What if …

A series of improbable events
Thursday, April 3, 2008

What if there was one day a year when people all over the world decided to behave in a manner worthy of the species? What would they call that day?

Suppose business people decided to cap their annual earnings at $100 million a year?

„Enough is enough,“ Blackstone’s Steve Schwarzman ($5.3 billion in 2007) and the retired ExxonMobil chairman Lee Raymond ($400 million retirement package) would say in a letter cosigned by the former United Healthcare chairman and options fiddler William McGuire ($1.6 billion).

„No one is going to starve with a hundred large in their pocket.“

What if there was a day when the presidents of every NCAA college agreed that varsity sportsmen and women would have to demonstrate a 10th-grade reading level, proficiency in long division, and pass the elementary civics test administered to prospective U.S. citizens (Sample question: What are the colors of the U.S. flag?) in order to play a sport?

What day would it be when Senator John McCain woke up and said, „I’m old, and my body is broken, through no fault of my own. If I win the presidency, I’ll agree to serve only one term. We had an incapacitated president for most of the 1980s, and it was bad for the country. I won’t put the American people through that again.“

What day would it be when the Chinese Politburo granted sovereignty to Tibet? „Eastern Europe never worked out for the Soviets,“ President Hu Jintao would tell a news conference. „Tibet just doesn’t want to be ruled by China.“

Can you imagine a day when people said to themselves, „You know, television is totally passive. You sit there, you never think. I’m going to read a book.“

Let them read „Beginner’s Greek,“ by James Collins, because it is clever, romantic, and fun.

Could there be a day when the governor of Massachusetts, Deval Patrick, woke up and realized: „Maybe my time would be better spent running the Commonwealth than writing a self-aggrandizing book. At the end of the day . . . I’m no Obama.“

Suppose one day President George W. Bush asked himself, „What did those 4,000 young Americans die for in Iraq? Thank heavens I’m not a public figure in Japan. I might have to apologize. Or worse.“

It’s bracing to imagine the day when the video-game manufacturer Rockstar announces: „We don’t want to make money off a game that encourages elementary school students to kill ‚hos‘ and assassinate grand jury witnesses. We’re taking Grand Theft Auto off the market.“

Conjure up one day when the print, broadcast, and Internet media conspire not to write about some pathetic celebrity entering rehab, or profile gossamer entities like the Beckhams, „American Idol“ contestants, and other popcult jetsam. Or a day when newspaper columnists admit they really didn’t know how the elections would turn out, or much at all about international geopolitics, so they will stop writing until they come up with an original idea.

How to name the day when companies like British Petroleum and Chevrolet issue a press release saying, „We’re spending tens of millions of dollars in glitzy magazine and TV ads telling everyone how ‚green‘ we are. Instead, we’re going to spend that money on manufacturing efficient cars, and reducing energy consumption, something we struggled against for most of the past century.“

What day would that be, when Hillary Clinton admits that George W. Bush ran for president to vindicate his father’s reputation and that she, too, was running to clear her (married) family name. „Al Gore found an exit strategy,“ Clinton might say to herself. „Maybe I’ll give him a call.“

On this imaginary day, France’s first lady ad interim, Carla Bruni, would declare, „That was fun! I’ve milked this relationship for enough publicity. Now I’ll go back to making records and taking off my clothes – my first loves.“

What if there were one day a year when everyone behaved in a manner worthy of the species? What would they call that day? They would call it April Fools‘ Day.

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