Putting a gloss on things

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There’s foreign policy and domestic policy. This morning I heard separate reports on each, both quite instructive.

The foreign policy interview was on BBC Radio 4, and it was with a British general about the state of things in Afghanistan, and how much difference British and American troops had made. While it was instructive to learn that the Taliban control cities all over the country and are an increasing threat, what interested me was the way the general talked about the war.

He spoke of British troops ‘going into Syria’. Think about that. He didn’t really mean ‘going into’ in the sense you or I might go into a shop. He meant ‘going in and killing anyone who tries to stop us’.

He spoke of ‘tours of duty’. What that means is, the period of time during which soldiers, in this case British, spend in a foreign country killing people who disagree with them, often the indigenous people. Perhaps because being there for more than six months might drive them mad, soldiers are brought home, where they’re refreshed before making themselves available again for more touring and doing their duty. That is, invading and killing people in their own country.

Why do generals and all of us talk this way about war? Because the truth is too ugly to think about. If we can get away with a bland or even noble synonym for killing and cruelty, we’ll opt for that.

The other piece I heard was on RTÉ. It was speaking of the fact that by 2030, it’s estimated that the south of Ireland will have per capita the most obese people in Europe. Leo Varadkar’s solution was to put a hefty 20% tax on fizzy drinks. Apparently this would save maybe 10,000 lives annually. I’m not sure how reliable these projections are but in any case the Finance Minister, Michael Noonan, didn’t respond to Leo’s letter urging the tax. Why? Because there are a lot of big fizzy drinks companies operating in Ireland, giving jobs to some 3,000 people. So Leo’s little tax suggestion crashed and burned. It also showed, I think, how the lives of Irish people are expendable, and that big multinationals trump national governments – or certainly the government in the twenty-six counties – when it comes to life-or-death decisions.

Putting a noble icing on the bloody horror of invasion and slaughter, pretending we care about all the children of the nation equally when our government clearly cares more about sucking up to multinationals: that’s what the West’s democracy is giving us today.

11 Responses to Putting a gloss on things

  1. Iolar December 22, 2015 at 10:38 am #

    Perhaps the rich kids can show us how to trump in style. Channel 4 featured a multimillionaire heiress (20), who spends her time jetting and helicoptering between London, Ibiza, New York and Monaco. While shopping, she’s uses a bag which costs in the region of £25,000 to £30,000. Her average monthly spend is £15,000.

    Then there was the diamond heir, botoxed since he was 14, in Europe (from the US) shopping and spending €25,000 to €40,000 a night on hotel suites, driving around London in a black and white Rolls-Royce to match his shirt.

    Should we fall out with transnationals over fizzy drinks? Should we worry about diabetes and obesity? For some it is too late.

    “…the slaughtered masses of Sabra and Chatila, the Iranians putrefying in the desert, the corpses of Palestinians and Israelis and Lebanese and Syrians and Afghans…”

    (Fisk 2005:1286)

    • Sherdy December 22, 2015 at 2:54 pm #

      Solar – Does the diamond heir never change that shirt which matches his black and white Roller, or does he have a different coloured one to match his other shirts?

      • Iolar December 22, 2015 at 7:51 pm #

        Apparently he has a clothes mind.

  2. fiosrach December 22, 2015 at 11:27 am #

    Jude,this is where pragmatism comes in.Imagine if the Free Staters had stood up on their hind legs and said to the US – you cannot use our airports/country to extraordinarily rendite (kidnap/intern/) people with whom you have a problem? Imagine the chill wind blowing eastwards as all the IT and pharmaceutical companies pulled out and darkness and turf smoke descended on the land. Sinn Féin and others of a liberal, tolerant leftist vein can make principled speeches, knowing nobody gives a damn about non Christian towelheads being slaughtered but don’t coup the crann. Safeguard the airgead and all the rest will follow. I struggle with the Yankee/Brit terminology. A ‘surgical’ strike (not too many innocents obliterated) and ‘unfortunate collateral damage’ where entire villages are wiped out. But as we try to digest our massive meal on Friday spare a thought for those being zapped on that very day in the name of ????

    • Jude Collins December 22, 2015 at 1:26 pm #

      Couldn’t have put it better, fiosrach…

  3. Belfastdan December 22, 2015 at 1:49 pm #

    War is murder. The international arms industry is murder. The corporatisation of the world economy is murder. They all kill people one way or another.

    We have sleepwalked into this situation but if you raise your head above the parapet and cry murder sure won’t you be the one who is called an extremist, a fool, a danger to society.

    Many people throughout the world have already done so and have paid with their the loss of their careers, their freedom and ultimately their lives.

    Stay awake!

  4. Sherdy December 22, 2015 at 2:58 pm #

    Jude, methinks you must have misheard this British general about the Taliban having over-run most of Afghanistan.
    Didn’t the British generals tell us 10 years ago how their ‘surgical strikes’ had totally obliterated these ‘bad guys’?
    What I think they are doing is like trying to control the flow of mercury on a flat sheet of glass.

    • Jude Collins December 22, 2015 at 4:03 pm #

      Like the image, Sherdy – haven’t heard that one…maith thú

  5. Jim.hunter December 22, 2015 at 4:48 pm #


  6. Perkin Warbeck December 22, 2015 at 7:46 pm #

    A thoroughly admirable symmetry about your blog today, Esteemed Blogmeister: Fuzzy Wuzzies (as the officer class of the BA tend to term the boys in the opposite corner); Fizzy Drinks in the second.

    To take the second part first: could be this decision by the Minfin Michael Noonan to have the natives of the FSS downing the fizzy drinks, erm, morning, noon and nights be another form of reunification by stealth? By 2030 the FSS would be so overpopulated by FAT PATS that they would be in a fit posish to meld with the FAT LAD ?

    (In the interests of gender balance the PAT in FAT PAT is short for Patrick as well as Patricia.)

    Minister for Health Leo Varadcar aka DR.Strangelove has been compelled, as it were, to eject his vision of a stateen full of Timmies with slim tummies in a way akin to the sublime Slim Pickens being ejected from the American jet fighter, riding the Noo-ku-lar bomb hanging on for dear life with one hand and waving his Stetson in the thin air with the other, all the while hollering ‘I’m a-coming for y’all, Ruskies !’

    Of course, the avuncular Minfin has some form in this matter of blood, not only with the current Coca Colanisation of the capillaries of the Pepsi Generation. During his somewhat less than stellar spell in the hell of Angola (aka Department of Health) twenty years or so ago he presided in the manner obdurate over the Hepatitis C scandal.

    The way he made a hames of that shameful episode would have banished a lesser Minister from the political stage, never to return. But not our self-congratulatory Uncle Mick, for whom old hames don’t hold a scandal in the matter of blood, compared, say, to another politician whose surname begins with A negative.

    Which might have something to do with the insatiable obsession of the hacketariat with skeletons, concentrating entirely on the cupboard of one politician to the complete neglect of the other’s.

    To conclude with the first part of today’s blog: for whatever reason there was a paragraph in yesterday’s The Unionist Times, the go-to sacred text for tolerance, the pastoral letter on liberalism on Liffeyside which had an echo of the BA officers’ mess in Camp Chinless Wonder.

    It comes from the weekly sporting column of Brian O’Connor which never fails to tick a number of toxic boxes:

    -I believe but can’t prove that GAA types labelling themselves Gays are repressed Provo apologists who believe themselves more Irish than anyone not sharing some cupla focail (sic), four-greenfields, pick-off-a-Prod wet dream.

    Oops, for Gays read Gaels !

    Cannot have Amnesty Ireland coming down upon the columnist like a ton of bricks.