Yesterday was not a good day for me. While some Americans appear to be confused or fearful that they are slipping into Socialism by slow degree, or that Barack Obama is perhaps a communist or the son of the mad arab, Jor-El of Kal-El, I caught a programme on Channel 4 about the seemingly ever present \”Muti\” murders and mutilations which plague the most economically deprived rural regions in South Africa.

Muti is traditional African herbal medicine, but there is a darker side where human body parts – particularly the lips and genitalia of children – are prized as ingredients in ritual potions and talismans used to fleece the ignorant or sociopathic. There was an incident in London six years ago, too, where a young African boy\’s torso was recovered from the River Thames. If I remember correctly, the child\’s aunt was later charged in connection with his senseless slaying. Anyone who saw this episode of \”Unreported World\”, ably presented by Ramita Navai, could not fail to have been crushed to some extent at the plight of the traumatised young boy, Fortune, as he posed awkwardly on his bicycle for the cameras while his father recounted how his son had been dragged into the bushes and mutilated at the hands of a predatory thug. All the more poignant as the father spoke in hushed English; as falteringly protective as any parent covering his child\’s ears.

I did not feel much like drinking or – most unusually – listening to music.

As I settled down to sleep later last night, I flipped on BBC Radio 4 – which after midnight rolls out in synch with the BBC World Service – and was treated to a forty year anniversary special on the Vietnam war\’s My-Lai Massacre from 1968. You are no doubt familiar by now with the awful chain of events which ignited international outrage. No matter how many times I hear a new account, there is always some freshly emerging horrific detail.

I could have simply flicked the channel, of course. It would not make much difference. Since then as international spectators we have endured countless other crises and atrocities. From the genocides in Yugoslavia and Rwanda to the ongoing madness in Darfur. It is not that nobody gives a shit, precisely. It is just that it keeps on occurring over and over again as part of the human condition.

All the more appalling then, to watch Obama and McCain exchange anecdotal pleasantries – to delighted applause – at the fiasco which was the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner.

CAPTAIN BEEFHEART: SKELETON MAKES GOOD from \”Skeleton Breath, Scorpion Blush & Other Readings\” CD (Bootleg) 1982 (US) PURCHASE ICE CREAM FOR CROW


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