The Third Leader: Dream on

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The Independent Online

Do you ever get the sense that the whirligig is going faster and faster, and that TS Eliot had it wrong about bangs and whimpers?

I ask because of the current giddy pace of events - political, economic, environmental or lethal - in Iraq, Afghanistan, North Korea, China, India and elsewhere; or at home, where veils, crosses, machine guns and control orders swirl and race.

I ask, too, because our arts and science establishments seem to be getting caught up in it. First, Carsten Holler's whooshing slides at Tate Modern; now the Science Museum has launched its Thrill Laboratory, fairground rides accompanied by the sort of expert analysis you might dismiss as an excuse or alibi if this were not the post-modern age, too. So: metaphor, or just larkish distraction of the deckchair-arranging kind? Go along to the Science Museum for the expert opinion; I'm just intrigued why anyone should need any more artificially induced thrills when there are so many real and threatening ones available.

Perhaps it's catching. After all, the 1950s, the post-war decade of relieved (and mostly unrelieved) torpor, provoked no great thrill-seeking reaction, apart from a few teddy boys of a bank holiday.

Ergo: if we all calmed down, perhaps the world would as well. You will recall the benevolent effect on crime claimed for transcendental meditation by the Natural Law Partyand that, possibly tellingly, it has now disbanded. I have a vision of our museums and galleries quiet again, of theme parks with rides entitled Tranquillity II, Yawn and Whoopsadaisy. And now I'm going to have some cocoa.

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