Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Happy New Year

I haven't been online much recently, and to be honest, blogging bores me now. There's so much I hate about the UK - and more that I hate about the rest of the world - that there isn't enough time left in my life to get riled up about it.

The main story of the week (year, in fact) is the Israeli land assault on the Gaza Strip. It seems to be that the Israelis have had 9 people killed (3 by their own soldiers) while the Palestinians have had 660 killed. This seems fairly disproportionate, but I would like you to read the following analogy by the utterly brilliant Leg-Iron.

I've copied the main bulk of it here, but please read him and the rest of his stuff (particularly the posts about the Righteous) as it is worth it.
Imagine a quiet pub. You're sat at a table, there are a few folk chatting in the corner, perhaps an American at the dartboard. Sitting at the bar is Mr. P. He's only little and looks quite harmless. He's occupying the one good stool - the chrome one with the backrest and the padded seat. A little further along is the only other stool, and it's crap. It's bare wood and it wobbles. Nobody wants to sit on it.

In comes Mr. I. He's a big lad. Mr. I walks straight up to Mr. P and throws him off the good stool. There's not a lot Mr. P can do about it but slink off to the crappy stool and sit there. Mr. I won't let anyone fix Mr. P's stool and he won't let Mr. P sit anywhere else.

Fairly clear cut so far. Mr. I is a bully and Mr. P is the victim.

However, these two have history. Mr. I used to get beaten up a lot by a certain Mr. Hitler and his gang, and Mr. P was all for Mr. Hitler's methods. Now it's not quite so clear cut. There's a reason Mr. I doesn't like Mr. P, but does it justify the bullying? Two wrongs don't make a right - that's what we were always told as kids.

The matter doesn't end there. Whenever Mr. P wants to use the bathroom, he has to pass Mr. I, and Mr. I wants to search him every time. Sometimes Mr. I won't let him go past. Back at the wobbly stool, Mr. P takes to lobbing beermats at Mr. I. Most don't do much harm, in fact most miss altogether, but once in a while a mat hits Mr I on the nose.

When that happens, Mr. I gets up, walks across to Mr. P, and whacks him one.

Now we have Mr. P deliberately provoking Mr. I, and Mr. I responding by pummelling someone who's a lot smaller than him. Mr. P wants Mr. I dead and says so at every opportunity. Mr. I won't let Mr. P go to the bathroom without permission and makes him sit on the dodgy stool.

Now, who's right and who's wrong? It's not so easy to see. If Mr. I had let the matter rest after the beatings from Mr. Hitler, or if Mr. P hadn't insisted he wanted to continue the beatings even though he isn't big enough, the matter might have faded. But they didn't. They kept on responding to the other's attacks and the whole issue escalated out of control.

It might also have fizzled out if the rest of the bar had kept quiet - but it's a bar so that won't happen. Some side with Mr. I and some side with Mr. P. Some supply Mr. P with more beermats, while our American dart player offers to lend his darts to Mr. I. Some insist that Mr. P needs their help and they buy him drinks and crisps so he doesn't have to worry about finding money. That lets him buy more beer mats, increase the rate of beer-mat throwing and make them more accurate. Some insist that Mr. I is only defending himself from beermats and they cheer whenever he gets up and slaps Mr. P.

Now the families of Mr. P and Mr. I come in. Mr. I won't let Mr. P's family pass him until they are searched, and slaps one or two of the kids just in case. Mr. P threatens to kill Mr. I's family at a later date when nobody's watching.

The polarised clientele now either say Mr. P is right to fight back against the oppression of Mr. I, or that Mr. I is right to give Mr. P a pre-emptive pounding because he's defending his family.

The rest of the pub are now as polarised in their beliefs as Mr. P and Mr. I. They stand, absolutely and unequivocally, behind one or the other of them. Neither Mr. I nor Mr. P can now back down. If they try to back of from further fighting, their supporters will push them back into the fray. Neither group will let their champion be the one to back down. Neither group wants their champion to lose because the supporters now have a vested interest in keeping the fight going.

Those supplying beermats to Mr. P are now making a profit on the deal. Those supplying darts to Mr. I are also making a profit. There are groups set up specifically to support one or the other and if this battle ends, they lose their reason for existence.

So now, neither side wants their champion to lose but neither side wants to win either. The profit is not in the culmination of the war, but in the war itself. Mr. I and Mr. P are now caught between those two stools and can't back away.

So Mr. I moves his family to a table on Mr. P's side of the bar. Later he moves them back again. Mr. P sends his kids over with shaken-up bottles to open next to Mr. I. Mr. I grabs some of Mr. P's kids and keeps them captive. Mr. P captures some of Mr. I's kids and they trade prisoners. And so it goes on. Mr. I moves forward, then back. Mr. P fires beermats, stops, starts again. By now, both are tired of fighting but they cannot stop because their supporters - who take no part in the fighting themselves - won't allow them to quit for more than a temporary ceasefire.

Mr. I cannot back down on the rhetoric that his stool was promised to him by the Barman himself, and it's his by right.

Mr. P cannot back down on the rhetoric that the Barman is actually on his side, that the stool is rightfully his, and that it is his duty to drive Mr. I and his family from the pub.

Both now have huge ranks of supporters. Mr. I's supporters say 'Yes, it is true, the Barman says it's his stool'. Mr. P's supporters say 'Yes, it is true, the Barman instructs that Mr. I shall be driven from the pub and Mr. P shall have the stool back'. Nobody even knows if the Barman exists, but that no longer matters. Mr. I cannot back down because the Barman Believers on his side will turn on him if he does. Mr. P cannot back down for exactly the same reason. So both are in a position dictated by absolutes, trapped by their own rhetoric and with no possibility of compromise. The matter now cannot be settled unless one or the other leaves the bar - and neither can.

The supporters take no risks in this. They will not be hit by Mr. P's beermats or by Mr. I's fists. The supporters can champion their cause by proxy, and incidentally turn a profit on the supply of materials to both sides. While there is every reason for Mr. I and Mr. P to stop fighting, there is no reason for their supporters to stop the fight. In fact, the supporters now have considerable investment in keeping the fight going for as long as possible.

There is no way to intervene. Try to do something for Mr. P, and Mr I and his supporters will cry 'Preferential treatment'. Try to do something for Mr. I and you'll get the same response from Mr. P's side. Suggest they share the stool and Mr. I won't hear of it. It's his stool - the Barman said so. Suggest fixing up Mr. P's stool and Mr. P won't hear of it - this is not The Stool, this is temporary accommodation.

Mr P's family and Mr I's family are sick to death of the whole thing but the men won't listen to them. They hear only their supporters now, who urge them on as Champions to the cause. Their causes are diametrically opposed. There is no middle ground. We can reason and argue all we like but in the end, there really is only one possible outcome.

In all the fighting, they'll end up destroying the good stool.
I added my own continuation to this, as follows.
Neither Mr I or Mr P drink, and the barman is furious at the pair of them for taking up valuable space around the bar and stopping other people from getting to the bar. The barman refuses to serve either of them anything (or anyone buying anything for them) in the hope that they'll both leave. When they don't, the barman leaves.

It appears as though the barman has left this particular bar quite some time ago. The fight however, continues in the closed down pub. If the pub is demolished, the fight will continue in the rubble of the car park, with each side blaming the other for the destruction of the pub and the disappearance of the barman.

There will still be other people standing around watching, urging both Mr P & Mr I to finish it properly. What neither Mr P & Mr I realise is that there is too much money riding on them for the fight to end as a draw. Relocating Mr P & Mr I to different pubs merely increases the distance they have to travel to get back to where they both *know* the barman originally was.

Neither they or their supporters can accept that there isn't a barman and there never was a barman. What would the point of a pub be *without* a barman? Well, it's like this; it's a social place, where people talk, argue about sport, buy stuff they know is stolen, and generally get along and pass the time before they die.

In time, people will realise that there's a bit of a barman in all of them and go on to serve themselves. Just remember to use the honesty box, and everyone will be happy.


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