Thursday, July 23, 2009

Shit happens

Something big and nasty can screw up when you're least expecting it. Incidentally, concerning the title of the present article, click here to see an excellent page of multifarious evocations of this short statement of wisdom. Over the last day or so, it has happened (that's to say, shit happened) twice on a large scale, on both sides of the Atlantic.

Shit in the USA. In Cambridge, Massachusetts, police arrested a black man when they found him trying to force open the door of a house in a nice neighborhood. It turned out that the black man in question was merely trying to open the door of his own house. Worse still (for the dumb cops), the black culprit, named Henry Louis Gates, happens to be a distinguished scholar at Harvard.

Barack Obama was greatly irritated by this stupid incident.

Shit in France. The French Foreign Legion looks great when they parade on the Champs-Elysées on Bastille Day. These smart soldiers are not quite so friendly when they decide to practice shooting on the outskirts of the great Mediterranean metropolis of Marseille using tracer cartridges, in which combustible chemicals leave a visible trail of fire. In this way, it would appear that mindless légionnaires sparked off a bushfire that created havoc in the suburbs of Marseille.

True enough, shit happens. Once upon a time, people believed in the spontaneous generation of living entities from non-living matter. According to theories of spontaneous generation, complex forms of life can be generated by decaying organic substances. After all, Aristotle believed that putrid matter could produce fleas, dirty hay could give rise to mice, and rotting logs in lagoons could create crocodiles. Today, we've evolved considerably. Whenever shit happens, there's a golden rule for honorable detectives: Cherchez le shitter!

BREAKING NEWS: Barack Obama has just expressed his opinion:
"I continue to believe, based on what I have heard, that there was an overreaction in pulling Professor Gates out of his home to the station. I also continue to believe, based on what I heard, that Professor Gates probably overreacted as well."
The president might have mentioned a third over-reactor: himself. And, while we're at it, maybe I should include myself as yet another excessive observer in the chain reaction. These days, whenever we're tempted to comment about anything, we're inevitably doing so without sufficient information, or sufficient expertise. In such a situation, once again, as Obama discovered, a little bit of shit is often just hanging around there, waiting to happen.

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