Random Rants, Raves and Ramblings

The Long March

As a kid I hated going to sleep. Not for the sleeping but for the dreaming. I was scared stiff for all the terrifying or just downright tedious situations I'd land in, pointless fixes that dragged on forever.

Very much so once again last night. I was in a bus heading for Berlin, of all places. I was there with 24 other passengers, all very intent on getting to that destination. The odd thing was, there was no driver. There were twenty-five of them. Each seat sported a steering wheel and pedals. Thus we headed off. The first three quarters of the journey went remarkably well. The bus got onto the motorway and entered Germany after a couple of hours.

When you're in Amsterdam, Berlin is east. When you're in Hannover, Berlin is still east. But Berlin draws closer, while east does not. About a hundred kilometers from our destination, the journey ground to a snail pace and the bus started wandering aimlessly. The consensus had broken down. Not about going to Berlin, but whereabouts Berlin lay. Quite soon, factions formed around going northeast, dead east or southeast.

Well I should say there was a consensus of sorts:

1a) 25 steering wheels was by far the most ethical way of driving a bus, because everyone
    had an equal say in what direction it went.
1b) Because of 1a, every opinion is of equal value.
1c) Changing your opinion is a sign of weakness or hypocrisy or both.

That was when I rummaged through my baggage and produced a map of Germany. People called me a fascist and told me they will not tolerate people who claim to have access to the truth. There was no point in me trying to impress my personal opinion on a whole bus because:

2a) Information is made available for free by specialist information-gatherers and disseminators.
2b) Rational people, given the same information, will make rational decisions.

A full day into our trip, people got hungry. A few started selling sandwiches and beer. After all, there's money to be made off people stuck on a bus. This was not considered a problem since:

3a) The bus fare covers only fuel. Everything is business. We live in a free market and a free market goes hand in hand with democracy.

3b) Information gathering and dissemination is business.

However, see consensus 2a, so:
3c) Information gatherers may make money by making publicity for food suppliers.

It was made very clear to me that this could not possibly constitute a conflict of interest because:

3d) Publicity is clearly demarcated from actual information.

Now, I wasn't at all afraid of food salesmen telling the information guys where to say Berlin lay. What happened was much worse. One information gatherer had located a professor of geography and were reporting his detailed explanation of how to get to Berlin. Another however, had figured that more people would listen to simple one-liners delivered with sufficient panache, interspersed with light music. Hot-dog purveyors were not at all interested in manipulating the direction of the bus. They paid whichever information-gatherer had most ears. Only a fool would waste his time interviewing a geography professor at length.

In exasperation I grabbed the microphone and pointed out the unavoidable conflict of the third consensus with the other two. I was called a communist and was thrown out of the bus.

I walked the rest of the way, jubilating at the sight of the Brandenburg Gate. Which is when the alarm clock radio came on and the local public radio woke me up with a commercial spot for mortgages.

Sunday 18 September 2011