Belfast Telegraph

Robert McNeill: We really do live in parallel universe, only ours' is poor

By Robert McNeill

I've been thinking about alternate reality. Please do not be alarmed. Alternate reality isn't really real. Readers: "It isn't alternate reality that alarms us. It's the idea that you've been thinking. No good will come of it."

I see. Well, I hear your warning, but my head's plugged in now, so put on your safety goggles and prepare to be blitzed with perorations.

I was first seriously alerted to the concept of alternate reality after watching a YouTube presentation of atheist Richard Dawkins interviewing creationist Wendy Wright.

Creationism is the belief that everything in the universe, including the vile world of nature, was created by a supernatural being. It is, of course, risible.

So I looked forward to Prof Dawkins taking Wendy apart.

But he didn't really. He won, of course, but I warmed to Wendy, partly because she argued well and partly because she had a big winning smile and seemed, well, nice.

Crass it may be, but "nice" matters to those of us opposed to the grimming of society in the name of "cool".

Wendy was billed as leader of a collection of kooks called Concerned Women for America.

That sounded ominous and, sadly, as I investigated further, it emerged she was pro-Palin, anti-abortion, and a supporter of the Tea Party. She was, in other words, a nutter.

Reading further on that sort of American, I discovered they inhabited what was called alternate reality.

They saw the world as it should be rather than as it is. They lived in a dream. A dream of 1950s happy families, idol-worship, and America the great.

I share the hankering for 1950s happy families, but that's as far as it goes.

The pursuit of the wider dream in full resulted in the carpet-bombing of peasants in south-east Asia, hideous cruelties in Latin America, and the films of Bob Hope. It is, in other words, a great evil.

So, while I like Wendy's smile, I fear she is possessed by Satan and should be burned as a witch. Hey, but maybe that's just the Christian in me.

The idea of alternate reality continued to burn in my brain. It took a more concrete turn when I read about David Miliband, brother of Labour leader Ed, getting £25,000 for making a speech. He "earned" the average annual salary in one hour.

Then I read of Tony Blair and some fellow "consultants" standing to make £27m for advising Kuwait on how to be normal.

Add in the obscene bonuses for bankers in times of austerity, and the fact that the streets remain full of flash new Audis, BMWs and Jags, and you begin to realise that two parallel realities actually exist. One for them and one for us.

And when these realities clash you get trouble. This was ludicrously symbolised when the Prince of Wales and his squeeze were driven in a vintage Rolls Royce through young persons rioting about unfairness and inequality.

It was a French revolutionary moment. I cannot condone the poking of Comrade Camilla with a stick. Nor do I think the expression "asking for it" apt. But it makes you think.

I'm no mo re a fan of reality than the next citizen. However, perhaps it's time to realise there are two real worlds out there, one run on funny money for old rope, the other strung along with payments in pennies.

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