Last week I had intended to write about the wedding of Prince William and Kate (now the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge). I had wanted to say how the world sorely needed the goodwill the royal wedding brought.
People around the world were unusually generous in their comments about the young couple. Even the normally acerbic press were in uncharacteristic charitable mood and did not grudge the royal couple their moment of joy. This, of course, can only be momentary. They will soon have their noses close to the ground, smelling out the slightest whiff of scandal and then bound after the couple like a pack of hounds that have got on a strong trail of their prey.
I had also wanted to say how the royal wedding had provided welcome relief from the multiple tragedies across the world that blight the enjoyment of our existence – and even threaten it. And for a while we got that relief.
The daily bombing and shooting in Libya by whichever side in the conflict was temporarily forgotten. Colonel Gaddafi may well have watched the wedding on television, seeing as he has declared himself a royal (king of kings). He loves spectacle so much that it is difficult to think he would have let the William and Kate one pass.
Even in the land where royalty is a quaint curiosity and where the fury of Mother Nature was causing so much havoc in some of the states, Will and Kate’s wedding pushed the scenes of wrecked houses, uprooted trees and broken power cables off TV screens and front pages of newspapers for a while.
In our own neighbourhood, there was a truce in the tragi-comedy of the Walk to Work confrontation.
Those well-fed and well-heeled men and women in dark suits and flowing robes should have been let to walk and sweat to wherever they wanted to go. May be it was their own form of penance for the sin of so much opulence. Only they should not have dragged along with them the poorly-dressed and badly-fed souls who have no work to walk to. In any case they always walk in search of work.
The poor fellows surely do not share in the sins of the politicians, most of whom stayed well clear of fierce-looking riot police. And for letting themselves be drawn into a politicians’ war, these ordinary folk got more than their share of brutal beatings reminiscent of periods gone by.
The respite from all this showed that it is after all possible for humanity to feel collectively good about an event however unconnected to it they may be, and forget their minor and major quarrels for a while. It did not take a retired statesman or international civil servant, never mind that their tenure might have been tainted, to negotiate the general feel good and cessation of all manner of quarrels. Why doesn’t this happen more often?
This is what I had wanted to say last week, but the respite was very short. A certain Osama bin Laden spoilt everything as he had always done. The fellow who had made it his mission to kill people who did not share his view of the world got himself killed and turned all the media attention to himself. More than a week after his death, he still dominates the media.
And so our feel good period was cut short and I didn’t get to say these things. We returned to the familiar world of terrorists of every stripe, natural and man-made disasters and fights among the political class, but in which more ordinary people get hurt.
When I proposed that our own terrorists be given no quarter and be made to account for denying us the pleasure of enjoying such simple delights as births and weddings, I was nearly hounded out of town. The watchdogs of our “conscience”, more remarkable for their deficiency in that area, descended on me in a pack, growling menacingly at my audacity to suggest the obvious – that criminals be punished for their sins.
Now you know why it is difficult to get rid of the bin Ladens, Kabugas and Kayumbas of this world. They have lobbyists and cheerleaders paid for with donations from ordinary, sensible and decent people. And this is the irony: human rights activists coming to the defence of people who have utter contempt for other people’s rights.
There was another wedding I was going to write about – less glamorous than the royal nuptials, but perhaps more heart-warming. A Kenyan couple, both more than a hundred years old, each said “I do” at about the time William and Kate were doing the same. The centenarians had been happily married for a long time and their progeny were enough to fill the royal wedding hall.
Then they thought it was a good idea to cap their long and happy life with a memorable exchange of vows, the truth of which their life was a testament, before a man of God. That may have been a way of saying “thank you” to the Almighty for giving them such a long life, or perhaps pointing to us the possibilities of contented existence if we are permitted to live our lives to the full.
As I watched the old couple helped out of their luxury car for the day, I couldn’t help thinking that this is what terrorists prevent – living a full and contented. And for this they should be punished. If the rights brigade love them so much, they can share the punishment. No one will lose sleep over that choice.