Issue 196
Winter 2016


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Aug 20, 2017
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    Letter from New Canaan

    SO, ARE WE ALL going to die? Most certainly, but the critical question this morning is whether it is going to happen sooner than we had all hoped as America, now run by a man who most of us wouldn't give a job as a traffic warden, does business with our similarly puerile foreign secretary and the equally infantile leader of North Korea rattles his nuclear missiles in their electronic scabbards.

    It all leads one to remember Woody Allen's remark that whilst he wouldn't mind living on in peoples' memories he would much rather live on in his apartment.

    Have the Gods given us a small country as a cradle and the whole world for a grave?

    Over the twenty odd years that this column has been leading Scotland's thinking on such global issues much of my theme has been whether events in small communities in the Scottish Highlands can be used to illustrate more global matters and this week I write not from the Scottish Highlands but from what was once the richest town in America, New Canaan in the remote hills of Connecticut.

    Here in microcosm we can see much of what has led us to this nightmare situation.

    Much of many peoples' thinking this morning is surely how it came to pass in Canaan that Donald Tump was elected in the first place. So let me tell you a bit about life here.

    In 2008, before the crash, many, if not most of the homes in this charming town were worth around twice what they are now, leading to the fascinating situation in which there are now several hundred of our inhabitants who are effectively imprisoned here in paradise, being unable to sell for a sum equal to their debts to the bank.

    This is no small beer: it's not uncommon for young men to have to find thirty or forty thousand dollars a month and if they miss two months' payments these modern day Gabriels tumble from leafy heaven to sizzling hell.

    And so they work, my God they work. Many rise before dawn to train off to labour in the fields of Wall street and then collapse back into the last train home at nine to spend perhaps six hours at home.

    One man I met told me he had no memory of naming any of his children, another, a lady, told me she had shown her house to two hundred and forty two potential buyers without any offers large enough to allow her off the hook.

    All this leads to tension, both marital and financial and it is this kind of tension that has led so much of America to vote in Trump.

    My own problems this morning concern looking after Dookie the dog.and ensuring that he isn't eaten by coyotes. I'm serious. My host Bob the builder has disappeared in his pick up truck leaving me in his million dollar mansion to look after the dog.

    This is not as easy as it may sound. Just before he went Bob warned me that there is a pack of coyotes that often live in his woods and that the males of the pack are inclined to send in bitches on heat to lure out randy dogs such as our Dookie which they then gobble up for lunch.

    Talking of predators down in the town live a pack of equally devilish bankers who long to foreclose on some of the exhausted young dealers they see hurling themselves onto those dawn trains to fight off their negative equity demands..

    Their key hope is that the wives, or indeed husbands of the financiers tire of never seeing their spouses and file for divorce, leading to enforced sales and all the extortionate fees they can charge on the powerless desperate.

    Maybe they should consider hiring sweet smelling young women, or indeed men, to sit on those last trains back to New Canaan to lure those youngsters to their fate.

    I had better end now. I have just heard a rustling in the woods. And where the devil is Dookie?

    Maxwell Macleod

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