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Useful And Fantastic: Jonathan Swift's 20th Century Journal

Val Yule presents a distopian view of present-day human affairs.

What childish and malevolent gods instigated the events reported during the twentieth century? "Whom the gods destroy, they first make mad." Has the beginning of this century been any better?

An illustration showed a piece of highly expensive military hardware moving through an Eritrean landscape turning to desert as its last stunted trees went for firewood, in a country spending millions buying MiG 23 fighter jets. Argentinian police wore pantaloon fancy dress with headbags as they made a brutal arrest. The Jews with their long history of expulsions from almost everywhere, were at work in Israel and Palestine expelling others from their homes.

The names I could hardly invent. In Nigeria General Olusegun Obasanjo was having a challenge with General Abdulsalam Abubakar. In Israel, Dahlia Rabin-Philosof and Ronnie Milo were protesting against the demands of the ultra-orthodox, who were running pray-ins to support their claims. The Argentinians have a police station at Moron. Zimbabwe student leader is Learnmore Jongwe.

An art forger's 'Alice in Wonderland' defence involved shady arms deals, international intrigue and complex conspiracy theories, as he made millions from art dealers' inability to distinguish pictures 'worth' millions from pictures worth nothing. There was Zippergate in USA; in France youngsters imitated the US President Clinton’s offensive behaviour in a computer game.

A box office success was a film that plays pretend games about the Holocaust. One lone ex-smoker won $51.5 million damages from a tobacco company. A possibly lethal genetical engineering biotechnology is is asked to be allowed in the interests of free trade, and patents are being granted for life-forms that have existed free for thousands of years.

The Chinese are having economic problems ironically, exacerbated because people want to spend rather than save. A few dozen speculators can wreck the global economy.

but if they devalue, a few dozen speculators may move in and the whole global economy can go crackers.

Surely it is time for our writers and artists to stop embroiling themselves in perpetuating our madness and to start imagining ways out of the mess we have created.


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