One year ago today it was Friday, May 30, 2003
. I note this because I wrote a daylog on that day. At that time I was working for the Immigration Appellate Authority
as an audio typist
. I typed up the determinations of the appeals of the seekers of the asylum
. During the lunch hour, I used to read the newspaper, and I was struck by the contrast between two photographs. One was of a militia
man in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
, the other was of Grayson Perry
, the transvestite artist and potter, who was at that time not yet famous. Perry subsequently won that year's Turner Prize
, which carried a purse of £20,000, whilst the militiaman may or may not have been killed. I was going through a bad patch at the time; I was neither killed nor did I win a prize.
"The DRC is a healthy society which has weeded out and killed the fat and the old and the disabled and the infirm; the only people left alive are physically fit, ruthless killers. Everybody wants to be a fit, ruthless killer. Schoolkids across the world want to be buff murderers."
Both Perry and the militiaman were posing with AK-pattern rifles, which is why the photographs struck me. There is a standard pose which people adopt when they are being photographed with a rifle; facing the camera, body turned slightly to the left, rifle held in the right hand, face turned to the left. The photographer frames the pose so that the rifleman is standing at the left of the frame, looking to our right. This pose, this composition, appears in films and in the news all the time.
Later in the year there were similar photographs of militimen in the Ivory Coast, and also militia children, also posing with AK-pattern rifles. I had set up Word so that I merely had to type 'Democratic' in order for 'Democratic Republic of the Congo' to appear. My daylog tailed off towards the end, with a paragraph about Liberia, which was at that time as obscure as Grayson Perry, notwithstanding Michael Jackson's 'Liberian Girl'. A few months later the newspapers were also filled with photographs of riflemen standing at the left of the frame, facing to the right. When I saw those photographs, I felt pleased, because I knew I was ahead of the curve.
The DRC appears to have stabilised since then, or at least it isn't in the news very much. Neither are the Ivory Coast or Liberia newsworthy any more. The big news, the biggest source of photographs of people holding rifles, that is now Iraq. In fact, it was Iraq in May 30, 2003. I didn't mention Iraq in my daylog of a year ago because there seemed no point. I had nothing to add. One year ago today it appeared that Iraq was going relatively well. The doomsayers had been made to look foolish. There were no weapons of mass destruction programme-related weapons, but that seemed a minor thing. As far as I was concerned, the fact that we had demonstrated to the world that we were not weak, that we were prepared to drop our illusion of nice-ness in favour of some good, old-fashioned strategic power projection, that was good enough. Why do we have to be the 'good guys'? There's no such thing as 'good'. All that matters is power, and the will to use it. Everything relies on power, will, might and force. Might does not make right; it just is.
I haven't read a newspaper today. It's a bank holiday, a Sunday. I feel less miserable than I did a year ago. I no longer live in London. Perhaps I am entering what Orwell called the 'deep sleep of England'; perhaps the world has improved. Outside Iraq, there is unrest in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, the Israel/Jordon border area, and East Timor, the bright shining new hope, is going bankrupt because Australia won't let it keep its money. Alaska is at peace. Canada is at peace. Haiti is at peace, because there are other things to worry about there than war. The plants are at peace. The animals are at peace.