Life During Wartime

I was 15 and staying with my dad in the holiday caravan of one of his friends. I got to hear him tell a story he would never tell at home, of the time his navy ship was fired on off the coast of Vietnam. My dad described the chaos, and said how, in that moment of pinging shrapnel, it had occurred to him for the first time, after months of being at war, that “some bastard out there” was trying to kill him. You get the impression he thought the missiles his ship had been sending the other way had all been filled with coloured balloons.

This war we are at now is coming to our shores—you know that. We’ll be lucky if it’s limited to insurgency strikes and the rounding up of dissenting citizens and the makeshift construction of political prisons. But as far as I can gather there will be no nice and neat post-WW2 scenario. The whole Arab world won’t raise a white flag and invite us in to make Syria and Iraq great trading partners like Germany and Japan.

We’re more like Britain disputing with India, who just wanted them out. And we would leave, gladly, if the only consequence to us were a doubling in the cost of drinking tea. But the consequence is a doubling of the price of filling our tanks. An oil price creep triggered the GFC of 2008: people filling their tanks to commute to the desert could not afford to do that, and pay their mortgages. They were left with no choice but to default on their loans.

This war needn’t happen. Our government could arrange a mass buy-back of every car. We could all say, “Sorry Ma and Pa Muslim,” for all we have done, and use public transport and cycle. What a giant punt that would be! Saying sorry, and backing down, not knowing if we would be weaker or stronger as a nation in twenty years time. The conservative bet is to build up our military and intelligence, blast the shit out of everybody and everything, and crank up the music and dance.


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