Gunpowder, Treason & Plot…

Well, now. Went and gave blood, today, which has left me with a slight headache and a raging apetite, which I plan to sate with bacon, and possibly some form of carbohydrate, in the near future. The room is finally getting nice and toasty, after being freezing all day, when the heating kicked in.

I discovered that the heating was on by jamming my bare foot against the radiator pipe that runs along the back of my desk and getting burnt. So then I dug out the pliers on my penknife, and sat for a full minute with air hissing out of the stone-cold radiator, until it actually bled water (or at least black, oily sludge).

Tomorrow, happily, is Bonfire Night, a cheery festival commemorating what’s probably the UKs most famous terrorist attack, which is all the more impressive when you consider that it was an attack that didn’t actually work…

…I feel there’s something deep and intelligent to say about that, but, frankly, I’m not sure many people would listen, these days. I still can’t understand why, post September 11th, the entire world suddenly woke up and went “Wow, a guy on a plane just invented terrorism! Cool, we can all panic!” when it’s actually been going on for centuries. OK, the bit with the planes was new, and more people died than in your average attempt, but that’s mostly because modern society is very keen on putting lots of people in pug-ugly skyscrapers, which tend to be short on viable exits after the third floor…

And then, suddenly, the entire world is panicking. Now that’s stupid. I can see why New York and Washington would be panicking, because terrorist attacks in your immediate location are likely to scare you (it’s what they’re for, after all). To an extent, I can understand why the rest of the US was scared, too – OK, most of it is a stupidly long way from the places that got attacked, but by and large America seems to have got off lightly, in terms of previous terrorist attacks, probably because it’s so isolated.

The bit I don’t really get is why everyone in the UK suddenly got scared because, on the morning of the 12th of September 2001, we really weren’t relevant to anything. We’d been there, and had an empire, and lost it, and got another one, and generally enjoyed the Great Game for a hundred years or so, and then, after a couple of enormous wars we’d lost the men and the money to maintain an empire (and we had to give India back anyway, because that was the deal we’d made in exchange for their fighting for us) and so we all came home and sank into the quiet obscurity enjoyed by most of Europe, caught between the Communist-hating USA, and the risk-of-another-invasion-of-Russia paranoid USSR, hoping that neither side would get bored of Vietnam and wipe us all out.

And over the next few decades we settled back into normal domestic peacetime status, with major cities occasionally getting targetted by the IRA, and we did what Britain always does when that sort of thing happens which is, effectively, to say “O for goodness sake, can’t those people keep the noise down,” and then offer cups of tea to survivors sheltering in the local school gym. And as a result of that, nobody outside the UK & Eire gave a damn.

Then suddenly, a bunch of planes hit things several thousand miles away, lots of British people get killed, along with proportionally more Americans, and just as we’re thinking “That’s a bugger, that is, I’d better take an extra tin of biscuits and a spare teapot when I head over to the school,” the Government has suddenly upped and said “Woo, U.S.A! U.S.A!!” and before we can finish muttering the usual comments of “Tch! 1917? What time d’you call this, then?” and “Never on time for anything, are they?” we’re suddenly back on the world stage shouting about how much we’d like to be next, please, if that’s not too much trouble, because, hey, you know, we’re kind and considerate, and we’re suddenly going to go to war in Iraq.


That was a bit quick, wasn’t it? Think I missed something there… Wind it back a minute… No, no, stop, that’s Nuremburg, you’ve gone too far… Yeah, right, Russians march into Berlin… forwards… Yalta, yeah, right… Beatles, there we go, yep, Carry On films, keep going… Harold Wilson, Brighton bomb, end of the Cold War, Manchester bomb, Tories lose the ’97 election, hysteria about the millenium bug, Sepember 11th, everyone’s really shocked, America suddenly gets cross… advert break… America still cross, nobody can find Osama Bin Laden… everyone says we shouldn’t go to war, lots of protests… we go to war anyway… er… OK, normal play again… er… we go to war anyway… Bugger, we suddenly look important.

Hm. And then there were those divvies on the London Underground, and things got a bit more back to normal, in that we knew where we stood, then, ie, people were blowing other people up, and we know how to deal with that. (“Better make it chocolate digestives, love, not everybody likes hob-nobs. There’s a spare box of Tetley in the back of the cupboard, it was on offer in Tescos…”)

But there was still that really weird bit between 2001 & 2003 or so when the entire country seemed shit-scared, and the Government was saying “tear up the Magna Carta and everything will be just great,” and everyone seemed to be running about saying “Yeah, OK, then, because we’re scared!”

Scared of what, exactly? Getting killed by terrorists, I assume, or the risk that your friends and family might get killed. Which is fair enough, God knows I worry about Ruth all the bloody time, although that’s probably more to do with my own past than terrorists, but why did everyone suddenly panic? I just don’t get that…

…And nor do I really understand why it took a bunch of explosions on the underground to snap everyone out of it. All I can really think is that September 11th made everyone panic because it was new, so the attacks on the 7th of July were like seeing a repeat on the telly – you might not want to see episode nine of “Porridge” for the tenth time, but at least it isn’t another gritty serial-killer drama with a female detective who hasn’t got the decency to cover herself up properly, and keeps using words like “Bastard” before nine o’ clock.

If it’s strange that it took bombings in London to wake people up to the reality that terrorism isn’t anything new, it’s just plain surreal the way the USA reacted to it – not only did they try and shut down the metro in New York (because even terrorists can take the wrong turning at the roundabout, and one underground system looks very much like another when all your wearing is a belt of C4) but they started mass-producing junk mousemats and T-shirts with the London Underground logo on them and slogans like “London Stands”.

Well duh. Three bombs aren’t going to level London, now, are they? Frankly, if the Luftwaffe didn’t manage it, and the Zeppelins didn’t manage it, and Napoleon didn’t manage it either, a few radical Islamists aren’t going to manage it all in one day.

I don’t believe anyone in the UK bought one of those things, but apparently they were really popular in the US, presumably because a large number of people wanted to show how very supportive they were being of the UK in it’s own “9/11” (which is stupid in itself, because, as I’ve said before, quite a lot of British people were in the WTC when it collapsed). I’ve a sneaking suspicion that several of the people who wandered round the US wearing “London Stands” T-shirts will be associated with the people who spent the previous 30 years wandering round the US and helping to fund the IRA who were setting bombs in London, but I imagine it doesn’t feel like that if you’re a few steps removed from the actual detonator, so maybe they don’t spot the irony there.

And yet, a few hundred years after the failing of a terrorist attempt that would’ve serverely fucked up the politics of the UK for a very long time, we’re getting ready to set off a bunch of fireworks, and burn comedy effigies of the guy they caught trying to set the fuse, and tortured until he confessed. Which is fine by me, really – Bonfire night is there to celebrate the fact we’re capable of defending our own democratic freedoms, which we’ve been carving out of the laws for the last eight hundred years…

…And at the same time we’re gaily sitting down and not paying attention whilst a bunch of goons keep suggesting we get ID cards, continue to allow detention without trial and start accepting evidence obtained by torture again?

That’s not the Government rallying round with tea and biscuits, that’s the Government acting like a bunch of panicky toddlers because we had to up and boast about how we were joining Bush and his stupid “crusade” and suddenly a lot of people are looking at us like it’s the middle of the third act of Othello, and our mobile phone’s just started playing the stupid Nokia Tune on full volume…

Better lock ’em up, then.

I think I’m getting increasingly jaded by all this, and it’s coming across in my NaNoWriMo efforts – I suddenly found I’d created a totally dystopian backdrop to the main action, which I’d not really considered when I first started. But then, the whole thing is completely stupid, so I don’t see too much of a problem with showing it’s logical extreme.

Words written: 4061 / target: 50000

so far. I really ought to stop going back and re-adjusting paragraphs and just get on with it…

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  1. On November 05, 2005 The Pacifist says:

    Mmm.. chocolate digestives…

  2. On January 15, 2006 Lauren says:

    Wll written. I fancy a chocolate digestive myself. xx