Saturday, December 26, 2009

Interesting Places

The C/Bailén in Madrid crosses the C/Segovia by means of a viaduct (known as the viaduct of Segovia, not to be confused with the aqueduct of Segovia, a magnificent Roman structure in the city of Segovia, not the street) the current manifestation of which was built in the 1930's. There has been one there since 1874, a simple thing, but serving its purpose. It's a well-known ornament of the central, historic part of Madrid, serving as a backdrop for stories (Pérez Galdós's Misericordia makes use of it, for example) and for life in general.

It's also known for suicides. It seems to be an ideal spot for disenchanted lovers or incompetent gamblers to end their troubles on the tarmac beneath. A couple a month, regularly, over the decades, have taken this route to eternity.

Now, however, they will have to find another way, or maybe have another go at life. Recently the authorities decided enough was enough, and erected glass panels along the rails, effectively preventing further mess on the asphalt of the C/Segovia. The intention is laudable, and the result a qualified success, but it removed a little piece of romanticism from the heart of Madrid.

Talking of interesting places, I offer you Bir Tawil, probably the only place in the world which is not claimed by any government. It lies between Egypt and Sudan, and because their claims for other, more important areas of land are given legitimacy by reference to one or other settlement, judgement, long-term de facto situation, neither can claim Bir Tawil without reducing the legitimacy of its general claim. It's a desert area, and given the nature of government in southern Egypt and especially Sudan, I imagine the few people who live there are not too bothered about the lack of dustmen and state-funded clinics. Not having a bunch of thugs strutting about with machine guns making it very clear that your life, property and livelihood depend on their drug-crazed whim must be a positive relief, even if life there is rather tougher than for most of us.

As an option for a libertarian Utopia, though, it has a few problems, mostly connected to being in one of the driest parts of sub-Saharan Africa, but also because, once you get a lot of people together, especially people with ideas, who don't have to worry overmuch where their next grain of rice is coming from, some will start trying to order the others around, and those others might soon be feeling nostalgia for the Sudanese Liberation Front. People are undoubtedly a problem.

No comments: