Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Friday, 11 June 2010

Afghanistan: Eng-er-land expects...

From the BBC:

The prime minister has told troops in Afghanistan he wants the British public to "revere and support" them for the "incredible work" they do.

David Cameron, who spent the night in Camp Bastion, said they could go home with "heads held high" once Afghans could manage their own security. The PM said he wanted to give troops "proper support" by doubling their operational allowance, which currently stands at £2,380 for a six-month tour.

And then, the coup de grace:
Mr Cameron delivered a message from the England football team, who said the troops were "the real heroes".

Translation: a bunch of overpaid athletes, some of whom won't get out of bed for less than £120,000 a week, pay tribute to British soldiers in the front line risking their lives on a daily basis for what a top-flight footballer would regard as loose change.

Of course, football is symbolic warfare, complete with banners and tribal chants; it has even been claimed that the black markings on the old-fashioned balls were a subliminal attempt to recreate the eye and nose sockets of an enemy skull. The language is partisan, the sentiments uncompromising.

But unlike real warfare, football comes packaged in handy 45-minute segments with television coverage and plenty of post-match analysis. It's a bit like the distinction between a joust and the medieval battlefield; one a riot of colour and spectacle with refreshments on offer, the other, a bloody mess.

With one difference; the tournament was also a training-ground for war and the knights who took part might find themselves fighting for real at any time. England's World Cup hopefuls are far more precious - no chance of them risking serious injury, let alone death. Let someone else do that, another young man at the peak of fitness with trained reflexes and a desire to serve his country.

There's not much difference between England's footballers and the soldiers in Afghanistan - except that, unaccountably, some of them are paid 200 times more.

Update: I'm not the only one struck by this ugly contrast today - this is from NickM at Counting Cats in Zanzibar, in a post containing the excellent phrase 'Bread and Roonies'.

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