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6 November 2012
The United States is voting today to elect a new president.
There are 310 million US citizens, of which roughly 215 million are eligible to vote.
The world population is 7 000 million.
One way or another, the result of the election in the United States will have an impact on the population of the world.
Yet only 215 million people – less than 3 per cent of the world’s population – are eligible to take part in this election.
Doesn’t seem right, somehow.
That said, however, marking our distance from the ongoing media frenzy, let us not exaggerate.
Whichever candidate – Obama or Romney – wins the US presidential election today, the world will go on, more or less, as it always has done.
Whatever, America thinks, the US is not the only pebble on the beach.
It will continue to have to moderate its realpolitik to take account of the wishes of the rest of the shingle (China, Russia, India, Brazil, etc).
Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.
We should also perhaps reflect on the fact that in five, ten years’ time this election and its outcome will be a dusty file in the annals of American politics.
By then the world will have moved on, new flashpoints will be the order of the day and many of today’s familiar faces will have faded into oblivion.
George McGovern died last month.
George McGovern, who he?
Well might you ask.
McGovern was the Democratic Party’s unsuccessful candidate against “Trickie Dickie” Richard Nixon in the 1972 US presidential election.
McGovern was big in America in his time – until he wasn’t.
So let’s not get too excited about these seemingly earth-shattering political armageddons.
In any case, at a personal level, the outcome of the election will scarcely matter to anybody. Most of us will go on without interruption living the lives we have always led with hardly a change, if any. We shall get up in the morning, go to work, come home again, eat dinner and go to bed. None of this will alter.
So let us not exaggerate the importance of the vote that is taking place today in America.
It is, of course, of mega significance to the political groupies and wannabes that infest the body politic.
But it is of relative unimportance to the rest of us.
Let us keep things in perspective.
The universe was created with a Big Bang 13 billion years ago.
Thirteen, you may recall, is an unlucky number. Maybe it’s all been a bit of a mistake.
Within the universe, the Milky Way galaxy, which contains our sun, is roughly 100 000 light years in diameter and contains between 200 and 400 billion stars.
One only of those stars is our sun.
The sun is 1.4 million kilometres in diameter. Its heat comes from nuclear fusion reactions deep inside its interior, where the temperature is 15 million degrees C. The surface temperature of the sun is just below 6 000 degrees C.
The earth, one of the planets that orbits the sun, is a mere 12 756 kilometres in diameter.
After splintering off from the sun, the earth has existed for four and a half billion years.
Homo sapiens herself/himself has existed for around a mere one million years.
Even taking into account the advances of modern medicine, the life of man is at best a hundred years, give or take a few.
Taking all this into account, therefore, I suggest we put today’s US presidential election into perspective.
As the ancient Greek poet Pindar (518-438 BC) said in his Pythian Odes (Book 8, line 135):
ἐπάμεροι. τί δέ τις; τί δ᾽ οὔ τις; σκιᾶς ὄναρ ἄνθρωπος.
Here today, gone tomorrow! What is anyone? What is he not? Man is but a dream of a shadow .
The titans of today, like the rest of us, tomorrow will be dust and ashes.
Here are lines 181 to 204 of a poem in Castilian – Coplas por la muerte de su padre Don Rodrigo (Stanzas on the death of his father, Don Rodrigo) – written by Jorge Manrique, who lived from 1440 to 1479. The prose translation, published in the 1960 edition of The Penguin Book of Spanish Verse (1960 edition), is by J.M. Cohen.
¿Qué se hizo el rey don Juan?
Los infantes de Aragón
¿qué se hicieron?
¿Qué fue de tanto galán,
qué fue de tanta invención
Las justas y los torneos,
¿fueron sino devaneos?
¿qué fueron sino verduras
de las eras?
¿Qué se hicieron las damas,
sus tocados, sus vestidos,
¿Qué se hicieron las llamas
de los fuegos encendidos
¿Qué se hizo aquel trovar,
las músicas acordadas
¿Qué se hizo aquel danzar,
aquellas ropas chapadas
What has become of the King Don Juan? The princes of Aragon, where are they? What has become of all those gallants? What has become of the many innovations they brought? The jousts and tourneys, ornaments, embroideries, and crests, were they only an imagination? What were they but the grass of the threshing-floors?
What has become of the ladies, of their head-dresses, their robes and their scents? What has become of the flames of the fires the lovers lit? What of all that playing, and of the harmonious music that they made? What has become of that dancing, and of the beautiful dresses that they wore?
As for Romney or Obama, frankly, if one takes the long view, what does it matter?
For our brief assessment of the two main candidates in the US presidential election, check out our post “A plague o’ both your houses!” published on 2 November 2012.
You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts. For instance:
1. Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)
2. Partitocracy v. Democracy (20 July 2012)
3. The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)
4. Capitalism in practice (4 July 2012)
5.Ladder (21 June 2012)
6. A tale of two cities (1) (6 June 2012)
7. A tale of two cities (2) (7 June 2012)
8. Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)
Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.