To any world-citizen who takes seriously his or her planetary duties, waking up these days takes real courage. Consider yesterday morning's Twitter, where the rough first-draft of history scrolls out in 140 character micro-bursts: There's word of Saudi soldiers in Bahrain, weapons shipments into Gaza, fresh explosions at Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant, a new earthquake (to be sure, a paltry 6.0), plus the claim that, should foreign forces intervene in Libya, Gaddafi will tie-up with al-Qaeda in a sort of Terror, Inc. M&A (no word on whether Osama bin Laden gets to be Chairman of the Board or CEO).
All that, and the sun hadn't yet risen, U.S. Daylight Savings Time.
With so much horror spread across so many time zones, it's hard to prioritize all the peril. Fortunately, that task is being done for us. Call it the "Anderson Cooper Effect": Just as there is only one iteration of the CNN anchor, wherever he is deployed becomes the one crisis that most matters. Several weeks back, he was beaten about the head and neck in Cairo's Tahrir Square. In the end, Cooper didn't leave until Mubarak did. Last week, he had his rucksack of desert-T's packed for Libya, but then came the quake, the tsunami and the prospect of meltdown - scratch Tripoli for Tokyo.
With "A.C." now walking the rubble of northern Japan, the only hope for Libya's rebels is to hang in there until nuclear engineers cool those core reactors and pray for Anderson's swift return. That's the callous reality of our world: Your calamity doesn't count unless it can be caught on camera. If the cast of Lost had only used conch shells to spell out "AC360" on the beach, there would have been no Season Two.
With a severe case of crisis overload, something needs to pull us back to the quotidian. For that we can thank the French, or their MEPs - Members of the European Parliament - to be precise. A story out of Brussels today reports that France's Eurocrats will file suit against their own organization, the European Parliament. Its offense: Deciding, in an effort to cut costs, to hold two mandatory plenary sessions in the same week - thereby depriving MEPs of the opportunity to travel twice to Strasbourg in the same month.
Never mind that the condensed schedule will save strapped European taxpayers 15 million euros - the step will cost the MEPs frequent flyer miles (the planet's tab: 1.5 million pounds of carbon discharge from the added air travel). Then again, did not the EU vote just last year to recognize the human right to vacation travel? What is freedom without the frequent flyer miles to enjoy it? France's MEPs are rising up for bureaucrats everywhere. L'etat-mondial, c'est moi!
Perhaps the European Parliament will come to its senses, reinstate the extra trip, and in penance, Europe's super-statesmen will pass a resolution demanding that the rest of the globe sharply lower its carbon footprint. Perhaps on their extra trip to Strasbourg, the Eurocrats can also command an end to earthquakes and tsunamis as well, though that may require an extra night's accommodation plus unrestricted wine list rights.
So here we are, as our Ball of Confusion spins wobbly on its slightly-tilted post-quake axis. In Japan, in the midst of untold misery and multiple crises, people queue without complaint and refrain from looting. In France, in the midst of fiscal meltdown, the people's representatives can't resist looting the public till. Two freeze-frames of the human condition that are somehow reassuring - at least until we see where Anderson Cooper's heading next.