It was in the Kimberly ten-or-so years ago, a couple of kilometres removed from a drill rig I had left at dusk to drive into Derby and drink homemade rum with my friend, Froggy. The wet season was on the verge of breaking. There were low, dark clouds and lightning was playing on the ranges in the distance. Suddenly, in the pleasant gloom, there was a light on the road ahead. I stopped beside it. It was a workman’s Dolphin-type torch with some grease smears on it and turned on, with the light shining in the direction I was driving.
This was a sign from God, obviously, with the message “Your path is righteous.” How else to explain the torch, which must have fallen out of a utility, landed on the ground without breaking, turned itself on in the shock of the landing, and pointed exactly in the direction I was going? The chance of that happening by itself would be infinitesimal. By elimination, the only other explanation was that it was a sign from God. That torch was the modern version of the Burning Bush – giving off light but not being consumed. Much pleased with this silent blessing, I picked it up, turned it off and put it on the seat beside me.
Two hundred metres further along, my headlights revealed a figure walking towards the rig site. It was a campie, a woman in her mid-twenties employed to cook and clean in the rig camp. I stopped and asked if she was OK. She answered in the affirmative and I then asked if she had left a torch on the road. She had, she said, saying that she had left it on in order to be able to find it again in the dark. I said, “you might be needing this” and gave her back the torch. So my communication with God had a human interlocutor, an interlocutor who was horribly profligate and too lazy to carry her guiding light. So much for the spawn of the Boomers treading lightly on the earth. The chemical energy in the battery of that Dolphin torch would have been one of the most expensive power sources on the planet.
By contrast, the children of a former work colleague nicknamed him “The Prince of Darkness” because he would turn off the light as he left a room, being conditioned to do so during his own upbringing. My colleague had never suffered the sort of privation his parents had endured, and his children probably never will either. We live in the best of times. Food, for example, is now the cheapest it has been in the history of humanity. Just when it looked like peak oil was kicking in, the US shale oil boom came along and gave us another ten to twenty years to get our house in order, energy-wise. The outrages caused by Islamic State and its friends are nothing compared to the death rates of the civil wars of the 1970s in East Pakistan and Cambodia. This is the best of times, but further improvement is possible.
We can, for example, avoid Islamic outrages by not having anything to do with Muslims. The world is stumbling towards that solution in the form of Donald Trump’s call for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States. In the Republican presidential contender’s words, “We’re gonna have to figure it out: we can’t live like this. It’s going to get worse and worse, we’re going to have more World Trade Centers. It’s going to get worse and worse, folks. We can be politically correct and we can be stupid, but it’s going to be worse and worse.” Mr Trump is aware that his advice in this instance is “probably not politically correct”. Yet that advice would be more palatable to the American public than President Obama’s acceptance of a tolerable level of terrorism.
For all his dubious qualities, Mr Trump is more in tune with the zeitgeist than any opponent for the GOP’s presidential nomination, which brings to mind a game, Cards Against Humanity (“a party game for horrible people”) created in 2010. It is quite popular with youngsters despite, or because, it is politically incorrect, thus allowing them to be normal. The game would not be popular if it wasn’t filling a need. If that narrative has to be in the form of a card game, so be it. It has been estimated that Cards Against Humanity has earned its makers US$12 million in profit. Doing good can come with earthly rewards.
David Archibald’s recent book is Australia’s Defence (Connor Court).