astvinr (astvinr) wrote,

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Ratmen of Rodencia!

Many years ago, when I was learning French at school, a teacher brought in a copy of a French daily newspaper. I can’t remember which one it was, but the thing that stuck in my mind was the one thing she urged us to ignore. On the funny pages there was a translation of an old American comic strip. In it, Mandrake the Magician was pondering the dilemma posed by the Rat-men. Of course they wanted to take over the world, as all outer-space bad hats did in those days. Doubtless in the original version there would have been exclamations of shock and horror such as ‘Holy Mackinole!’or ‘By Thor’s mighty hammer’ or whatever Mandrake magicians were likely to say. Rendered into French, however, it all became a lot more laid back, casual even. It slouched into an ‘I-suppose-we’d-better-surrender-now’ Gallic fatalism.
‘Vous savais que ces hommes-rats, ils demandent la terre comme rançon?’
‘Oui, je le sais.’
Oh, have you heard? Those rat-men, they want the world as a ransom.
Oh, yes, so they do. How tiresome.
There is something a lot more visceral about ‘homme-rat’ too, much like referring to ‘Man-Bat’ instead of ‘Batman’. You get a much stronger sense of these rat-men being, well, seriously ratty.
Not having seen any of the earlier episodes, I think another thing that puzzled me was what the hommes-rats had stolen. If they were demanding a ‘ransom’ then, presumably, it would be for the return of something or someone valuable. But if the whole world was the ransom, what could it possibly be? And wouldn’t it have to have been taken away from the world in the first place? So then it would surely be included in the inventory of Planet Earth’s fixtures and fittings when the rat-men take possession anyway? They’d return something only to get it back straight away... along with the whole of the world. A smart trick on their part, I thought, but a pretty dumb piece of bargaining by the Earthlings. It would have been like the Lindbergh kidnapper demanding the entire Lindbergh family, including the baby, as a ransom for the baby.
All the same, when I read in the Financial Times today about the deal that George W. Bush is trying to push through the US Congress I was reminded of Mandrake and les hommes-rats. The bankers are rat-men indeed, and their ransom is nothing less than the Earth.
This isn’t a negotiation. This is an unconditional surrender... of everything. All that seems to be at issue is just how fast Bush can give it all away.
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