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Offbeat – 30 August 2013

The word ‘dimension’ implies depth. That depth cannot be extended to encompass loss of human life: nobody jumped up and used the phrase ‘red line’ concerning the use of bullets and mortars. As the idea lacks depth, let’s call it a ‘thin moral veneer’ instead.

September is around the corner as I write this. The northern end of the globe can start groaning about winter, and the southern half says hello to summer. The weather complaints differ. I’m going to keep a beady eye on cloud build-up and worry about rain. Most summers I mutter and hope. After the awful drought of last summer, worrying is the logical route this year.
Someone I know, in the northern hemisphere, posted a photo of clouds and a grumble about a lack of blue skies. I didn’t want to interrupt her moment of griping, because everyone needs to let off steam from time to time. In a rare moment of emotional intelligence, I didn’t tell her how lucky she is to look up and see clouds.
Please let it rain here, and let it fall long and well.
The seasons are different things in different parts of the world. Here, in Namibia, spring is a symbolic thing at best. The plants will not magically start sprouting, and the world won’t turn bright green. Whether it is a drought or not, September is the beginning of bush fire season, and the wind will soon blow the dust with a bit of extra vigour. Spring is a time of acrid smoke, brooms and vacuum cleaners. Dissatisfaction with weather is one thing that seems common to everyone on earth.
September will bring other downers, as far as I can see. My best guess is yet another conflict to keep almost everyone amused. The US, the UK and, to some degree, France appear intent on attacking Syria. There is a sense of unreality to the thing because Syria is attacking Syria in a civil war. Put that way, it has the feel of a mob attack on someone who is industriously attempting to commit suicide: Syria is, after all, in the process of self-destruction.
Media seems to think there is a moral diamension to it: the widely reported use of chemical weapons is the claimed basis for the planned attack. The word ‘dimension’ implies depth. That depth cannot be extended to encompass loss of human life: nobody jumped up and used the phrase ‘red line’ concerning the use of bullets and mortars. As the idea lacks depth, let’s call it a ‘thin moral veneer’ instead.
Who knows the purpose of the photos of fathers with drool hanging from their mouths as their grief at dead sons and daughters overcomes them. Why go to the effort of eliciting pity from readers when the reality is, it’s just another turf war, executed on a wider playing field.
It’s just another Arab spring, and the fires are burning there as well.
When things settle there, the television cameras will move elsewhere. For now, it’s entertainment for everyone who doesn’t live in the vicinity. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth: news about wars is cheaper than renting a DVD, and wars last longer. The various producers have a bigger budget than Hollywood, so expect some very real special effects, and lots more footage. Ordinance is the opiate of the masses.
Think of it as the blockbuster war of the season. There are other wars out there. Things are looking nasty in the Central African Republic. The UN has gone on the offensive in DRC, exasperated to the point of using weapons. Syria is the big one, complete with robotic drones and copious amounts of editorial and analysis.
The interesting thing is that they aren’t called wars anymore. There is a lot of contortion to stay away from that word. Instead they are called or ‘regional conflict’ or ‘low-level conflict’ or ‘punitive strike’, and the folks caught between the gunfire are now called ‘collateral damage’ or ‘ethnic cleansing’.
All those bits of jargon and buzzwords make the whole thing a lot easier to swallow. In the wash of concepts, things become familiar and less frightening. War takes on the aspect of a sport. In fact, if a war happened right now, right where you are, what would be the chances of you staying in and watching it on TV until the whole thing to pass you by?
Spring is a notion, a western myth. I’ll spend the next few months counting clouds and hoping for rain to settle the dust and put out fires..

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