect Moha, and you get almost instant bearded insanity. The tricky bit must be actually getting the insult noticed, but once you get the required attention it’s like pressing a button and setting an atom bomb off.
As with the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands dispute, which leads certain normally mild-mannered Beijing folk to go nuts and attack sushi restaurants and patriotically pirate Japanese porn videos, this collective madness is abnormal. Most Muslims can’t be goaded into screeching, burning and killing over a film or a drawing. Those who can are doing so because it is politically convenient for someone that they do.
Our second outbreak of mob-craziness is the imminent international orgy of paid-for overnight queuing, crowding, jostling, line-breaking, impulse-buying, hoarding, re-selling and profiteering – and hype – that is the launch of yet another Apple iPhone. Just months, it seems, since the last one. In Hong Kong, inevitably, the ritualistic scramble for the designer-label fashion accessory has a Mainland dimension to it, so we can add the phrase ‘parallel trading’ to the list of forthcoming excitements.
Getting people rampaging in the streets and destroying foreign property is a good way to divert people’s attention from real problems. It’s easier than saying, “you are all unemployed because this is an Arab country and that’s how things go,” or “yes, it seems Vice-President Xi has now been missing for 12 days.” Where new iPhones are concerned, the beneficiaries make hard cash and are laughing all the way to the bank. Not only Apple shareholders, but manufacturers of components and ingredients like rare earths, who must be giggling in disbelief: “We go to all this trouble to dig up these weird elements, and then just a few months after you buy the toy containing them, you chuck it away, and we have to dig more up.” (That’s an interesting question: what does happen to all the once-coveted old models? Do they gather dust, go to charity, get given to the maid, or are there geological-type layers of them in landfills?)
Oh, classic – the new iPhone needs different-shaped plugs, adapters and all the rest, so users have to buy new accessories too. Apple shareholders must be wetting themselves with gleeful mirth.
I declare the weekend open, and dedicate it to all people recovering from sports-related injuries, strokes, heart attacks or liver surgery, wherever they may be.