I picked up a copy of Rupert Morgan’s novel Rule No.1 at a newish book warehouse in Retreat. It was cheap and his writing was compared to Ben Elton, who I love, so I got it. It is hilarious, crazy, deeply disturbing and totally prophetic, since it was first published in 2003. It happens in another world, just like ours. President Bush is replaced by President Hedges who rules the United States of Atlantis and they go to war against the tiny, independent country of Errat. I couldn’t put it down, and when I came to this section late last night I got shivers.
I am going to transcribe the whole thing. (It’ll probably take me the whole day!)
"Teri. Every society has the right to defend itself, doesn’t it? That is the first duty of the State towards its citizens, for heaven’s sake! Self-defence is not aggression!"
"But are we defending ourselves if, by our actions, we only engender further aggression against ourselves?" she exclaimed passionately. "Right now, in the absolute worst-case reading of the situation, we are faced with a miniscule number of individuals, who have a genuinely murderous hatred of our country. In every million people out there in the world who resent or even hate Atlantis, there is probably one fanatic who would think himself justified in killing an innocent stranger simply because the stranger was born here. These fanatics are needles in haystacks and, because it’s so hard to find them, our strategy is to set alight the damn hay! But in so doing, surely, are we not morally bringing ourselves down to their level? By allowing ourselves to be provoked into mass destruction, are we not in the process of becoming the very monster they accuse us of being? And once we’ve become that monster, won’t many ordinary people out there, quite rightly, see us as the aggressors who must be fought? what exactly are we saying to them, after all, if not "We have no problem with you personally , guy, but we’re going to bomb your family anyway"? Where is the moral high ground in that, for God’s sake? How can we claim to be the injured party if, twenty years from now, the problem has grown exponentially, as a result of what we do today. Do you know what I’m saying?
"I mean…" Teri hurried to explain, "obviously we do everything in our power to thwart terrorist plots, but beyond that perhaps we would do better to accept a small proportion of casualties on our side in the short term while concentrating all our energies on winning the moral war here. If we show that we are doing all in our power to avoid exploiting what everyone knows to be our overwhelming military strength, then we isolate the terrorists in people’s eyes the whole world over and identify them as the true evil doers. Gradually, they find their own people turning more and more until they are forced, by the weight of opinion in their own countries, to renounce their course of action."
There’s more, and it’s all good, but I really connected with that in my sleepless last night.