Wednesday, September 03, 2014

How to sell a burglar alarm.

...or, to paraphrase Von Clausewitz, "War is a continuation of trade by other means".

The news has been pretty much uniformally dreadful over the last few months, and the situation in Iraq and Syria, with IS, in Gaza, between Hamas and Israel, and in Ukraine, with the Russians, has had the press in an almost continual apocalyptic fervour. I even heard someone on Radio Four this morning gravely considering the chances of a nuclear exchange between Russia and NATO.

So, are we on the verge of World War Three, yet again? Erm, no, we aren't.


Of course, you have every right to chuckle and say 'told you so!' if you happen to be reading this in the future from the smoking, radiation-blighted, mutant zombie-infested wreckage of the Earth. Except you would, of course, be dead, or a zombie.
Several of this blog's critics gather to laugh at me.

For starters, I think, rather than being distinct wars, we're really still caught in one continual Great War, one that has flared and burst out sporadically globally for at least the last hundred years. Just because it hasn't been going on in Europe or America doesn't mean it hasn't been going on elsewhere, and I suspect that is how future historians (possibly radioactive mutant zombie ones) will see this current epoch.

One thing a future historian might note, however, is the way in which almost-big conflicts broke out, or rather didn't break out. Ukraine is one of these. This isn't to belittle all the people who have been killed, injured and terrorised on both sides: Rather, I'd point out that if Russia really wanted to subjugate Ukraine, they would have done it by now. As I write, a tentative permanent ceasefire has been announced by the Ukrainian President, which is, of course good news should it hold.

The fact is that Russia has no real interest in a land grab. It does, however, have a very real interest in stirring up the news, a bit like a newspaper stirring up a 'controversy' during the dog days of August - it is very, very good for business. And it's not just good for Russia: Both Britain and the United States stand to make good money out of any security scare. Just witness the £3.5 bn armoured vehicle deal signed at the NATO meeting, for example. And the US will be making a pretty penny out of upgrading the UK's Trident systems.

It is a truism that some people always make money out of a war, but currently it seems that everyone is trying to make a buck out of conflict, except for the people right in the firing line. Now, sometimes wars have to be fought - IS, for example, should be extirpated - but it's these 'almost-wars', or conflicts that seriously weaken, but don't kill, the enemy, that are perhaps more perniciously immoral, because behind the face of battle you find the same people, again and again, trading with each other.

It would not surprise me entirely to discover that while Vladimir Putin is shouting out one thing in public, he's having pally conversations in private to ensure that trade isn't too restricted, that the price of gas doesn't go quite so high, that embargoes don't bite quite so hard.

Of course, I could be entirely wrong, and the world is about to go Ka-Boom.
Apocalypse, 80's style.

In which case, you might need to trade whatever you can get hold of in the post-apocalyptic world.

For example, a burglar alarm that warns you of attack by radioactive mutant zombies.

To sell one of these, the technique is simple: Throw a brick through the window of a house, then knock on the door and say, 'Those damn zombies are trying to break in - this'll keep you safe!'

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