Sunday, August 05, 2007

5th August

Nantucket was very different.
But similar in the sense that it all felt very unreal. As if I was in a theme park.
New York is maybe the scene for a thriller; I guess Nantucket would be the setting for The Stepford Wives.
Everywhere looked exactly the same; and the US flag seemed to be compulsory.
But then everyone looked the same too; for a country that makes such a fuss about its liberty, it manages to impose an amazing level of conformity.
After the first night of the Ring cycle, the space in front of the theatre was full of people trying to sell their tickets for the rest of the week.
Mainly not because they didn't like it or thought it was bad. We used to James Levine, one said - but because it wasn't what they were used to.
It seemed to be demanding that they think about it for themselves, and that made them uneasy.
They'd all applauded the conductor the night before, because he was Gergiev and everyone knows he is a "great conductor" - even though as it happened, he'd conducted really badly.
Because they all make such a fuss about 'freedom of thought' actually most of them seem to love being told what to think.
Patriotism, in especial, seems an utter requirement.
On the Tuesday night in Nantucket we went to a lecture about global warming; and the lecturer very cunningly managed to make it all sound like a challenge to US patriotism and US pride and US 'smarts'.
And she had examples - of the engineers who'd noticed that coke dispensers were very inefficient and had devised a system that would make them use 50% less power. Which was the equivalent of 10 million hours of refrigerator use.
Everything was embued with an astonishing optimism; it is the "fight of our time", "failure is not an option" and it can be won, according to her, without any change in our way of life at all.
She didn't mention - obviously - that it's the American way of life that is largely responsible for the crisis in the first place.
Or that something very strange seems to be happening to the American collective intelligence - the bridge in Minneaplois had been found to be "structurally deficient" and there are apparently 77,000 other bridges in the US in the same state - because they have not been adequately maintained.
Not much sign of American 'smarts' there.


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