Camp is back from his Whistler sojourn and he has plenty to complain about the prices of food and accommodation in this holiday enclave. ‘How can normal people like teachers and nurses live in this hyperinflated town? Never mind artists and book sellers. It’s unaffordable for working stiffs like myself.’
‘I haven’t been to Whistler in ages,’ I said. ‘I used to go skiing there but like you I can’t afford a $ 200 day pass.’
‘Rich men’s problems, as Sophie would say. To change the topic, how is the world turning? I haven’t been paying much attention to the news in the past week.’
‘I guess it all depends on your perspective,’ I said. ‘Take Putin. In a speech to a group of young entrepreneurs in St. Petersburg, he compared himself to Peter the Great, the 18th century tsar who fought a 21year long war against Sweden and along the Baltic coast. Putin spoke of Russia’s need to take back territory that rightly belongs to Russia.’
‘The war in Ukraine is an ideological war first and a territorial war second. No matter the cost and he is not interested in a negotiated peace. It’s plain old hubris.’
‘I just read Bill Browder’s new book: ‘Freezing Order’. A follow-up on ‘Red Notice’. Both books chronicle the Magnitsky affair and read like thrillers. They expose in detail the insidious corruption of the Russian kleptocracy. ‘
‘Yes, a true story of money laundering, murder and surviving Putin’s wrath,’ Camp said. ‘Both books should be mandatory reading for anyone trying to understand what Putin’s game is. Just follow the billions that he stole from the Russian people.’
‘On this side of the pond we have the congressional hearings about the 6th January insurrection on the capitol. It is now obvious to all but the stupid and ignorant that Trump was deadly serious about overthrowing the election and the government. As Bennie Thompson, the chairman of the committee said: When the Capitol was attacked in 1814, it was by the British. This time it was by an enemy within, at the encouragement of the president of the US, who wanted to stop the transfer of power at all cost.’
‘None of that will change anybody’s mind about Trump.’
That was thirsty talk and we both needed to focus on our beers.
‘People already talk about rebuilding Ukraine and how to pay for it, despite there not being an end to the war and destruction in sight. Using confiscated and frozen assets of the Russian Central Bank and Oligarchs sounds like a moral imperative,’ I said.
‘It is almost impossible to do that in countries that follow the rule of law. They do not act like the Russian mafia which is synonymous with their regime. The other question is: who and how will anybody live in these ruined cities like Mariupol?’ Camp said and carried on: ‘From Putin’s perspective the war is already a success. The price of oil doubled since January, flushing the Russian war chest, the western economies are teetering on a recession with high inflation and collapsing stock markets, the Far Eastern countries are happily lapping up discounted Russian oil and gas and Russian propaganda is successfully able to uphold a narrative of defending against NATO expansion and Ukrainian Nazis. Also, should the US congress become Republican controlled in November, the appetite for more support for Ukraine will evaporate and next is the fear of another Trump ascendency. Putin is wringing his bloody hands with glee at all these possibilities, all of which would be in his favour.’
‘Two monsters wanting to rule the world. We cannot let that happen,’ I said.
‘I have to point out to you that sadly, we’re not in charge. Of anything.’
‘Vicky brought around our refills, along with the monthly tab.’
‘Time to pay up boys,’ she said cheerily.
It was Camp’s turn and when he scrolled through the bill, he complained about the tip options. ‘The minimum here is now 18%. And that is tipping the 12% tax as well. It’s like a third of the cost of the beer.’
‘I suppose it depends if you’re serving or consuming,’ Vicky said. ‘I make minimum wages and have to count on the tips. There is another option where you can input a dollar or percentage of your own choosing.’
Camp grumbled what sounded like an apology or maybe he had something in his throat. He gave her a 20% tip and quickly drank half his pint to hide his embarrassment.
“The past lies like a nightmare upon the present.”
Marx (originally Karl, but would fit Groucho too.)