Retrograde religion, and poor people, were trying to destroy the privileged life-style we all enjoy and we should put our self-interest first, like most of the British public. He was scathing about people who go on demonstrations, and then sit down and drink white wine afterwards as if nothing had happened - this was not, I thought, quite as cogent an argument as he thought, since the woman he was complaining about had gone off to sit up all night sending off press releases and had needed a short break. Still, his point applied to me.
So I pointed out that, well, one of the reasons why I opposed the bombing was that it seemed likely to me that Pakistan would fall to a Taliban-like regime as a result of it. Oh well, he said, we'll just have to bomb them into the dust as well. And Egypt? I said. Whatever it takes, he said.
Now part of this was him showing off how tough-minded he could be, and part of it was the drink talking, and he is not that bad a person normally, and of course he is not getting his side of the argument here. He made the point that, well, Bush and Blair are elected rulers, and we can turf them out at elections, and I made the mistake of saying, well, yes, but the electoral process has been devalued by mass media owned by the rich.
He said, well, 1945, Churchill got thrown out. I pointed out that that was as a result of a whole war's worth of education officers and pamphleteering and he just refused to accept that; ordinary people don't listen to anything except self-interest and they knew (how?) Labour would give them a better deal. Only intellectuals could think otherwise, or that pamphlets and the like had any effect.
I thanked him for setting me straight and said what a shame it was that I had wasted so much of my life not talking to him, and reading books, with facts in. Soon after, he left.
So, here's the thing. Some people have already capitulated. They think we cannot have justice and peace, righteousness and freedom. They think that we have to live in an armed camp, oppressing the rest of the world, to have any sort of nice life at all, that if we don't kill everyone in the rest of the world who makes threatening noises, everything we care about from sexual freedom to symphony concerts will be destroyed as if they had never been.
I don't think this, but I know we may not have quite the comforts we currently have - we might have to pay more for coffee and computer chips. I don't want dead slave children as the price of cheap T-shirts; we need to think about the consequences of everything.
I went on the big London march. More than 20k, probably not quite 50k. I tend to go a bit on how many people I see that I know and it seemed like a lot of people showed who normally don't any more - a lot of lesbian feminist women I knew from Feminists Against Censorship for example, and some of the provincial Liberty executive members, though none of the London lawyers that I could see...
I kept shouting my own slogan -BLAME THE GUILTY; MOURN THE DEAD; FEED THE HUNGRY; STOP THE WAR- but apparently slogans only work if they rhyme. Rhythm and assonance don't cut it, even if you are saying the right things.
There were very few of the insane faction - no Osama banners and only one Taliban fan. I did think about going over and shouting at him, but was slightly sunstruck by that point and in need of green tea. Some good speeches, though a bit of knee-jerk use of words like racism and imperialism which apply, but in special senses. As my friend Charlie says, trouble with the Left is that it hates to give up old slogans.
It seems to me that, when there are simple issues like not killing the innocent, and feeding the starving, detailed analysis can wait. Too many people would rather be perfectly right, than keep it simple.
America is a rich and powerful country, which has ended up top dog by means that do not bear examination. It is also a society which pioneered ways for the oppressed to fight for justice, however much its right wing tries to claw back any advances. It is a society that is complicit in most of the worst things in the world, but is also the source of much of what is best.
I am not convinced, in particular, that Europe and Britain would have accepted feminism and gay liberation without the US.
It is also clear to me that much of the hatred of the US and Europe in e.g. the Arab world has to do with the genuine oppression of the Palestinian people and the more general exploitation of the poor by the rich, and the support of Western government for local tyrants. It is also clear - and has applied ever since the pioneer Islamist Qutb - that part of the problem is that we listen to loud music with few clothes on, and throw our bodies around, and neck passionately.
On the issues of injustice, we should change. On the others, we should tell those parts of the world that don't like it to live with it.