We didn’t think it would happen

Mar 15th, 2011 | By | Category: International

The late night music programme on the local radio station played “Nothing Ever happens” by Scottish band Del Amitri.  It must be twenty years since I heard it.  The memory plays tricks at times; in memory, the song has a sting in it, that through the sheer mediocrity and boredom of life, we can sleep walk into disaster.  The song seemed to be nearing its end without there being a sinister tone, and then came the sting in the tail:

Post office clerks put up signs saying position closed
And secretaries turn off typewriters and put on their coats
Janitors padlock the gates
For security guards to patrol
And bachelors phone up their friends for a drink
While the married ones turn on a chat show

And they’ll all be lonely tonight and lonely tomorrow

Gentlemen time please, you know we can’t serve anymore
Now the traffic lights change to stop, when there’s nothing to go
And by five o’clock everything’s dead
And every third car is a cab
And ignorant people sleep in their beds
Like the doped white mice in the college lab

Nothing ever happens, nothing happens at all
The needle returns to the start of the song
And we all sing along like before

And we’ll all be lonely tonight and lonely tomorrow

Telephone exchanges click while there’s nobody there
The Martians could land in the carpark and no one would care
Close-circuit cameras in department stores shoot the same video every day
And the stars of these films neither die nor get killed
Just survive constant action replay

Nothing ever happens, nothing happens at all
The needle returns to the start of the song
And we all sing along like before

And we’ll all be lonely tonight and lonely tomorrow

Bill hoardings advertise products that nobody needs
While angry from Manchester writes to complain about
All the repeats on T.V.
And computer terminals report some gains
On the values of copper and tin
While American businessmen snap up Van Goghs
For the price of a hospital wing

Nothing ever happens, nothing happens at all
The needle returns to the start of the song
And we all sing along like before
Nothing ever happens, nothing happens at all
They’ll burn down the synagogues at six o’clock
And we’ll all go along like before

And we’ll all be lonely tonight and lonely tomorrow

Of course, we would argue, we would not sleepwalk into disaster now, don’t we have instant access to all the information we need?  We would not just drift into disaster, would we?

Google ‘Japan plate tectonics’:  the result suggests that the country is a seismically unstable place.  How many people would expect the result found by Googling ‘Japan earthquakes per year’? A country where four tectonic plates meet, which has up to 1500 earthquakes per year, would not seem an ideal place to build nuclear power stations, so Google ‘Japan nuclear power stations’.

Surely, people would object to the construction of more than fifty nuclear plants? Some did, but they were minority voices.  We have slept walked into the scenes now carried on news bulletins.  ‘Nothing ever happens’ we have believed; the danger is that we’ll all go along like before.

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