Mickey Mouse and the unreal city
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Mickey Mouse and the unreal city

"Unreal city," wrote TS Eliot about London in his 1922 poem The Wasteland. If London induced feelings of bewilderment in Eliot one struggles to imagine what he might have thought about Washington DC. Between M Street in Georgetown and Independence Avenue on Capitol Hill are a couple of square miles into which many of the world's most rarefied institutions are concentrated. Here decisions are taken with resounding affects both across the US and the world. Yet the institutions are cocooned from the actualities over which they preside. There is an air of unreality about majestic Washington.

In truth it's a bit like Disneyland for the intelligentsia. Bright young kids from the provinces are told that if they study hard and mind their manners they too could end up in the pleasure park of their dreams and never be bothered by reality again, except occasionally in taxi cabs. You pay for an admission ticket and from then on all the rides are free for life.

What shall we go on first? I know - a white-knuckled congressional committee where some red-neck Republican from the mid-west is feeling dizzy, trying to make sense of a million unconnected factoids that have just entered his life.

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