I don’t normally like surprises, but in these instances I will make a few exceptions

1. I arrived at work on Friday to find a large box waiting for me. A box full of books! My younger sister had carefully chosen 8 books from the Aussie Amazon equivalent and posted them to me. Even had they not been so well-chosen I would have been delighted, but the selection shows just how well she knows me and my peculiar interests encompassing, as they do, botanical gardens, french cookery, Benjamin Franklin, Colm Toibin, Rudyard Kipling’s memoirs, and a collection of love letters written by ‘Great Men’ stretching back as far as Pliny Secundus’s letters to his wife Calpurnia.

2. I was genuinely surprised by Operation Odyssey Dawn, too. Partly by the name, which is as execrably crass as these things inevitably are, but also by the fact of it. I mean, I really didn’t think the international community was going to do anything other than make speeches about how cross they were with Muammar Al-Khadafi [or Colonel Gadaffi as he used to be known on the news in the UK when I was growing up] when his regime resorted to live rounds to deal with the anti-government demonstrations. Demonstrations which now seem to have become “rebel forces” centred on Benghazi.

If one has to use force, and sometimes I fear one really must when faced with that kind of brutality, then its limited deployment to protect a civilian population from their own despotic ruler seems reasonably just to me.

I wonder how it really looks on the ground, though, to the Libyans. Are they thinking “Wonderful, marvellous, the French, British and Americans are coming – disinterestedly as is their wont – to help save us from a monster, its about time” or is it more like “What the fuck? We’re being bombed by our own government and now we’re being bombed by three foreign governments as well? What are we supposed to live in and on when they’ve bombed each other and the entire country to rubble and dust?”

Of course, it remains to be seen how long it will take for those around Khadafi to realise what a liability he has become and topple him (Saddam clung on far longer than I think many analysts had predicted) and it is by no means certain that his tyranny would automatically be replaced by the kind of western democracy that most commentators assume the Libyan people want. They may very well want it – whether they get it is another matter entirely, as we can see in Iraq. I sincerely hope they do. At least as much for all of our sakes as for theirs – the last thing the world needs is another unstable state in the Middle East.

We may all like to feel that we’re above a war over oil, but we all still merrily use electricity as though its magic – infinitely available to enable our lives. But it is not. Our lives and our governments and cultures are so disgustingly lubed up with oil from that region that its amazing we don’t slip arse over tit in our own oleaginous trails more often.

3. I met a friend to go and see a film about Mozart’s sister – part of the French Film festival currently running in Sydney – only to find it was sold out. On a Sunday evening. Bloody hell. After a feverish bit of app-tapping (thank god for the iPhone) we relocated to another cinema and watched ‘The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets Nest’ instead. And loved it. If you enjoyed the books by Steig Larsson, these Swedish films are amazingly faithful to them. They make no concessions to the story’s complexity or huge cast of characters – keep up or woe betide you – and they are the better for it.

Also, I think they must have gone to a great deal of trouble to scour Sweden for the ugliest and least Swedish-looking actors they could find. Seriously, when I was in Stockholm quite literally everybody I met looked as though they ate nothing but grilled fish and vegetables and played tennis every weekend. This film’s cast looked like they’d crawled out from under a cold, damp stone, a fag stuck to their lip and still wearing last weeks pants.

*I use the words fag and pants in the UK sense, by the way. Though I suppose it makes just as much sense from a US-English point of view.

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6 Responses to I don’t normally like surprises, but in these instances I will make a few exceptions

  1. Colm says:

    “If one has to use force, and sometimes I fear one really must when faced with that kind of brutality, then its limited deployment to protect a civilian population from their own despotic ruler seems reasonably just to me.”

    Well said. It’s been astounding to read stuff from Galloway and some elements of the far left condemning the international community from getting involved because of the link between oil and Libya. It’s always the US is the bad guy, no matter what.

    Apologies for my radio silence over the past few weeks – O forgot to subscribe to your new blog. Sorted now!

    • Woo says:

      Glad to have you back, Colm!

      Yes, the immediate response of some has been to decide that this war must ‘really’ be about oil and that, therefore, it must be unjust. I disagree with both those assumptions.

  2. sledpress says:

    “A fag stuck to their lip” in the US sense… you’ve been reading William Burroughs on the sly, I know it…

    I’m experiencing what I can only call news fatigue at this point and found myself thinking something like “Oh…? Actual military action in Libya? ‘Magine that…” But it really is unexpected, if only because the UN actually decided to do something before the last dog was dead.

    I don’t like surprises either. But when they occur in private some of the unpleasantness is blunted; you don’t run the risk of letting people see a reaction you would just as soon not advertise, for one thing.

    • Woo says:

      I adore William Burroughs. 😉

      Yes, the relentless bad news – and the sometimes ill-disguised excitement of the reporters at their ‘Big Story’ – has rather put me off, too. On the one hand I feel it’s important to know what’s happening around the world but on the other so much of the coverage of Japan at the moment seems voyeuristic and ambulance-chasey. Don’t even start me on the journos covering Operation Odyssey Dawn.

  3. azahar says:

    Yes, so curious that the US of A has ignored the atrocities going on in Darfur since 1993 yet in lickety-split time is suddenly the main NATO muscle against nasty oil-rich Libya.

    I’m not saying they shouldn’t have got involved, but look at their priorities.

    I watch just enough news to get the gist of what’s going on. My brain and heart can take only so much bad news before I switch off and go all zombie-like. And so I prefer to remain reasonably well-informed and then make a difference where I can, which is mostly where I live. One day at a time.

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