The Curmudgeon


Wednesday, August 26, 2009


The ancient Library of Alexandria, which was destroyed twice for the glory of Rome and once for the wisdom of Christianity, has been resurrected as the Bibliotheca Alexandrina. Despite its being in Egypt, just slightly on the wrong side of the clash of civilisations, several aspects of the enterprise display gratifying hints of New New Labour Britishness. For one thing, so much has been spent on the shelves that it may be eighty years before the library can afford to fill them: an achievement worthy of the Private Finance Initiative. For another, Egypt has even higher levels of poverty and illiteracy than Britain after thirty years of Thatcherism, yet its government has chosen to spend two hundred and twenty million dollars on a huge centralising effort rather than on general education. Thirdly and most charmingly, thanks to the size of the library, which places its users at the risk of imminent starvation, the humanistic cultural ideals of the gorgeous Randy Burnham are to be put into practice, with six separate companies being permitted to open stores in a "sensitively designed" food area. There are rumours that McDonald's will be allowed to open a branch, although the library has denied this and its public relations director has said that "no logos or brand names will be visible". Nevertheless, accusations persist from prominent bloggers and people on Facebook, whose claims tend to become more plausible in the eyes of the enlightened western media when they are posted from the other side of the clash of civilisations.


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