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Maybe the planet would be better off without any of us.
'What we have is the mentality of a coyote and the ability to create
all manner of weapons.' By Alexei Sayle. 18 September 2001
When bad people do evil things, then those who profit most are other bad people: it's like they have a sort of arrangement with each other. We have already seen the Israeli government of Ariel Sharon taking advantage of last Tuesday's attacks in New York by invading Palestinian areas and murdering their citizens more or less at random.
Of course, with the impeccable instinct for public relations that Palestinians have always shown, some of the silly bastards allowed themselves to be taped celebrating the events at the World Trade Centre – there's one fat woman in ugly specs whose witless, grinning gob will stay with me for a long time.
But then 50 years of poverty, humiliation and cruelty do not, amazingly, automatically make you into a good, kind or sensible person. However, I am left wondering, given how much circumstances always seem to conspire against the entirely reasonable cause of the Palestinian people, whether they wouldn't be better off in the end just jacking the whole thing in, giving up, closing the business, shutting up shop with the whole looking-for-justice thing, because it's not really working out, is it?
Yasser Arafat might be wise to issue a statement saying something like "Look lads, we've given it a good go, but every time we think we're getting somewhere then some bloody thing happens which strengthens our enemies and puts us back to square zero. I mean, I know our only crime in the first place was to be somewhere where a load of people from Europe wanted to be, but there's too many powerful forces ranged against us, so all of your mates at the PLO high command have decided we're going to knock the whole protest on the head. From now on we're going to let the Israelis push us around, steal our land, destroy our homes and we're going to let them do it without a bleat of protest. From now the Fateh supreme council can be contacted via a bed and breakfast hotel in Dover. See you around, Yasser, Hanan and all the gang."
Seeing the destruction wrought in the United States, watching all the various odious factions scrambling for advantage, unable to understand anything except their own twisted point of view, made me think what a nasty, dangerous species we really are. Though human beings have the manual dexterity to manufacture all kinds of complex machines, our brains don't seem to have evolved at the same pace as our fingers, so that what we have in us is a creature with the basic mentality of a coyote but with the ability to create all manner of terrible weapons.
A while ago, The Sunday Times asked me to take part in selecting photographs taken from 50 years of the Magnum photographic agency: the theme was to be "celebrating the human spirit". Along with others, I was to select six pictures and to write my comments, in hand, on the back for later publication in the magazine.
However, when I came to look at these black-and-white images, what I saw was a species so in love with itself and totally blind to its faults. I remember I chose one image of Mother Theresa and wrote, "From what I've read about this woman she was a rather nasty piece of work. In this photo you can see the self-indulgent vanity shining out of her. As they say on The Jerry Springer Show, 'she think she all that but she ain't'."
Other pictures were meant to illustrate the supposed miracle of yet another child born to clog up the planet. Funnily enough, The Sunday Times chose not to print my pictures or my comments. All they wanted was gooey stuff about the indomitable human spirit, the fantastic wonderful specialness of our maggoty little species; they didn't want anybody wondering whether the planet wouldn't be a lot better off without us screwing it up.
I know that James Cameron and Arnold Schwarzenegger are currently working on the third in the Terminator series of movies. Maybe in this latest version the heroes should be SkyNet, the computer that wants to wipe out mankind, and Cyberdyne Systems, manufacturers of the killer Cyborgs. After a titanic struggle, John Connor, the leader of the human resistance, is defeated and our kind is wiped from the face of the Earth. The machines convert themselves into singing cappuccino machines or fly off to explore other worlds or miniaturise themselves until they are the size of an atom and the planet that formerly housed us begins to heal itself.
The rainforests start to regrow over the shattered landscape, cute, furry, almost-extinct animals emerge to sniff the air and to repopulate, the seas again teem with life, the skies grow dark with birds. And maybe, when you think about it, George W Bush might be arranging that situation for us right now.