Saturday, September 29, 2012

War or Peace?

I think somebody is taking the piss. At the end of every night's cacophony in Chinatown (my wife swears last night's finale was a sped up version of "Could You Feel Love", sung in Mandarin), there's a comedy trill, bop-bub-babaBAABAAbompBOM, and then everything went quiet, like the finale of a not-very-good sitcom from the 1970s.

Then, blurry and confused in the taxi on the way to the airport, I had one of those conversations where you begin to doubt what you're hearing."Do you prefer war or peace?" my driver asked.
Had he got confused about Dostoevsky? Or, having determined that I was British, did he think we were the sorts who thought bombing cities and shooting people was, on balance, a Good Thing?

(Well, I am British, I suppose given the past few centuries that isn't so big a cognitive stretch.)

Or maybe he thought that a just war could be conducted, providing certain conventions were adhered to, that a greater evil was being prevented, and so on. Did he think that there was a process of realpolitik such that peace was indistinguishable from war (different methods, same aims)? Or was he in agreement with George MacDonald Fraser that, for a man in the prime of his youth with a gun, war can actually be rather exciting?

Were war and peace like chicken and beef, where you express a preference and it's entirely unobjectionable either way?

I figured we might not be on the verge of a philosophical discussion, and plumped for peace. He seemed happy enough with that, and we carried on.

But what if I'd said something else?

"War, but only when we're winning"?

"Peace, obviously, except if there's nothing on TV"?

"Well, in the week I like war, but at the weekends I prefer a bit of peace, but not too much"?

Perhaps he's taking a survey, as he plies the empty roads early in the morning, delivering travellers to the icy cold of Changi's air conditioned terminals. Perhaps I'll see him again one day, and he'll check to make sure my views haven't changed. Or I'll bump into him elsewhere, have a two-hour conversation about nothing much, and go for dinner. No, that never happens. Does it?


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