Robotic Underpants and other matters

A few weeks back, I read an article about how a third of accidents that happen to the over-60 crowd are due to falls brought on by lack of balance. To remedy this, Yoga and/or Tai Chi were highly recommended.

I have started Tai Chi. Well, I ordered the book (Classical Yang Style) and am working on the basic stance. The big fat tome is open to the correct page and placed in a Zen manner on the corner of the kitchen table. Every time I pass, I hold the Ma Bu (Horse Stance) pose for 20 seconds.

After just a few short days, I have quickly learned to not pass that particular corner of the table anymore and I am instead busy working on my inner yin and yang.

Lying flat on the living room sofa, breathing properly, I have just read three weeks’ worth of newspapers, and before dozing off, made the most remarkable discoveries.

For example, the “gig economy” was mentioned twice. I had somehow missed this expression. It means that no one has a proper job anymore. You just work short gigs (driving cars and making deliveries or videos seem to be the most popular choices) and then carry on with living. Legal clarity has resulted in the possibility that even zero-hour contract workers could have the right to vacation pay, daily work breaks, and redundancy payments.

This granted me a huge epiphany moment which solved the recent media flap about whether robots should pay taxes. Well, they’re going to HAVE to, as everyone else is going to be getting money for taking tea-breaks while not working.

Then there was the article about not showering as it seems that this daily ritual just wrecks your microbiome. It apparently takes about six months to completely give up this bad habit, but is well worth it as you save water and can avoid all those dastardly beauty products that are polluting the planet. Your bacteria proliferates and is extremely happy.

Obviously the man who is promoting this (a senior editor at The Atlantic) has not recently had to look after a one-year-old with a gastro. Anyone who has ever been covered with curdled milk vomit combined with liquid yellow poop will never, ever, turn their backs on a good hot shower with bubbles and perfume galore.

However, the very best item was the London Design Museum’s recent show which included a military invention to help soldiers carrying heavy loads in the battlefield: power underpants. Little sensor-packed pods and miniature motors pull strings in the fabric that give you extra support and help in sitting down or standing up. This makes so much sense, I’m sure it was a closely-guarded military secret for many decades before finally being leaked to the general public.

I am asking for a pair for my next birthday, and only then will move around to the deserted Tai Chi corner of my kitchen table and attempt stance two, Deng Shan Bu.

 

 

 

Donald Trump’s Inner Gandhi

I have just visited the Gandhi Museum in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, and have made the startling discovery that Mahatma (The Great Soul) Gandhi and Donald (Make America Great Again!) Trump are political soul-mates. I hope you are reading this, Mr President, as I doubt that many people will have noticed your inner Gandhi.

It came to me as I was standing in front of a black and white photo of Gandhi wearing a loincloth seated at a spinning wheel. A master of media imagery, his message was clear – Indians must spin and weave their own cloth in the traditional manner. Imported British cloth must be boycotted.

Foreigners Out! Foreign Products Out! Make India Great!

Imagine if, some 85 years later, there had been a video clip (was there?) of candidate Trump in his red cap and a pair of worker’s overalls on a Ford assembly line in Michigan helping a robot mount an engine in the latest model of a (red) Ford Mustang. Every guy in the whole of the US would have voted for him (did they?).

Gandhi, vastly popular, devoted the last 30 years of his life to achieving Indian Independence. His thoughts, his dreams, his aspirations, his daily life became a purposefully open book. He slept little, rose at 3:30 a.m. and then filled the rest of the night with letter writing. This was followed by days of interviews, meetings, hunger strikes, long marches, spells in jail, and speeches. He was always doing something to maintain and increase attention and contact.

The shining example of mediatic brilliance was Gandhi’s wearing his loin-cloth to visit England in 1931. This skinny, ugly, old guy with a towel wrapped around his privates was much-criticised for his lack of disrespect to the king. Bald and toothless, he must have been cold as he cheerfully commented: “The king wears enough clothes for both of us.”

Sound familiar? A popular reality TV show? The 3 a.m. Tweets? The odd hair? The shambolic suits and clown ties? The unnaturally white 70-year old teeth? Criticising the establishment? The pre-fuss about the possibility of the Ugly American meeting Her Majesty?

Just as Gandhi was a product of India, so Donald is a product of America. Gandhi was a cliché of poverty. Trump is a cliché of wealth. They are the two extremities of our pretend/wished-for/normal middle-class, middle-of-the-road world; and as such they both disturb.

Gandhi was outrageous taking on the British Empire; just as Trump is outrageous taking on the world. Gandhi’s dream that the untouchable/Dalit caste be abolished did not happen. Similarly, Trump’s promise that every American worker will have job in America making products for Americans will not be filled.

However, Gandhi’s wish for the independence of India did come about, and in the initial act—the 1947 partition—it is estimated that up to 2,000,000 people died in the religious genocide that followed and 14,000,000 people were displaced.

So, Mr President, living alone in your great white elephant ashram in Washington, be very careful what you wish for.