Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

Cold War

I was watching a programme about the Cold War last night. Anyone remember the Cold War? Most of the time I don't, but it was the horrid, black, looming thing in the shadow of which I grew up and had my infant psyche formed. I remember- at 17- explaining to a girlfriend (my first girlfriend) that war with Russia was inevitable. We would all be bombed to hell. She drank her beer and answered me monosyllabically and I could feel her dislike of me growing. We were already past the best and this was the true ending. But I did believe in it- the nuclear annihilation thing. How strange- to be assured of fiery destruction and yet so coolly accepting of it! What a jerk!

I sometimes think that the "War on Terror" has been dreamed up for us by the old men in Washington out of pure nostalgia for the certainties of the Cold War. Them. Us. Good. Evil. Actually there's no comparison. Bin Laden isn't Kruschev, he isn't even Castro, he's just Carlos the Jackal on steroids. But there's a comfort, clearly, in making him out to be so much bigger than he is. How do we define ourselves, understand ourselves, unless there's a big evil out there that's the antithesis of all we pretend to be? Hope is a silver tree that flourishes in the shadow of Mordor. There's a poem by Cavafy about a Roman city waiting for the barbarians to attack and one day they wake up to the realisation that the barbarians aren't coming after all- and they're lost. They no longer know who they are.
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