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No friend of the masses
Unless they stay on their side of Mandela river


August 22, 2006

Some dear friends invited me once to go on a pro-Palestine or anti-Bush or anti-Israel - some yapping-dogs-versus-civilization event with plenty of red flags - march in London. It was a breezy, lovely day for walking through Hyde Park and along Piccadilly (I miss London's grey skies). I chatted about religion with the mother of a marching friend, a Pakistani lady. She seemed a quintessential believer: with a smiling countenance, all courtesy and kind words. Her personality and conduct were an effortless Amr-e be-Ma'ruf.

Her daughter I believe is now an anchor at BBC World television, reading the news with a sober assurance proper to the BBC. She exudes an air of knowledgeable professionalism, in contrast to the mascara-incrusted glamour of a Rudi Bakhtiar. You half expect Rudi to end her bulletins with "because you're worth it." "FOX NEWS BRINGS YOU - IRAQ ON THE BRINK OF CIVIL WAR - BECAUSE YOU'RE WORTH IT"; I'm Rudi Bakhtiar reporting on the AIDS pandemic - because you're worth it (sudden glance at side camera).

What is Rudi short for - Rudabeh? Was that a name too long for the Americans to fathom, so they had to shorten it, like Bill, Bob, Don, or Randy? Pronouncing several syllables seems to be as irksome to some Americans as walking several steps. I am reminded of those mini-trains they have at Atlanta airport, to help the more elephantine Americans - all 88 million of them - reach their departure gates. The Americans seemingly hate pavements [THAT'S SIDE-WALKS - AHA?], forcing every living creature to drive a SUV - or starve because you failed to access the drive-THRU [THROUGH, THROUGH, THROUGH, you ghastly people] Macdonald's.

The march ended in Trafalgar Square, where some bearded men started screaming their bile-filled views at enthusiastic members of the crowd. I left, and went to the nearby National Gallery, later meeting the friends for tea and hamburgers. I was not going to stand and listen to some rubbish speech denouncing the colonial powers made by people residing in one such colonial power where they enjoy rights, health and social benefits, and the opportunity to work, make money and build a life.

Also I wanted to see some of the aristocrats painted in the National Gallery by Anthony Van Dyck, Reynolds and Gainsborough (for our American readers - Tony, Josh and Tom. They do not have rap names yet like f**k-me-Tony, Big-Bad-Josh or Me-bitch-Tom, so just try and handle the traditional names, if you can). Marvelous aristocrats: all horse-riding, plumes and flourish, until they had their heads chopped off.

The masses can be grateful. I attended the march; nobody can say I am no friend of the masses - provided they stay on their side of Mandela river.

I am now concerned by the ailing health of Fidel Castro. Examining this implausible concern, I concluded it is because at some deeper level - the irrational, romantic level that will not express itself in a straightforward verbal admission, but reveal itself through, say, impulse shopping - we have bought the Castro image: jungle revolutionary, cigar-chomping like some actor or comedian or man-of-the-world, not without humour or occasional bons mots. He was not by a long shot one of the worst dictators of the 20th century, when you recall he was a contemporary of Pol Pot; he has somehow resisted power's absolute corruption. Among communists he is so benign you wonder if he is a communist at all. He prefers, or did, to expend his energies in five-hour speeches, in contrast with a Lenin or Stalin who expressed themselves better through the barrel of a gun. In the documentary "Comandante," the leader entertainingly bares his soul and daily routine to Oliver Stone and a cameraman.

When one suspects Cuba will become another Cancun or Puerto Rico when Castro is gone, full of elephantine Americans coming to waste electricity, drive seven cars each and shout, shout, shout, then one moderates an instinctive joy at the prospects of a democratizing Cuba.

I have developed a fairly vigorous dislike of American tourists after a three-month trip to Mexico, the worst of them congregating in Cancun and the Yucatan peninsula. They have a singular inability to adapt to their surroundings - not that they make any effort to. They march into places demanding their coffee, triple Whopper sandwich with extra cream and Gzonker-size Coke in "English" (as they do in Madrid).

Clearly there are many good Americans, such as: Condi, presidents Nixon, Reagan, Bush I and II, James Baker III, John Bolton, Henry Kissinger, "Rudi" Giuliani, Jackie Stallone and Queen Latifah. They have made a fitting contribution to civilization. Comment

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Alidad Vassigh



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