So here I am surrounded by evil, wickedness and hate, the world going mad all at once and all I can think of is this: if only Freddie Mercury and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan had lived long enough to sing together.
Call it escapism. Call it cracking under pressure, the demands of an exhausted mind demanding some respite, a moment of rest in an angry vicious world. There’s just so much a person can take.
The rest of the world is going crazy over Pokemon Go! But as I read, hear and watch the loonies take over the asylum, the mad men raging and ranting, I’ve started daydreaming. And often as the mind wanders, I wish Freddie and Nusrat could have come together to sing and ease our pain.
What a concert that would have been, the meeting of two musical titans, sublime singers whose voices would have touched our souls in so many different unexplained ways, reaching places no one else could reach. Not John Lennon, not Elvis, not even Prince. Any yes, not even Amjad Sabri.
I can imagine their voices merging and mingling, Freddie’s haunting vocals soaring higher and higher and then dipping low — and then, slowly but steadily, Nusrat Fateh Ali adding his magical, spiritual sweetness to the duet. I can hear them now, singing a mixture of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and ‘Dam Mast Qalandar’.
If only. My fantasy doesn’t last long. Both men are dead, their message of love and tolerance buried with them. So are Sabri, Lennon and others.
Instead of sweet music, we are doomed to listen to Donald Trump’s nasty rants. The man many once shrugged off as a freak show is now likely to be the next president of the United States. Interestingly, he is best friends with Vladimir Putin, the other tough guy on the block.
I’m sure it won’t be too long before both are bonding with that other angry middle-aged strongman, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who, having escaped a military coup is now busy rounding up and punishing all and sundry. Oh yes, and there is talk of reinstating the death penalty.
Here in Europe, there are mad men aplenty too. Hungary’s right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban has described the arrival of asylum seekers in Europe as “a poison”, saying his country did not want or need “a single migrant”.
Geert Wilders, the leader of the Dutch far right Freedom Party told the Republican Party Convention in Cleveland that he is set to become the next prime minister of the Netherlands. “I don’t want more Muslims in the Netherlands…and I am proud to say that,” he told a cheering crowd of Americans.
To much applause, Britain’s new Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson lied and misled his way during the Brexit campaign that he headed. Nigel Farage, the xenophobic leader of the UK Independence Party has promised to help anti-EU protesters in France and other countries. Marine Le Pen, the leader of the French far right has become even more popular in the wake of recent terrorist attacks.
But there is hope yet. The world is not completely dark and dirty — at least not yet.
At their convention in Philadelphia, the Democrats called on Americans to reject what they called Trump’s politics of fear and division. It’s still not clear, however, if the message of hope and optimism offered by US President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton can successfully counter Trump’s toxic rhetoric.
The divisions in society run deep — and not only in the US. Europe too is deeply divided between those who live in a permanent state of apoplexy over their inability to cope with a rapidly changing world and those who are ready to go with the flow.
For the last few years, like many others, I have been silently thanking the universe for Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor whose ability to show grace under pressure makes her the only true leader in a very messy and chaotic Europe.
Just recently, Merkel delivered a staunch defence of her open-door policy towards refugees, insisting she feels no guilt over a series of violent attacks in Germany and was right to allow hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees to arrive last summer.
“A rejection of the humanitarian stance we took could have led to even worse consequences,” the German chancellor said. She repeated her wir schaffen das (we can manage it) mantra delivered last summer at the peak of the refugee crisis, adding: “We can manage our historic task — and this is a historic test in times of globalisation — just as we’ve managed so much already, we can manage it…Germany is a strong country.”
Interestingly, Merkel’s popularity remains high. In contrast, despite his hard-line response to terrorism and the extension of the national state of emergency, French President Francois Hollande remains intensely unpopular.
Go figure. Just when you think 2016 can’t get any worse, there is another terrorist attack and more innocent and gentle souls are killed.
As Freddie sang all those years ago: ‘this world could be heaven’. Sadly, tragically, it is not.