War! What Is It Good For? Hyperbole.

I remember a simpler time when the only entities involved in armed conflict were countries, militias and cowboys. And I’m pretty sure the cowboys were fictional, because they were in black and white and fell through cardboard balconies and were on television in films. Now though – blimey – now everyone is doing it. They are! The Pope even. And they’re arming themselves against things like ‘gangs’ or ‘abuse’ or ‘illiteracy’ or ‘drugs’. Concepts are being threatened with bullets and knives, which seems a bit silly because they’re concepts. Drugs don’t fear machine guns or grenades. They’re too laid back. Declaring war on war must create some sort of weird loop, surely. So, what happened?

People started talking more bollocks, obviously. Declaring not just war, but All Out War, seems to be increasing with every soul melting second of our current existence. Remainers have been declaring all out war on Leavers and Leavers have been doing the same right back at them. Which is impressive because neither group is actually real. They are both a thin cellophane package, wrapped around a thousand different complex thoughts, so that the public can be pitted against themselves. Recently, Boris Johnson might have declared war on the judiciary, depending on which paper you read, or on the EU, or the Conservatives themselves. But I’ve been paying attention and there are no bunkers or sandbags or mounted artillery in Parliament. No bombs, no fallen soldiers, not a single politician showing photos of their sweetheart back home and swearing that one day they’ll see them again. Nothing.

Pretty sure the Mail actually gives you cancer. I mean, everything else does.

War is defined as ‘a state of armed conflict between different countries or different groups within a country’. Y’know, war. As an idiom, all-out-war is defined as ‘unrestricted fighting or conflict’ and ‘the phrase can be used literally or hyperbolically’. No shit. I’m not convinced hyperbole covers it on this occasion. Words do have power, and generally they have meaning. Or they used to. Using words like war and coward and traitor and treason and fake and news conjures an Us vs Them mindset. A universal one. It doesn’t even seem to matter what subject or audience – with only a slight tweak to reporting I’m pretty certain our media outlets could have people murdering each other over the Great Bloody Jesus Christ Is This What People Are Watching Now Bake Off. We are pack animals. We like to be in a herd. Even those of us who believe we’re individual are part of that herd. People in charge of things, or who have a vested interest Othering everything - in creating teams or sides – know this, and they use that to their advantage. They can lead a large group of horses to water and hold them under until they stop twitching. It’s then very easy to harvest the leather and make a tidy profit.

So, I’m declaring all out war on All-Out-War. Yes, I’m aware that up there I posited a theory about that causing a weird loop, but I don’t think it can possibly make things any worse. Just, can’t we – and I mean papers and television and each of us as single, mulchable humans – can’t we agree to not be so intentionally bloody divisive? Can’t we not whip each other up into such a mental, screaming, unreasonable froth? Could our representatives in seats of power not use words as a way to cloak their dickishness and self-interest? Can we not be trusted with the truth? Does a world in which everyone knows what’s going on and talks about it and works something out and isn’t encouraged to beat the living shit out of the other guy really terrify so much?

Yeah, probably. I believe it was the great philosopher Agent K who said it best, “a person is smart; people are dumb”.

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