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Sunday, March 09, 2003

A Pleiad for Peace

I really don't need to call your attention to this bit of drivel in the Guardian, as Emily or Andrea already have, but I just couldn't resist the author's name: Merope Mills.

Merope Mills, Merope Mills, what a beautiful, beautiful name.
Sounds like a housing development,
Or a shopping center,
Just the same.

I don't know how Ms. Mills pronounces her first name, but another bearer of it (the big one nearest the bottom of the picture, the dusty one) pronounces it MAIR-o-pee. I wonder if Ms. Mills has sisters Alcyone, Asterope, Celaeno, Elektra, Maia, and Taygete. (Here is probably more than you want to know about Merope and her sisters.)

Possibly Ms. Mills pronounces it to rhyme with Mope, her tone throughout this article.

Her prose reminds me forcefully of one half of this Internet Golden Oldie. See if you can guess which one.

Amid the comparisons of the current conflict with Iraq to the 1956 Suez crisis and Chamberlain's 1939 appeasement, two more recent dates came to my mind - not for their political parallels, but for their poignancy. In 1989, I was 12 years old: too young to fully understand the significance of that date, but old enough to commit to memory the faces of East Berliners as the iron curtain came down.

"That was my first summer of love, when "Spotty" Snape and I began fumbling toward adulthood, out back of the gazebo during the village fete..."

There is a certain solace in thinking about them just now. Given the choice, I find it much more comforting to dwell on the optimistic end of a turbulent period of history, as opposed to the terrifying beginning of a new one.

Immediately after September 11, there were predictions that our lives would never be the same again. Then came the backtracking - perhaps it was just America that had changed. It had come into the world, people said, and been forced to think more globally and sensitively (a premonition that is sadly wide of the mark).

But 18 months on, we feel the consequences more than ever. Fear and instability are the norm and the words "terrorism" and "war" are never out of the papers. As someone in their 20s, who grew up during peacetime, they are arresting differences.

"Why, oh why can't the nations of the world work together to outlaw war and terrorism and support love for all?"

At universities, students are far more numerous in their opposition to a planned attack on Iraq than they ever were against tuition and top-up fees. Radicalism is no longer a luxury for the young.

"Oh, those were the, halcyon...days. We demonstrated for the addition of kimchee to the campus cafeteria, for the establishment of a Department of Autogratification Studies, and against having to cough up a sixpence for our own educations..."

Without cold war missile crises to haunt our childhood memories, we have been fortunate to live without the fear of impending doom.

But it was Kenneth Clarke who captured the fear of how this war will shape our future: "The next time a large bomb explodes in a western city, or an Arab or Muslim regime topples and is replaced by extremists, the government must consider the extent to which the policy contributed to it."

So here we are, us twentysomethings, facing an asymmetrical war that targets people we have nothing against; facing threats from cultures we don't really understand; and dangers we can't protect ourselves from.

How long will it be before we can wear intoxicated smiles of permanent peace? Will it be 10, 20 years from now? Perhaps we'll be parents of children who have never known what it's like not to live in fear. Invading Iraq might solve one problem, but it will create myriad others. Problems we will be witnessing for the best part of our lives.


Look, Mopey, I grew up in the Sixties and Seventies, right smack dab in the middle of the Impending Doom years. I am the child who never knew what it was like not to live in fear, if you could use that phrase to describe someone who spent the Cold War deep in peaceful and prosperous Western territory, someone whose main worry during that awful time was thinking up good names for her large herd of plastic horses.

Some people used this excuse to become all wild and uncontrolled. You see that in old books and TV shows---kids moaning about how they lived under the Shadow of the Bomb, and when the world's gonna end any moment, why shouldn't they take whatever shallow satisfaction they kind find in the moment? Like, heavy, man.

Others did what some of your contemporaries are doing now---using current events as cover for their youthful propensities to riot and scream. Just like you, they were gonna make the world safe for peace and justice and love and little yellow duckies. And to their absolute horror, they succeeded, at least in the larger things, and with no more world to save, had to go and get real jobs.

Some of them, however, never grew up. They're the ones leading your little pro-tyranny protests right now. If you're unlucky, you'll be one of those, and in thirty years you'll be in Iraq agitating on behalf of a Sunni who suffered great mental anguish when a Jewish shopkeeper dared to wish him happiness on a Shia holiday.

And, of course, the sixties were nothing compared to the forties. SO GROW A DAMNED SPINE.

In an only tangentially-related development, the Guardian continues to uphold its reputation as the most pathetic rag in the Anglosphere with this article on blogging. This is the most germaine point:

On the other hand, it's getting so easy to update a weblog that some users seem to type in their thoughts willy-nilly, posting unimaginable banalities...Here's a crazy idea: if you're going to write a weblog, why don't you do what most of this weekend's Bloggie award nominees appear to be doing, and try to expand the field of human knowledge in some particular area?

'Cause that's my day job. In my off hours I mock pouting adolescents writing in the Guardian.

Via A Small Victory.