02/03/2014

Duality

In Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being there is a very interesting discussion of opposites, in which he points out the opposite of darkness is not light, just as the opposite of lightness is not weight. But, these ideas are deeply ingrained - man/woman, day/night, liberal/conservative. high/low, old/young, long/short, Jew/Muslim/Christian/Atheist, rich/poor, religion/science, good/bad etc.

In the same novel, there is the marvelous Sabina, who is an artist concerned with what lies behind the image.
She is a character I have always identified with.

At which point it is useful to travel back to the early noughties. Internet connection is via dial up, the Twin Towers have recently fallen, English is still the Lingua Franca on public transport, The Third Way is the vogue in politics, and Tony Bliar has yet to get that curious twitch in his eye.

There am I listening on the wireless, with jaw agape, to the debate in parliament as to whether or not Britain would send troops to the impending conflict in Iraq. The cause of my gaping jaw is the claim, reported dutifully by all media, that Saddam Hussein has missiles that at four minutes notice can attack Greater Britain.

Now leave aside the subsequent issue of WMDs, at this stage Dr Kelly is still alive and Andrew Gilligan has yet to appear on an early morning un-neutered 'hideously white' BBC Today program. The Commando style drawings in the newspapers the following day showed Scud missiles, and large arrows indicating their flight path and a map angled in such a way that made Iraq a near neighbour - of seemingly everyone. Yet anyone with any knowledge of modern warfare knew the claim was a lie.

But wait, it wasn't. This is New Labour we are dealing with. The British territory referred to was some military bases in Cyprus, which are technically British territory. They can't be blamed if the story is spun to make it seem that Dorking is about to be attacked.

The tale gets more bizarre when spokespeople start quoting Thomas Aquinas and his justifications for what is and is not a just war. You will recall Tony was still doing God at this point. And not only God, in the Christian happy clappy guitar playing sense, he was also reading the Koran. This part of the story gets dropped later when Jihadi types start playing The Crusades card.

So we come to duality.

Perhaps it is my Piscean  nature, or perhaps it is my admiration of Sabina, but I have always rather admired duality in art. Whether it be Blake's Jerusalem, the, supposed, subversive John the Baptist symbology of Da Vinci identified by Picknett and Prince, or the playfulness of Magritte with Ceci n'est pas une pipe.

 And so I wrote A Prayer.

 Our Father, franchised from America
that makes the world the same.
Thy mores come,
thy burgers will be done in Omsk
as they are in Capetown.
Give us our dose of the daily dead
and televise their carcasses
as we bomb the shit out of those that trespass against us.
And lead us not into Utopia
but deliver us from evil.
For thou hast dominion
the power and the weapons
but maybe not forever
Amen

There. It's obvious isn't it. A cheap trick. Oh how lame using the Lord's Prayer - it's been done a thousand times. Brainless anti-American bullshit.

Well it is if you think the opposite of day is night.

For one thing it isn't the Lord's Prayer, or at least not the version I have heard in any church in the past ten years. But then being a Sabina, it is the version I recite while all around are using the lumpen verse of the new text..

And what I haven't mentioned is that I was, and remain, in favour of the Iraq war. Mainly on old fashioned Liberal principles of self determination.

Thus the poem is written from that perspective.

Hence the appeal to deliver us from evil whilst steering clear of Utopia. And the warning that Empires, even when acting from noble intentions, risk losing their treasure and their moral purpose when ground down by endless war. And I rather like that if I go in a McDonalds, or a Gap, or a Tesco or or whatever, I know exactly what I will get. Which is probably why I shop at Booths, don't eat those kind of burgers more than once or twice a year, and wear whatever the missus buys me.

Of course the poem can be - and usually is - read from the completely opposite perspective. But it wouldn't be a dualist poem if it couldn't. Neither would it have V-effect.

As an aside there is a very interesting book by Jillian Becker called Hitler's Children: The Story of the Baader-Meinhof Terrorist Gang that examines how the talisman's of anti-Western liberalism developed, onto which so much current oppositional posturing is attached. Of particular interest is the odd rationale behind the attacks on department stores - which broadly equates with the No-Label meme, though the antecedence of the anti-brand movement is perhaps not so lamentable.

The biggest issue I had was with the Our Father. Originally, it began Our Tony, since there is a layer of satire in the poem. Tony Bliar's father in law - the lazy scouse git - Tony Booth was popping up in the news back then, and when Cherie wasn't sitting under turquoise pyramids, she was putting it about that she was just a working class northern girl. So it seemed appropriate. But, it also made it too specific. At which point the choice was with the Catholic or the Protestant opening. In the end I went with the one I use - though not quite, as I generally use the surprised version when in church; Ah Father.



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