And he would have pleaded for patience.
By calling it a crisis, Bush and Paulson cashed in more political capital than they had, and they made themselves a target for contrarians and skeptics. Tuesday morning quarterbacking? The market is up, as of this writing, on hopes that a bailout plan will eventually pass.
People want to hear good news, and a resolute, unified face in Washington would be a welcome turn. Before European colonization, Marshallese navigators routinely sailed dugout canoes across vast stretches of open water, landing precisely on the only atoll for hundreds or even thousands of miles. They did so through a system that anthropologists call wave piloting. Instead of relying on the stars to find their way, wave pilots steer by the feeling of the ocean itself.
Over the last years, wave piloting was nearly lost. The only sounds were waves slapping against wet sand, the breeze rustling through palm fronds, the delicate crackling of a coconut-shell fire. And then he would tell stories about sailing, about flying on the wind, about surviving long and difficult journeys.
The island where Alson lived, Bikini, was a hub of traditional Marshallese navigation. In the old days, young men and women learning wave piloting would spend hours floating in the ocean blindfolded, memorizing the minute sensations of waves, currents and swells beneath them. Later, if they became disoriented at sea, they could close their eyes and use the reflections and refractions of waves to determine the direction of land.
For generations, these skills were guarded like a family heirloom. But in the first half of the 20th century, under German, Japanese and eventually American occupation, they began to decline.
Bikini, once a stronghold of sailing culture, became the center of nuclear testing by the United States. Between and , the United States detonated 67 atomic bombs in the area. Across the world, equally sophisticated navigational systems have been pushed out by technology or lost through cultural oppression.
But Alson had spent his whole life dreaming of canoes. How could Marshallese stick charts, for instance—made without GPS or compasses or even sextants—show the location of far-flung islands with almost precise latitudinal accuracy?
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Huth and the other Western scientists are trying to understand the oceanography, wave dynamics, climatology and physics of wave piloting. Korent describes four main ocean swells, for example, while most sailors in the region can only sense one or two. Even computerized buoys dropped in the ocean fail to pick up the minute sensations Korent uses to navigate. As sea levels rise, life in the Marshall Islands is becoming increasingly precarious. More than a third of the population—some 25, Marshallese—have already emigrated to the United States, and the number is likely to grow. Most climate experts predict that global sea-level rise will render the Marshall Islands uninhabitable by the end of this century.
A couple of years ago, I was commissioned by the ill-fated John Kennedy Jr to write a piece for his political magazine George on the enmity that exists between the French and the British. I tried to downplay this antipathy like the good little pro-European that I am, arguing that, while historically our nations may have been at one another's throats, in successive decades since the end of the Second World War we have seen the rotting away of whatever flesh remains on the skeletons in the attic of Anglo-French relations.
Nevertheless, if not exactly throwing myself into the research, I did, in a peculiar reversal of Des Esseinte's voyage in Joris Karl Huysman's A Rebours , take the Eurostar to Paris and, in a brasserie within pissing distance of the Gare du Nord, have lunch with Stephen Jessel, at that time the BBC's France correspondent. Jessel was dapper, emollient, engaged.
We ate a decent franc prix fixe lunch. While he discoursed on social mores, the corrupt practices required to obtain a Paris apartment, the clique of intellectuals, the claque of politicians, my head swam - it was all too Gallic for words.
Within hours, I was heading back to Waterloo, convinced that I'd made a great escape. In London, I spoke with Marcel Berlins, the journalist and legal commentator who, although raised in South Africa, is Provencal by birth. Berlins is the most peculiar of Anglo-French chimeras.
He left Paris after les evenements - cultured by many layers of disaffection - and, during 30 years of trans-Manche exile, he has become an ambulatory oxymoron: a French cricketer. Berlins was forthright about Anglo-French relations: "They hate the British because they can't face up to how many of them were collaborators in the war. It's a thoroughly discreditable episode in French history, and it's still hugely present.
Obviously, civil discourse needs two participants, and the commenter may not comply, but Scripture demands that we at least try to respectfully persuade our opponents. Also, the multicultural goal of educating our students to be sensitive members of a diverse world can be approached with an in depth study of the Republic since the Republic is centered around a rational discussion of many relevant social and moral issues, towards which the contemporary interpretive focus on race, class, and gender issues can be turned. Over the years, he also has presented his own monologues as Judas for Good Friday and John the Baptist for other occasions. Because neither classics alone nor multicultural works alone help students overcome this problem, they recommend an integrated core of courses that relate the basic issues and ideas of "seven areas of in quiry The writer in the Wall Street Journal who quoted the statement from the Stanford pro fessors in charge of the revised reading list expressed bewilder ment about the meaning of the phrase.
The piece never got written. Instead of a little light divertissement on Franglais and the Norman conquest, I found myself staring into the eye sockets of a severed, rotting horse's head, dragged up from the muddy waters of the recent past and entwined with fat, ugly eels of political reality. Not the kind of thing that plays in Peoria, where - as we all know - the destination "Paris" must needs be qualified with "France". Patrick Marnham had no such qualms.