Monday, December 20, 2004

McConflict

I occasionally head out of the house to a McDonald's in the centre of my village (Gosh, the Brits are funny about those things...I live a half hour from the Square Mile - nary a cow in sight - yet a part of my suburb is considered to be 'The Village of (my suburb)'). I go there for a change of scenery, sometimes for an hour just to break out of routine. I write or read, I take work with me most of the time.

Last night, I went because I knew I needed to write a blog post. One in particular I had been wanting to write was wriggling and flapping around the neck of my conscience like the proverbial albatross.

Settling down with the only thing I can guiltlessly justify from Grease Central - coffee - I pulled out pen and paper, winced at the first bitter mouthful and sat back for a moment's reflection.

"And so this is Christmas... And what have you done?"

...warbled the piped music that only a moment ago had been urging me to do something unmentionable to my ho.

"Another year over... And a new one just begun."

Well no, not really. That happens at New Year. You know - when the pain from a temporary onset of seasonal gout is somewhat mitigated by the anaesthetic qualities of Smirnoff in all its possible incarnations.

The music continued until the Junior Slaves Chorus from World Vision's Nabucco Centre chimed in:

"War is over... If you want it
War is over ... Now (ow, ow, ow)"

Desparate to distract myself from the lukewarm engine degreaser doing it's darndest to rid my throat of any natural mucous lining, I thought about the chorus for a while.

Specifically about war - what it is and why we should be constantly so desparate to stop it at any cost.

What is war, then? I suppose the official definition is overt conflict between two nation states regarding some issue or other. Then again, we had the Cold War which was anything bar overt. It was to war what Enid Wharton's 'Age of Innocence' is to the graphic romance novel - constant promises and tension, all bluster and no follow-through. Nowadays we're engaged in a War on Terror - where a loose confederation of governments is fighting an even looser confederation of assorted scum.

If I were to boil it down then, the central tenet I see is a conflict - irrespetive of it's physial expression. Furthermore it is almost always a conflict of ideas.

Given that there are some great ideas in the world, some not-so-very-great and some downright evil - and that all have the potential to significantly impact our lives - is it so very bad that humans are occasionally tempted to fight over them?

Sure, you're not always going to have a clear cut battle of Good V Evil. Communism and Nazism scrapping it out over Poland was simply a case of two totalitarian warlord states engaged in a monumental pissing contest.

At other times - WWI, WWII, Vietnam, The Cold War and our current War on Terror - it's clearer to see which side should win for the happiness of mankind.

I'm not saying that the protagonists. are 'Good' good and 'Bad' bad - it's never all that clear-cut. I've recently happened to read a little ancient Greek history. What was made painfully clear was that the good guys did some dastardly things in order to win and that the bad guys could be decent, valiant and damned worthy opponents.

Life, then, is not so much Gandalf V Sauron as it is Aragorn V Boromir. This doesn't mean the battle is futile because the characters aren't cartoonishly simple, it means that it is sometimes more important to look at the principles being fought for than at the players fighting for them.

So what does this McNavelGazing mean in today's world?

That Bush isn't perfect - I wouldn't call him heroic. That Blair can be a complete toad (and is, most of the time) . That Howard won't be featured in a Scorcese film anytime soon. That they may have made mistakes and it is possible (although I don't think all that probable) that they misled their citizens into war. But that all this detail doesn't really matter.

What matters, then?

Wht matters is that they've actively decided to fight. To go to W. A. R. despite enormously loud protestations from a minority of short sighted and publicity-seeking loons.

What matters is that they've pulled back from the usual concerns and historical scope of the politician (2-4 years) and had a good, long look at what's going on in the world.

What matters is that they've realised the need for war and committed to it - in the very unpopular and very necessary long term.

So..."War is over if you want it"?

No. War is over when war is over. I honestly don't think that war will ever be over between various factions in the human race - unless a larger, external foe suddenly appears brandishing tentacles, pasty green skin and laser cannons.

Then - like the uneasy and pragmatic Pan-hellenic alliance of old - ancient enemies will stand warily shoulder to shoulder to fight off a more immediate menace to survival.

And I have absolutely no doubt, even then - when the history of human fortune and folly is treble the current volume and full of almost comically repeated mistakes - some schmuck somewhere will compose a Christmas song:

"And so this is Kwanzaa
And what have you done?
Another Standard Annual Period is over
And a new one just begun

Intergalactic conflict is over
If you want it
Intergalatic confict is over
Now (ow, ow, ow)"

To be sung as cities are rendered to dust by an enemy that should just be 'engaged in negotiations and understood' rather than aimed for and shot at. *snort*

M

(Cross posted to A Western Heart)

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