Oct 152008
 
Authors: Phoenix MourningStar

Arriving in Edinburgh, there really aren’t too many ways to prepare for this city. To say it’s green and lush — with signs to recycle and ‘bin your litter’ everywhere — would still be an understatement. Looking about the landscape of the city, your eyes dance from cliff-side rock formations to churches to castles (real ones from the 1500s).

British Airways decided to help me out with the transition from airport to city by taking care of my bags for two days — temporarily misplacing all my camping gear.

Not to matter, as my host Ant turned out to be a delightfully accommodating man. After phoning him for the first time at the Waverly bus station in the city’s center, his thick British accent had to explain the bus routes three times to me before I could successfully repeat the directions back to him.

Friday night there was an open mic fundraiser for a Himalaya Tibetan shop’s non-profit to aid children of Tibet. Ant brought down the house with an amazingly insightful and emotional poem he completed the night before.

That same night I met Agnes, who invited me to a bothy (an outdoor shelter) in the northern Highlands of Scotland. I couldn’t say no, and with an approving nod from Ant, I was home packing my gear within the hour. By 6:30 a.m. Saturday I was on my way out the door to meet Agnes and company for the trip north.

Upon arrival, we met our bothy-share mates: Dan, a scruffy, barrel-chested man in his 40s; his brother John, a smaller clean-cut fellow who makes a living in software design; and John’s son, David, who constantly had his headphones on and didn’t really say much of anything.

As the evening fell upon us and the whiskey began to flow, I took the opportunity to ask, “What would you do with 50 billion pounds.” Oh yes, leave it to me to open a firestorm of charged opinions in an otherwise calm relaxing environment.

Immediately the two brothers went deep red and took a quick glance at one another: The debate had begun. John admitted to being a lifelong Conservative while Dan was clearly for the Labour Party (David expressed nothing).

While we discussed the pros and cons of the situation in the U.S. versus that of the U.K.; the one thing that was agreed was, “damn that’s a hell of a lot of money!”

The debate really wasn’t all too different from that which we hear about in the States: Give it to those rich blokes who got us into this mess, or let them suffer and use the money for the people at the other end of the financial spectrum whose pensions may be in jeopardy.

Judging from the Monday morning front page of the Metro (Edinburgh’s free daily newspaper), one might say the bottle is only now beginning to be shaken up: “Top Banks in line for 35 billion pounds in aid.”

With the Icelandic Banks sinking into oblivion, the Royal Bank of Scotland asking for a whopping 15 billion pounds of the 50 billion set out to fight over and HVOA is looking for 10 billion pounds — and the list keeps growing — everyone’s in line for some hook-ups and people are proclaiming the end of the free market: Capitalism saved by Socialism.

Gordon Brown of the U.K. and Nicolas Sarkozy of France are having an emergency meeting while parliament is trying to figure out a way to get some politicians on the board of the RBS during the preparations of its CEO’s resignation.

So if I’ve got this right on both sides of the pond: Government officials for whom our trust is shaky, to say the least, have approved spending of our money to buy up toxic stocks of banks, which were run unscrupulously.

And they are now looking to place politicians in controlling seats of these companies to watch over the “investment?”

Does it seem to anyone else like we’ve hired the fox to guard the chicken coop?

For now, I’m reading up on air pollution in Atlanta from the safety of my tent . doom-and-gloom stories are one thing, but I truly feel as if I should get comfortable living like this — I’m quite happy to be eating cold oatmeal and dry bread knowing even upon returning State-side, I may need to put these same skills to use during my final semester at CSU.

Phoenix Mourning-Star is environmental health graduate student. His column appears Thursdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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