Tuesday, July 27, 2010

the more people you kill the less good it does to you.

The latest revelations from the Afghan war seem to prove what I argued in THE RULES OF CHAOS. The more people you kill the less good it does to you. Or to put it in a more scholarly way: every enemy killed increases the number of enemies exponentially. The killing of a civilian, especially a child, increases the number of enemies even more. Parents, in-laws, relatives of every person killed turn against the West. They may not take up arms and they may not join the Taliban, but they will certainly not oppose anybody who wants to kill those who killed their loved ones. The idea that it makes any difference that the killing was unintended shows that neither the generals nor their political masters know much about human nature. As the newly released documents illustrate what has actually been evident for years, NATO has been creating more enemies of the West by the day. They are a great many more Afghans and Pakistanis today who hate the West than there had been when NATO invaded. Yet Nato soldiers continue to die, unknown numbers of Afghans and civilians die, and the wealth of our countries drains away by hundreds of billions in the cause of creating more enemies for the Western Powers and Western values, making us weaker and more vulnerable.

The intellectual harm caused by this senseless and counterproductive war should not be underestimated either. Just as a man who keeps hitting his head against the wall lose our respect, so do our leaders who are doing the same thing with other people’s heads.

All that a great power has to do to destroy itself is persist in trying to do the impossible.


Friday, May 21, 2010

rereading / rewriting / a great phrase

My thanks to those who wrote that they read In Praise of Older Women again and liked it better than the first time. I would like to persuade you to re-read again all the books you liked. Every few years you should try to reread your favourite books. If they aren't really good you will realize it when you read them the second time and you can abandon them after a few pages. Bad books get worse on rereading and good books get better. To read a good book once is like listening to a symphony once.... Rosemary asked me about my spoof Galileo about media objectivity. Alas, I have only the script. In those days plays were recorded on huge machines on huge reels of tape - I could have made a copy in the CBC studio, but saw no point as I would have no way of playing it back. Maybe I'll update it one day.... The best thing about being back in print in England is getting new friends through In Praise of Older Women. One of them is the brilliant writer a.a. gill: his pieces are full with great phrases that strike me with envy - I wish I wrote them! Here is his description of a pearl necklace: "a seculary rosary, the prayer beads of mammon."...

Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Ian Hislop's brilliant article Politics and Humour in this week’s Radio Times about the impossibility of impartial humour, reminds me of the time I was writing and producing an arts/politics public affairs show for CBC Radio 3 in Toronto, where I learned that media impartiality meant that truth and lies must be treated with equal and uncritical respect. I got so sick of this that I wrote a radio play for my slot, called "Controversial Issues". It was about
Galileo - an Italian immigrant to Canada who had just discovered that the Earth moves around the Sun. To examine in depth Galileo's startling claim our reporter interviewed government scientists and leading politicians who talked out of both sides of their mouths, various wise persons, and people on the street, and at the end of it you heard everything, leaving you no
wiser whether the Sun moved around the Earth or whether it was the other way around. The play concluded with an apology for the previous week's program about Hitler, in response to listeners’ objections to its lack of impartiality. We apologized for saying that Hitler killed millions of people without pointing out that he has also eliminated unemployment. I produced the play with leading Canadian actors, using recorded music between the scenes. Management got wind of it, and banned it. I said if they don't let me broadcast it, I will quit and go to the papers telling them why. ‘No, no, no,’ said the head of radio, ‘We are not against satire, it is just that you don't have much experience as a director and we think the play is so wonderful that we will commission original music for it and give it a better time-slot.’
They re-recorded the play replacing the stars in my production with third-rate actors. And they used the same records I used, with this difference - they brought in the music earlier, drowning out all the lines that hit home, all the punch lines... It was one of several incidents that convinced me that I wouldn’t have a happy and secure future with the corporation and must get out.