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Copyright 2002 Telegraph Group Limited

Copyright 2003 Telegraph Group Limited  

March 08, 2003, Saturday


LENGTH: 845 words

HEADLINE: The world: an explanation

In this major article specially written for Way of the World, leading formerly young novelist Martin Amis assesses the current world situation - and finds it wanting

FIRST, let us adduce the casus belli. Or, to put it another, or alternative, way, let us adduce the belli casus. The present debate feels off-centre: it feels soft-centre. In the contemporary climate - climb it - when we are faced with a box of chocolates, our first impulse is to reach for the soft centres, to mouth slurp them down. But reach for Saddam and we are brought up short. And this upshortage is brought about by Saddam, the hardest centre of them all, not even a walnut or a peanut but an almond. And that is why he will henceforth be known as Saddam the Almond Tyrant, or SAT.

It is becoming increasingly clear that we have - suddenly, gradually, suddo-graduenly - without realising it, but realising it fully, entered a new and distinct phase of history. The coming assault on Iraq - as distinct from Iran or Ireland - may perhaps be the Last War of the Ottoman Succession (LWOS); it will certainly be the first War of the Age of Proliferation (WAP) - the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). So what are we left with? Or to put it another way: left with what are we? The simple answer is this: a LWOS or WAP with WMDs, forming a new proliferation, collywobblesome in its sheer terror (CST), of unintelligible initials (UI).

What happened on September 11? On September 11 - what happened? Picture this: two upended matchboxes, knocked over by the sheer force of paper-darts.

Only it was much, much worse than that. In fact, words alone cannot adduce how much worse it was than that. September 11 was an attack on words: we felt a general deficit. And with words destroyed, we had to make do, we had to bolster truth with colons and repetition: not only repetition: but repetition and: colons. This is what we adduce.

Osama bin Laden is an identifiable human type but on an unidentifiable scale. It's as simple: as that. He is an enormous stirrer - a titanic mixer.

Basically, the guy's truly massive spoon is 500 ft long. And we, the citizens of the world (CWs), are his fruit cocktail. Look how he's shaken us up, both in the heart and in the head. Truly, never before in world history has a fruit cocktail received such a great big world-historical stir from an oversized spoon, causing a stir which will reverberate in the world tumbler for centuries.

Countervailingly, the suspicion remains that a suspicion remains. We may notice, in this embarras of the inapposite, this interlockingness of the mutually exclusive, this forcible handcuffing of the opposites, this manacling of the cleverdickery, that any attempt at an exact meaning is lost among the word-need - needy-word - of filling space, the final frontier.

When President George W. Bush spoke of the notion of an "axis of evil", what exactly did he mean? What did he mean: exactly? By "axis" did he mean two or more chopping tools usually made of iron with a steel edge and wooden handle? No: because then he would have said "axes". So did he mean an unspecified number of motor vehicles licensed to ply for hire and usually fitted with a meter? No, again: because then he would have said "taxis".

It all goes, ineluctably, countervailingly, to form a sentence that must end, finally, with a question mark: in other words, a question. Let us take a look at Tony Blair. Tony: Blair. It is by now generally recognised that he is the British Prime Minister, a fact rendered accurate by checking in reference books.

Blair feels that British interests are best served by continuing to ride on the back of the American elephant, even as it trumpets its emancipation from the influence of Europe. But in doing so, he perhaps forgets one of the primary features of an elephant: the elephant has a trunk. And with that trunk, it can suck up as much water (H2 O) as it needs, and then it can blow it all out in one great hose-splurge, splose-hurge, power-showering all those who stand in its way.

Should elephants continue to be kept imprisoned, however humanely, in zoos? Or should we as human beings (HBs) feel morally obliged to devise some form of alternative accommodation better suited to their needs as wild animals? And will the American elephant, as ridden by Blair, be willing to accept the need to be on display to paying customers - or will it turn its trunk on them, perhaps with countervailingly devastating results?

We contemplate a kaleidoscope of terrible eventualities. To be able to look through the little hole at the top of that kaleidoscope we must close one eye. But which eye is it to be? If we close the eye that is positioned above the little hole, we will not begin to see into the kaleidoscope of terrible eventualities.

Countervailingly, it is the profoundest hope of all world citizens that Bush and Saddam will eye-feed their head-brains on this article: and think. And once they have thunk, they must follow my advice - and countervailingly desist.
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LOAD-DATE: March 8, 2003