Breaking news. There’s been a bomb. Sorry, a “bomb”. A “tubular device” has been “found” by the police, two people have been cuffed and whisked off, and the security is tightening fast. The bomb business has only kicked off in the last hour, but a photo of the arrest is winging its way down the mountain towards me. I’ll post it up when it gets here.
So yes – seems that I spoke too soon about a chilled-out Swiss Bilderberg. The happy proximity of cameras and conference had already been broken, overnight, by a long white security fence, which blocked our view of the venue. No one seems to know who put it up, but the smart money says that it was hammered in at 3am by Jorma Ollila, the Chairman of Royal Dutch Shell, while Peter Voser, the CEO of Royal Dutch Shell, held the nails.
Now of course, when I describe what’s gone up as a “security fence”, what I actually mean is “privacy fence”. It’s a shower curtain, not a ring of steel. And of course, by “privacy” what I actually mean is “shame”. It’s a shame fence. A massive white fence of embarrassment. Privacy is what the delegates get when they close the door of their conference hall. Privacy is a Chatham House agreement not to discuss in public what was discussed at the various presentations and seminars of Bilderberg.
But this isn’t privacy. It’s hiding. It’s a child hiding behind the curtains in case the monsters see it, and I find it weirdly infantile. Oddly unconfident. Grown-ups, happy in what they’re doing, don’t slide down in their car seats and slip in through side doors. You’ve got the world’s most powerful people sneaking around like naughty kiddies. Naughty kiddies with secret service spotters on their hotel roof, and armed men on motorbikes flanking their limousines.
This is the bit about Bilderberg that I really don’t get. It’s an old chestnut, but let’s just take another bite at it. Let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that Bilderberg benefits us all. The citizens of the world are made safer, or happier, or healthier, or better off as a result of this meeting. Let’s just say that the head of Deutsche Bank spends four days with the head of BP in order to improve our lives.
Let’s suppose, shall we, that the amiable hosts – David Rockefeller, Henry Kissinger, and the Queen of the Netherlands – have the interests of the general public written in big red letters at the top of their conference agenda.
Suppose all that. Then why the fence? Why do delegates fling themselves across the back seats of their limousines rather than be seen attending this helpful gathering? Why the blacked-out windows and the newspapers held in front of their faces? And why the big white fence? I don’t get it.
Why isn’t Josef Ackermann, the CEO of Deutsche Bank, waving benignly to the crowds? Why aren’t the excited participants pausing at the hotel gates to speak to the invited press? “Yes, thank you, we’re hoping to solve Europe‘s financial crisis this year – so finger’s crossed!” Why are German plane clothes policemen following members of the public around Swiss streets…? Sorry – different question. Important, but different.
But listen, I know what you’re wondering. You’re wondering: whatever happened to the Bilderbus? Did it ever arrive? TELL US ABOUT THE BILDERBUS!
OK, OK, calm down – give me a moment to collect my thoughts.
Ah yes, the Bilderbus …
The noble 15-seater Bilderbus rolled into a St Moritz garage forecourt at just gone midnight. Right around when Peter Voser was rummaging around the hotel shed for some nails (see above). Four bald tyres squelched to a halt on the clean Swiss tarmac. A last shudder of the engine, a dimming of the lights, and for a moment – silence.
Then open slid the minibus door and a vast sigh of relief escaped into the night, a sigh so deep and so long that it blew birds from their nests, twanged the wires of the cable car, and echoed up, up, up into the mountains, where it is still living in a cave somewhere – cold, hungry, but content that it never has to set foot in that minibus ever again.
The drizzly Swiss forecourt filled with stretching travellers. Hips were clicked back into their sockets and glances were exchanged. Glances rich in pain. “Picaresque” is how one hollow-eyed soul described the journey. “Kafkaesque” hissed another through drawn lips. “We had trouble at customs,” muttered a third. “And hit a bollard”. “And the brakes don’t work”. “We haven’t eaten”. “We haven’t slept”. “I’m not even sure he’s got a license.”
But they made it. As steam rose from the bus’s reeking wheels, these brave souls could bask in the knowledge that the human spirit will never, ever – “Sorry to interrupt, but could you show us to the campsite? We really need to sleep”. OK, sorry. We’ll talk tomorrow.
Tomorrow (today) has been spent at a Swiss garage getting the brakes fixed. If you’re in the market for a visual metaphor that encapsulates the forces that are weighed against each other at Bilderberg – the secrecy of wealth and power versus the concern and curiosity of the powerless – then here it is:
Changing the brake pads on a vehicle that can barely shudder itself above 50 mph might seem like fitting wings to a cactus, but better to be safe than Swiss cheese. Most of what happened on the bus will be taken to the grave by the survivors. A veil of privacy has been drawn over the horrors. Once a year, they will meet in a mountain resort to discuss, in a darkened room, how they are recovering. They will erect a tall white nylon fence around the venue, lest anyone catch a glimpse of the pain in the eyes. A glimpse like that? It could kill you.
Thursday 9 June 2011
Source: The Guardian