Tuesday, November 30, 2004

market day

the tuesday market, in the st john's car park behind the church, is a mishmash of the usual market town stuff - straight veggie stalls flogging their six-for-a-quid oranges alongside the organic veggie bloke doing his best to compete on principle; traders in dodgy chinese tools, extra-large-size tights, baby clothes, t-shirts saying I heart ny, crappy cheap toys and wilting bedding plants next to the unfailingly cheerful fishmongers (even on a frosty morning such as today's, when merely to watch them dipping their hands into those trays of ice makes you wince in sympathy), and the hippies eternal car-boot sale (this week, amongst the battered stringless guitars, incense-holders, framed t-rex prints, and dog-eared copies of carlos castaneda they had a disturbingly genuine-looking life-size fake-mediaeval plaster saint james - I didn't ask). but today there was a new stall, a stall that felt like an intrusion into our world of something dark and heavy and malevolent: a stall selling replica firearms.
there was nothing either discreet or furtive about it - beneath a large hand-printed felt-tipped sign on fluorescent card saying 'replica firearms' was a double-trestle stall stacked with boxes of guns. not toy guns - these were replicas, with prices ranging from thirty pounds to two hundred. mostly the sort of badass chunky things you see characters in vice city and grand theft auto using, but also smaller, more discreet beretta-type things, a few uzis, a couple of AK-47's - familiar ware to anyone who has watched a James Bond film or, indeed, any American cop show.
I can imagine why someone might want to own a real gun, but what is it about replicas? the word 'replica' kind of dignifies with pretentious gravity the fact that these are nothing more than toys for the boys who grew up with the toys and always wanted the real thing but are too wuss to go the final mile and shell out and risk the police hassle for something that they can actually kill someone with. they are, of course, attractive to petty criminals who want to appear more threatening than they really are - although, considering the increased trigger-happiness of police armed-response units, I'd have thought that sort of thing was becoming fatally stupid. 'collectors' (another of those words that cheats the anal-retentive of their poo-clogged due) seem to get some kind of proxy thrill out of owning a facsimile of something that's designed to kill - that's behaviour out of the same psychological paperclip-box that accounts for the crowds attracted to the sites of fatal accidents and (hello Donald) hoarding bits of collapsed skyscrapers. and the more serious (ie the most wealthy) collectors profess a discerning connoisseur's delight - often expressed in pseudo-sexual hyperbole - in handling such exquisite workmanship, blah blah blah.
like any town, we have a (still relatively small) proportion of lost souls who meet their daily fix requirement through theft and prostitution if they can't meet it through begging. they're a small, identifiable core group, known to everybody who - well, everybody, really. their supplies arrive from Bristol on different days in tragically recognisable style - the flashy boombox, the furtive dudes with nokias and attitude, the swift exchanges - and filter down through a monthly rotating set of flats to which a small but steady trickle of visitors arrive as the word goes out. all known to the police, all monitored, mostly ignored - these are the smallest of the small fry - a complete waste of everyone's time to arrest. their economy works through a slow but steady expansion of the market via recruitment, on the street, of the town's future generation of lost souls - those kids of thirteen, fourteen, who've been excluded from school since year seven and whose reward for acting as untouchable (because of their age) messengers and go-betweens has been both pocket money and a bit of crystal, weed, whatever. a familiar story in every city in the civilised world.
so far - touch wood - there's only been one instance of armed robbery that I know of in our town: a clumsy shop raid a year or so ago by a couple of guys from Bath who were caught and later identified from the CCTV tape. they were using a replica gun.
it's not going to be the dealers who buy these things - they already own the real thing - it's those kids. they'll flaunt them to their mates and impress girls and rob year eights of their lunch-money with them. and then, one day, because they're invulnerable, and high, they'll decide to use them - why not? - to rob a bank. and the armed response unit will corner them after an exciting fence-jumping chase - just like in the movies - in a corner of the car park. and, because they're wearing balaclavas - like they do in the movies - the police will fail to see that their villains are children, but see them as an armed threat, and when one of them, stoned and out of bravado, refuses to respond to the call to drop the weapon, and (independent witnesses will argue about this at the subsequent investigation) begins to raise it, he will be shot. and that will be everybody else's fault than that chirpy mr market trader man who was, like it says on the box, just supplying the market.

dominus illuminatio mea

in the course of drafting a review of the new battles ep I kept thinking, for no other reason than the assonance, of that short but disproportionately influential period in my melancholy life when battels were bills, the buttery was a bar, subfusc a suit, encaenia a procession, the schools an examination hall, the bod a library, scouts made beds, the four seasons were renamed michaelmas, trinity, hilary, and long vac, and a myriad other locally-specific events and/or places and objects were known by an arcane glossary comprehensible only to fellow students and academics. there were no women, a computer was something that science students had to book time on in a building of its own and probably had less processing power than a current mobile phone, and in order to pursue your own chosen study of english literature you still had to memorise Virgil's Aeneid and The Battle of Maldon (in Latin and Anglo-Saxon respectively). heady, hermetic times which were at once breathtakingly thrilling and morbidly depressing, essentially formative and cruelly destructive. all, then, was potential, and the legacy of that frivolous dissipation has proved three-fold and equivocal: a sense of (totally undeserved) election, quasi-tribal pride, and irrecoverable loss - a legacy shared, I expect, by everyone fortunate enough to have experienced an alma mater. funny what music can do.

Monday, November 29, 2004

"Peace and the New Corporate Liberation Theology"

[The 2004 Sydney Peace Prize lecture, delivered by Arundhati Roy, November 3, 2004, Seymour Theatre Centre, Sydney University.]

...So, all you young management graduates don't bother with Harvard and Wharton — here's the Lazy Manager's Guide to Corporate Success: first, stock your board with senior government servants. Next, stock the government with members of your board. Add oil and stir. When no one can tell where the government ends and your company begins, collude with your government to equip and arm a cold-blooded dictator in an oil-rich country. Look away while he kills his own people. Simmer gently. Use the time to collect a few billion dollars in government contracts. Then collude with your government once again while it topples the dictator and bombs his subjects, taking care to specifically target essential infrastructure, killing 100,000 people on the side. Pick up another billion dollars or so worth of contracts to “reconstruct” the infrastructure. To cover travel and incidentals, sue for reparations for lost profits from the devastated country. Finally, diversify. Buy a television station, so that next war around you can showcase your hardware and weapons technology masquerading as coverage of the war. And finally finally, institute a Human Rights Prize in your company's name. You could give the first one posthumously to Mother Teresa. She won't be able to turn it down or argue back...

(full text here)


of the university of california berkeley quantitative methods research team's assessment of voting irregularities elsewhere than in the ukraine.

"Perhaps the most chilling complaints concerned the electronic voting machines....We received several reports of voters who repeatedly pressed the name Kerry on their voting screen only to have Bush appear. In other cases, voters pressed Kerry and were later asked to confirm their Bush vote."

(ZNet Blog)

Sunday, November 28, 2004

breathing mercury

ever since I discovered, several years ago, the overwhelmingly convincing evidence linking the incidence of dental amalgams containing mercury with monopolar depressive disorders, I've wondered how different my life might have turned out if I'd been less addicted to sugar and better educated in brushing and flossing. a non-melancholy rhino. hmmm.
certainly, I've become more of a miseryguts as the years have passed, but that seems to be par for the course, regardless of the amount of mercury leaking from the fillings in your mouth. ageing has no compensations whatsoever - you'd better believe it. anyone below the age of thirty-five reading this - make the most of it! I'll say no more on that subject.
there is, actually, a jolly me, a funny fellow who makes people laugh and leave dinner-parties clutching their sides and exchanging notes on which of my entertaining post-prandial anecdotes they found the funniest, a life-and-soul of the party rhino who will be remembered as the only redeeming feature of a dozen dreary social functions. this me is camouflaged, however, behind a mask of grumbling severity and tends only to emerge when everyone has gone home, rehearsing what he would have said, with what pithy bullets of acid wit he would have reduced that asinine asshole with the bad breath and philistine attitude to cowering respectful silence, if only he had so chosen.
I hate, actually, the idea that I've been nursing this toxic tooth-leakage for a good number of years, and that it might well account, at least in part, for some of the darker episodes in this melancholy life. on the other hand, I seem to align myself quite happily with other melancholics whose creativity seems not to have suffered, indeed seems to have been defined and enhanced by their melancholia. would curing Kafka of his existential gloom not have deprived us of some of the finest aper├žus on the nightmare of unbridled bureaucracies in existence, for instance? would Buster Keaton's genius have been enhanced by his adopting a toothy grin and a tickling stick? would a timely dose of Prozac in Kurt Cobain's night-time cocoa have transformed Nirvana into a cheery boy band? and would this have been a Good Thing? is not melancholia a more preferable condition to the kind of fake jolly-chapiness that oozes from celebrity abominations like Ant and Dec?
chronic depression must be an utterly debilitating condition - I'm not about to decry those poor sufferers who seem unable to do anything at all about that terrible black cloud. a touch of melancholy, on the other hand, seems no particularly bad thing. unless it's the fault of those demon dentists, of course, in which case damn them all to hell with a blunt drill up their mendacious backsides.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

being sixteen

I know nothing about how random polling works, but companies such as gallup, mori, and ICM have been around long enough for them to have worked out some fairly accurate systems, I would have thought. although, having once been corrected by a scientist for confusing 'accuracy' with 'precision', I'm not sure that we should regard even their results as anything more than a slightly better than guesswork indicator of what they purport to represent.
today's guardian's poll of sixteen-year-olds attitudes to life death and the universe is clearly more weekend supplement entertainment than science, but none the worse for that.
I wonder how random is random in such a survey. I'm quite sure that the responses to some of these questions would vary in the same person according to the circumstances in which they were put - depending on whether the questioner was male or female, on their age, on their colour, on their accent, their demeanor, their smell, the sound of their voice, their hairstyle, clothing, height, weight - on that myriad of intangibles that determine whether or not we choose to confide in someone with a clipboard whom we've only just met coming out of the virgin record store. fairly certainly, the same set of questions put to a sixteen-year-old girl by a forty-year-old bearded white man in a suit with an Oxbridge accent would trigger a different set of answers than if the questioner looked and sounded like Konni from Blue Peter, particularly if, as these questions did, they were intended to reveal some intimate details about her lifestyle.
having said that, however, this poll is tremendously reassuring - confirmatory, yet again, of the fairly widely-held belief (in itself reassuring) that the world would be far better run by sixteen-year-olds than the sorry bunch that are actually doing it.
what happens to it - all that youthful sense of fair play and responsibility, that ability to discriminate - so early - between what is obviously right and what is obviously wrong? how possible would it be for us jaded, compromised grownups to revert to factory settings and recognise the hopeless futility in our continuing to behave as if this were the only way because it was ever thus and nothing ever changes? every generation, it seems, arrives eventually at this point where they are able to see the world for what it is, and becomes determined to improve it, to take it by the scruff of the neck and shake some sense into it. and then something happens, and it all evaporates.


one of the more curious spinoffs from eleven-two has been a serious tightening of the domestic ground-rules chez rhino. ever since the boys went to school I've been uneasy with the steady seepage into our home environment of a sort of casual carelessness about sex and violence that leaks from the pores of the music video/video game cultures. so saturated are the kids with this stuff that even to mutter censoriously about it is to invite derision. but there came a point, a week or two ago - I won't betray my kids trust by elaborating on that - which pumped up my tolerance gland to critical mass. in brief, I realised that their continuing childhoods - and, at twelve, they are children - needed rescuing and protecting from a culture whose only function is to mould them into mindless, amoral consumers with a deep and cynical disregard for the imagination, for social organisation, indeed for human life, when such inconvenient concerns interfere with their dedicated pursuit of personal gratification: to mould them, in other words, into Red Americans.
it's been there for a long time, of course, but now that I allow myself to stop avoiding it, and to recognise it, the ubiquity of it, I sense it as a kind of malevolent irrigation system - a ceaseless spray of shit that comes with a parental advisory - just so the corporate sprayers can't be accused of actionable indiscriminate malevolence. how is it that, in the course of a single evening, between going out skateboarding, doing homework and having supper, it has become quite normal for a child of twelve, on PS2, to hunt down and kill a hundred graphically credible enemies whose heads will explode in a vermilion cloud and who will collapse into an expanding pool of blood, listen to a thousand expiring screams and endless reiterations of mothafucking fucker to the endless tattoo of gunshots and explosions; or, on TV, watch fifty girls waggling their barely legal booty, fifty boys strutting their contemptuous stuff, and fifty sweaty couples grinding their crotches together in time to some jiggly dance music which is to dance and to music what a big mac and coke is to food and drink?
it has become normal through a conspiracy of misguided tolerance on behalf of us parents to the supposed inevitability of peer-pressured participation, in younger teens and children, to the culture foisted on their older siblings.
no more.
not in this house.
there's a wonderful simpsons episode which exposes the moral ambiguity of my position here, in which marge takes this feeling to its gloriously insane conclusion and, through concerted civil action, puts pressure on the makers of itchy and scratchy to delete the sine qua non of itchy and scratchy - the mindless cartoon violence. she becomes a local hero, but is forced to retract her position when asked to endorse a boycott of the museum for showing a statue adjudged pornography by her neighbours - the statue of david by michaelangelo - but which she happens to admire.
one man's meat will always, of course, be another woman's poison, but the truth of the matter is that the majority of video games are made for boys, and have no redeeming value whatsoever: their sine qua non is the enjoyment of inflicting great violence on as many opponents as possible before they get you. (as a training for a tour of Iraq, for example, they are exemplary. doubtless there are a few boys out there right now who think there's a restart button for when they get killed.) however you want to wrap it up - in the false history lessons of world war II combat, or in the urban samurai myths of gang warfare - the truth is in the splatter-effect: the satisfaction of aiming your weapon at an enemy and pressing the button that causes the bullets to make their heads explode, and doing it so often that it becomes boring, when you have to purchase the next game, which wraps the splatter in a different pretext and even better graphics.
we've never allowed them to own these kind of games - they've just gradually become part of the swapping thing that happens between all kids, and more and more have sneaked in under the radar, as it were. I'm personally horrified at how many of their friends parents seem not to care about the classifications at all - very rarely, the boys have weaseled a 15 out of me, but they know an 18 is an absolute no-no. I'm not stupid - we all know that they're still going to watch and play this stuff at their friends houses - I deplore that, but I can't do anything about it. the point is, they've been reminded of how much I disapprove of it. they - and their friends - know that here, in this house, it's not going to happen, not for quite a while yet.
it's called a principle.
who said it was going to be easy?

Thursday, November 25, 2004


JULY: Ukrainian presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko as he looked less than five months ago before being hit by a mystery illness.
NOW: A shockingly altered Yushchenko as he appeared in Kiev yesterday, where he declared victory in Ukraine’s disputed election.

TheStar.com - Was it poison or just spoiled sushi?
(well worth the minute it takes to register in order to savour the James Bondian inferences about Ukrainian electioneering techniques exposed here)

Fuck the South

Wednesday, November 24, 2004


respect to eminem for 'mosh.' someone like me finds it all too easy to scorn the soft political alliances forged between celebrities and fans - from Dylan to Bono via Lennon and Geldoff, I've scorned 'em all in equal measure in a properly grumpy rhino manner. the 'mosh' video, however, directed by guerilla news network's Ian Inaba, seems to me to have emerged from a genuinely angry conviction that - I admit - surprised me. it pulls no punches and names names - and it isn't in the slightest way patronising. it gets fairly close, I would have thought, to being indictable under the Patriot Act for fomenting revolution - certainly, if this had been made out from under the megabucks ramifications of his celebrity, it would have been, although even the monkeys henchmen must have been able to calculate just how stupid that would make them look.
now, mr mathers, all that's lacking to turn you into an icon for the new left is to go that extra mile down the liberal path and recognise that faggots might be niggas, too.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Saturday, November 20, 2004

hollywood predicts huge savings on actors fees

"Siffredi is optimistic. He thinks the work of French extremists like Breillat will push filmed sex further into the mainstream and looks forward to a day when 'some good actress like Julia Roberts, gives a great blow job to a great actor, like Harvey Keitel.'"


Wednesday, November 17, 2004


suddenly the media is awash with cries of 'foul' as an American soldier is caught on-camera despatching an injured resistance-fighter in Fallujah.
ostensibly, we're being invited to witness the application of fairness in the struggle for the hearts and minds of the about-to-vote Iraqis. this occupying army, it says, is an honourable force that, like all organisations, contains one or two bad apples who taint the barrel of wholesomeness. look, it says, witness the speed of our reaction: within hours of the event taking place the soldier is suspended and withdrawn from front-line duties, several senior officers issue statements indicating that an enquiry will be initiated, and phrases like 'rules of engagement' and 'possible lapse of discipline' are repeated as if they referred to the rules of monopoly.
we are supposed to understand that the residents of this city of 500,000 souls - that's the same size as Edinburgh or Beirut - were given the option to evacuate before the Americans began their offensive. we are supposed to understand, therefore, that those who chose to remain must come under suspicion of leaning to the idea of resistance rather than acceptance. also, we are supposed to understand that this city had become the final redoubt of an intractable enemy - an Iraqi Masada - whence, once uprooted and neutralised, this evil seed of resistance would never henceforth trouble the peacemakers and the seekers after democracy.
so - you can't make an omelette...
the mosque may or may not have been being used as a centre of resistance. the injured fighters left inside it may or may not have been abandoned by their comrades and their bodies booby-trapped. they may or may not have already been examined by a previous patrol who left them to be picked up later, they being presently occupied with the more urgent matter of securing the next objective. this message may or may not have been relayed to the patrol that subsequently re-entered the mosque and re-discovered the injured men. the soldier who killed the unarmed injured man may or may not have had reason to suspect that he was booby-trapped.
none of this is relevant.
the cameraman who secured this footage for CNN was one Kevin Sites, formerly a 'so-jo' - a solo freelance journalist - who has been reporting from war-zones for the last three or four years - formerly in Afghanistan, now in Iraq. depending on how you look at it, you may perceive him either as a heroic witness to events as he sees them or as a foolhardy egoist who recognises that in times of war, the war-journalist becomes a pander to some dark, base appetites indeed, and that in a war such as this one, where the originating illegitimacy has swiftly been forgotten in the selective illuminations of triumphalism, the market for war-porn becomes fabulously bullish.
his reports - regularly blogged with spectacular success at kevinsites.net until his employers - CNN and NBC - insisted that he desist from giving away what they were paying him for - aspire to Hemingway and Gelhorn, and read like a movie script. he is handsome and crop-bearded and long-haired. his preferred headgear - he eschews the battle-helmet - is, naturally, the bandana. he holds his camera as if it were an AK-47. his sights are clearly focussed on one target - the Pullitzer prize. in the movie proper, he'll be played by Willem Dafoe.
meanwhile, he's after a scoop, and, limited though those opportunities are within the strictures of being 'embedded', he seems to have succeeded. on-camera, he's caught a soldier shooting an unarmed and injured man in cold blood.
credit where it's due - the military, thinking fast on their feet, very quickly recognised the value of a damage-limiting loss-leader. in a situation such as Fallujah - an ongoing massacre - it's far better, from their point of view, that the world's eyes should be focussed on this one single supposed infringement of the rules of war (that phrase sticks in the craw) and their own properly righteous reaction to it than on what's really going on - which, given their record so far into this war, is all too imaginable.
so everyone's happy (apart from the arab world): kevin's happy - he got the scoop that secures his reputation, the media's happy - they get the horror-footage that secures viewers and readers, the army's happy - they get a PR gift, Red America's happy - they get confirmation that all's going down as it should in Ey-raq, and Blue America's happy - they get confirmation that the appropriate checks and balances are in place.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

another christmas, another band aid

"This isn't about creating a record to support people in Africa - this is a kodak moment for Bono, Midge Ure and for Blair to manipulate public opinion and push through a destructive economic agenda to serve Western economic interests."


(update - 15th nov - the case rests)

Friday, November 12, 2004

the chinese for 'crisis' is 'dangerous opportunity'

I never got the Arafat charisma thing - he always seemed to me as though he'd have been happier, had things turned out differently, to have been a drummer in a garage band - the one who clowned around but everyone loved cos he had twinkly eyes and a pathetic beard. but that's not to detract from his status as a focus of Arab nationalist hopes, nor to diminish the significance of this moment in middle eastern history.
whatever the real reason why the Disunited States has continued over the years to subsidise Israel ( *ahem - oil*), it's surely time for a radical revision of the game-plan.
if I might make a suggestion...
the whole idea (Israel) has turned out to be a catastrophe. consider - if parliament had decided, way back in 1917, that the county of West Yorkshire was going to be given over to a lost tribe of dispersed Maya because their God had appeared to one of their leaders and said this was to be their promised land when they fled from Inca enslavement three thousand years ago, and if, when the West Yorkshiremen who were booted out started complaining and trying to get their land back, parliament had responded by assisting the Maya in creating the most heavily-armed defence force, per capita, in the world, you'd expect, wouldn't you, that the lunatics who'd decided all this would have been replaced, by now, by real people who'd worked out something better. well, that's not happened, so here's the plan:
move the State of Israel to America.
no, no, wait a minute, don't look at me like that, think about it for a minute.
Israel is totally dependent on America for the funding that provides its security. it is already, to all intents and purposes, the fifty-first state. one only has to ask the stupid question - to whom is Israel closer, culturally - America or its immediate neighbours? - to recognise the self-evidence of that. it costs America more to keep Israel afloat than it does to keep its entire navy afloat. the benefits to America would be incalculable - do the sums on the degree of enhancement to the American economy on the immigration of such an industrious, virtuous, law-abiding, predominantly middle-class population whose business and personal taxes would henceforth contribute to federal funds rather than drain into the bottomless pit of armed conflict six thousand miles away. calculate the pros and cons, both economic and political, of making this grand gesture to the Palestinians at this moment in time - here, take it back, it's yours, sorry to have troubled you - whilst at the same time welcoming the Israelis into the secure embrace of the Homeland, never again to have to live in constant fear of random suicide bombers and more conventional military attacks.
the Mormons seem to be perfectly happy in their desert - so why not give another to the Jews? it's not as if America doesn't have space to spare.
where? Oklahoma, obviously. big, mostly desert, mostly impoverished, miles from the centres of power but still staunchly conservative, with a population too few, too poor, and too ignorant to put up any significant degree of resistance to displacement. imagine how creatively a new generation of New Zionists would rise to the challenge of, yet again, irrigating a desert and turning it into a promised land.
what's the alternative? does anyone seriously imagine that, four years from now (not a figure chosen at random), there's going to be peace in the Middle East? not a snowball's chance in hell. I doubt if there's an Israeli alive who wouldn't seriously prefer to bring up their family in the safety of the American mid-west rather than in the middle of an escalating war-zone. obviously, there's a few madmen who would prefer to remain and face out the re-occupying Arabs as a matter of principle. that could be arranged.
anyone got any better ideas?

(thanks to xymphora)

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

the bright side

I've been looking for the bright side ever since last wednesday, and I think I've finally found it: the future, at least the broad picture, is now a known. it's appalling – as bleak a prospect as the darkest Goya - but at least it's not going to disappoint any raised hopes or expectations, which four years of the other bloke almost certainly would have done. this is the thing about fascism: it delivers.
I had a friend at school - allen - who was a cheerful pessimist, ie he always expected the worst in any given situation. that way, he proposed, offered the best chance of happiness, since one was never reliant on the vagaries of chance to improve one's lot. as long as you assumed that everything was going to remain the same, and that everything was going to be awful, you'd never suffer the depressing disappointment of dashed hopes, and every vaguely good thing that happened by chance in your life would be a bonus. he was the predecessor personified of marvin the paranoid android. I hitched around France with him one summer. one of the bigger mistakes of my life. it rained all the time and we spent most of it standing in puddles as cars drove past, drenching us. the tent leaked. he hated French food. I came close to killing him.
it helps to know that practically the whole of the rest of the world and the better half (because that the monkey stole it again goes without saying, of course) of the Disunited States considers this administration a pack of lying criminal thugs, and that, whereas they have almost limitless power to do what the fuck they please, they will be universally hated and despised for it. there’s a tremendously powerful inertia in that sort of solidarity that the political establishment ignores at its peril. if – big if – they have the mental capacity to process the implications of that degree of revulsion, it will of course only serve to reinforce their determination to proceed. expect much reiteration of terms such as evil, resolve, conspiracy, god, freedom, united, security, tolerance and understanding (only joking). but they’ve got a helluva domestic battle on their hands to extract ongoing compliance from those blue seaboard states. it’ll be fun to watch how they apply their sophisticated Afghanistan- and Iraq-tested ways of winning the hearts and minds of the people to winning over those of their own.
the point is recognising where not to invest your hopes. the politics of red v blue america is no longer the issue – as long as government is yoked to religious fundamentalism as its populist prop, that arena is completely deaf to the sort of reason that applies in any grownup forum. there is, simply, no arguing with people who believe that god made the earth and everything on it (including the fossil record, which He placed there deliberately to test their faith, doncha know) in seven days sometime around three thousand BC, and that Terror is an enemy nation. nothing personal, but a conversation with a sea cucumber is more productive. the progressive expansion of that sphere of international contempt and ridicule manifest on the internets is, on the other hand, one very hopeful indication of what’s in store for the monkey and his minders. the steady drip-drip of global ridicule – don’t forget your bulge, george – will do more, in the long run, to erode that flimsy dam of inflated fears and insane paranoid fantasies than any amount of head-on polemical confrontation.
unleashed, the rabid monkey is an undeniably frightening prospect, but he’d better look out for where he drops those banana skins.
meanwhile, over here, we have some fun of our own in store planning how best to punish the poodle for his incontinent roll-overiness next Spring. obviously, this tragic alignment with the leftover Special Relationship of the Maggie/Ronnie fuckfest days has just got us thoroughly shafted to no purpose whatsoever. any idiot could have told him that. several million did. so, as long as the monkey’s in charge, he’s fucked, and he knows it. and since the only thing that seems to ignite any passion at all in this anaemic parliament is the absurd debate about whether or not we’re part of Europe, I fancy that goading him about how little Europe actually cares whether we’re part of it or not, and that he’d be better off rolling on his back to Brussels rather than Washington and begging that they let us in instead of pretending that we’ve got any negotiating position left worth their consideration is the way to go. he’s looking old and tired and disillusioned, poor pooch. expect more of the following: sovereignty, history, balance, shoulder to shoulder, global, resign (I wish).

Friday, November 05, 2004

martial arts

for all the talk about how the role of the modern soldier is different now than it used to be, it remains the case that, fundamentally, a soldier is a soldier is a soldier - a state-licensed killer who, from time to time, will find him or herself in a life-threatening situation. squirm as much as you like, this is definitive.
all British and American soldiers are, for the time being, volunteers. like it or not, those men or women who sign up to be soldiers, whether full-time or as reservists, are not being employed primarily in order to enhance their engineering, computer, or leadership skills, and those nifty bits of kit they're issued with - night-vision goggles, body-armour, lethal weapons - are not designed primarily to enhance their personal self-esteem.
politicians love being called war leaders - their comic posturings on the tops of tanks and in ill-fitting combat gear are tolerated by the professional soldiers as a necessary part of their own enablement - the charade of leadership in a situation where nary a man or woman amongst them them knows jackshit about anything. the last real wartime leader was Winston Churchill, who, for all his faults, at least knew what war was about, having personally killed more people than the monkey and the poodle have swatted wasps. and not at the clinical distance of the artillery or aerial bombardment either - as a cavalry officer in the 4th Hussars serving on the Indian North-West Frontier and in the Sudan between 1896 and 1898 he would frequently charge down on the heathen Pathan with a lance, would you believe, fatally skewering this thing into their writhing screaming bodies, time and time again. yup, when Winston warned wartime Britain that war was about 'blood, toil, sweat and tears', he was holding back on the worst of it.
now, of course, the newly deployed squaddy, fresh in from the battle sims and the bivouacing on the Brecon Beacons and the routine weekend binge-drinking in Aldermaston, believes what he's been told - that he's there to help the locals, to deal with insurgents, and to do the job he or she's been trained to do - and that, whereas this involves a certain greater element of risk than, say, working in the local MacDonalds, well, it's nothing that the platoon can't handle. until the first suicide bomber drives up and detonates himself a few metres away.
that guy, too, was a volunteer. he, too, believed what he'd been told - that he was there to help the locals, to deal with the invaders, and to do the job he'd been born to do.
and here, back home, the families mourn, the politicians cringe and justify, and another young man or woman decides, well, I'm not going to get a better offer than this with my qualifications in this deadend town, and walks into the recruitment office.
reality check - the definition of a soldier has remained unchanged for the entirety of human history. anyone who thinks they have legitimate grounds for complaint about a soldier getting killed or injured in the course of doing what they're recruited to do is living in a strange and different universe. the heroics last until the armour-piercing shell enters the battle-wagon and the heavy metal on the stereo gets displaced by the heavy metal of fragmentation. the honour lasts as long as it takes for some aristo to pin a medal on your chest and get you photographed in front of the war memorial.
the reality is that a soldier is and always has been an expendable unit in a much, much larger equation, wherein the device that killed your mates and left you a permanent cripple was, more likely than not, assembled in a factory owned by one of these politicians' cronies in an English or American town not dissimilar from your own, which depends for its livelihood, as so many of them do, on such cynical investment.
and right now, right at this moment, someone from Telford, or Derby, or Bethesda, or Lexington is doing a quality check on a device that, a few months down the timeline, after having passed along a nicely profitable chain from dealer to dealer, will kill or maim someone. and whether that someone else was born in Farnborough or Falls Church or Falls Road or Fallujah, whether they're allies or insurgents, our side or theirs, is of absolutely no concern at all to anyone involved in that chain (including, by default, the government that intitiated it). it's just the way things are. business as usual.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

only 1459 days to go

oh dear
they just don't get it, do they?
so we just have to spell it out (again).
I know you couldn't give a monkey's, but the entire planet (apart from Israel) now holds you and your wretched disunited states in COMPLETE CONTEMPT - look at me whilst I'm talking to you! - and will certainly hold you accountable for all the crimes you are now about to commit in the name of this thing you keep calling 'democracy'(don't laugh, children, it only encourages them).
now just go and sit over there on your own for a little while and have a little think about how stupid you've been and start thinking about how you're going to get yourself out of this mess. and for godsake wipe your nose and stop playing with your willie!