Black smoke

I’m standing by a window on the top floor of a hospital in a village just outside the capital. In my hand, a cup of steaming, near-undrinkable hospital coffee, but in my ears, ear-buds. I’m taking a five-minute break from work, shutting out all but the sight of softly rolling fields – green at last – trimmed with darker green coniferous forest, and the sound of indigo – Mood Indigo. Spring has come and I just simply love the chromatic twists of Duke Ellington’s piece.

The harmonies are a wee bit lewd, I muse, taking an unwilling sip of the horrid coffee, as something breaks up a house on the outskirts of the village, and black smoke rises. I tear out my ear-buds and hear a blast as another house is blown to bits, flames and black smoke, and another and another, closer and closer to the hospital where I am staring petrified from a window on the top floor.

Relax! It was just a dream, a horrible dream.

But my dream refused to end! Hour after hour, it seemed, it hounded me into the bleak grey hours preceding daybreak. That was when I finally woke up and walked through the nightmare, pretending to be my own psychoanalyst: There was, for instance, the scene where we were in the over-crowded bomb shelters under the hospital. Even the patients’ beds were jam-packed. Black, foul-smelling smoke was pouring in through the great iron door that muscular men were trying to shut against the pressure from innumerable beds and patients and nurses on the other side – the outside! – where they were being enveloped in poisonous smoke.

Mind you, the thick iron doors are real enough. They date back to the Cuba crisis. Over the years, hospital employees hurrying through the long subterranean corridors will absent-mindedly have wondered why they are there. Now, once again, they make sense.

My psychoanalyst, i.e. me, tells me that I am terrified they will once again be needed, and that now, bomb shelters from the fifties cannot possibly accommodate the current population.

Once again, we are witnessing a stand-off between powers. Back then, in 1962, somebody – possibly on both sides – had a bit of sense, and WWIII was averted. Will it be averted this time?

Some politicians – again on both sides – have very big egos and are keening to demonstrate their mettle. In the West, they are often referred to as “hawks” or “hardliners” or “neocons”, men more often than not, obsessed with the idea of being noticed, yea, adulated. In the US, having preened themselves they make sure to gain the attention of TV cameras in front of which they strut like turkeys.

What, I wonder, are they called in the East?

In the West, we don’t see Russian turkeys, unless we consider Putin one. He has after all been depicted in the press with a bare torso. (You would never see Biden with a bare torso! On the other hand, you would never hear Putin speaking like a neocon). Maybe would-be Russian turkeys are being suppressed. There is, of course, also the possibility that Russians don’t admire human turkeys as much as we do in the West. Maybe they admire subtlety and irony. In fact, I happen to know that Russians are masters of irony.

How about honesty? Putin is a liar, no doubt about it. He said he would not invade Ukraine, and see what happened!

Mr Putin, henceforward nobody will ever, ever, ever believe a word you say. That card, that of your word, is one that you will never again be able to play. Not that politicians in the West don’t lie. “I never had sex with…” And what about the famous “weapons of mass destruction” for which an entire country had to be destroyed. But those liars got voted out of power. They went. They all go, one after the other; all the western strongmen (and they all lie) go, but you, Mr Putin, you are staying, having imprisoned your opponents. Now, however, you have played a card you could not afford to play. You lied demonstrably to an entire world that will not forget, far less forgive. Mendacity is not generally tolerated, Mr Putin.

Now “the Russians” are destroying a whole country. Much good it will do them, with Finland and Sweden joining NATO and a cold war – more like an ice age – freezing all of Europe. Oh, I’m pretty sure Russia will survive. Less sure that Europe will, not to mention Ukraine.

If it comes to being bad, every trick in the book will be used by both Western turkeys and Eastern masters of mendacity.

So who is good? Who is bad? It seems so obvious now, but who produces what evidence in what court? Above all: Who is the judge?

Meanwhile people are being killed absurdly on both sides. “Poof! You’re out!”

For years, I’ve been following the Catalan issue. Catalonians and Spaniards have diametrically opposed understandings of Catalan history, just as the Ukrainians and Russians have different understandings of Ukrainian history. In 2017, Catalonia seceded, and the Spanish central authorities demonstrated that Franco’s spirit is still alive and well. (The Franco regime’s crimes against humanity have never been prosecuted in Spain.) A civil war seemed more than possible. Fortunately, a change of government in Spain enabled genuine and constructive dialogue. The issue is not solved, not least since “patriotic” Spanish voters tend to be furiously opposed to compromise, but I put it to you that genuine constructive dialogue is better than civil war.

NATO never offered genuine constructive dialogue. After Russia’s very unfortunate reaction to NATO’s pigheadedness, the West has stomped into this issue with heavy military boots, pouring arms into Ukraine, inviting Ukrainians to exterminate themselves and their country, solely in order to debilitate Russia.

All I can say, by way of conclusion is this: Hey you guys on both sides, history will be your judge, so pull your fucking socks up!