How I did my bit for global apocalypse

On Wednesday, he was just watering the dead bonsai juniper on his desk when his in-box pinged. Dave down in Concentric Redundancies had flagged the e-mail as possessing “Extreme Priority”, as he did with all his messages: Mr Maseko upstairs had already had a word with Dave about sending photographs of a brown smudge on various hideous quilts (purportedly Dave’s new puppy, who “was lank hard to keep still”) to the corporate mailing list.

But it wasn’t the puppy. It wasn’t even Dave’s daily inspirational quote from the “Paulo Coelho and Khalil Gibran Words of Mono-syllabic Upliftment Calendar”. It was Peace Day. September 21, it revealed, is celebrated as the International Day of Peace, the day on which the dove stops its usual practises of pecking the heads off rival doves’ chicks, squabbling over tiny bits of insect carrion, copulating with unwilling dovettes in fits of scrabbling lust, and offloading large quantities of guano on the heads of passers by, and descends to bring peace and goodwill to Humankind.

He was thrilled, and decided at once to have a braai that evening in honour of brotherly love, to which he would invite everyone except Dave. And so it came to pass. There was lots of hugging and toasting, and a chorus of We are the World, and more hugging, some of it bordering on penetrative, before peace was celebrated by Harold from Preemptive Countersuits throwing up in the pool.

But deep underground little wires were humming. They carried news of grain-fed meat being eaten, meat carried on smoking trucks, rolling in on wheels made of oily rubber across millions of tonnes of oily tarmac, and far away a eunuch tiptoed into a sheikh’s boudoir and began gently wafting an ostrich feather across a great slumbering, shuddering jowl. Wake up, excellence. Ten minutes later, the cartel was assembled, a groggy vision of silk dressing-gowns and coelacanth-skin slippers, and the oil price was adjusted, a complicated process of throwing darts at a board on which numbers spun ever upwards.

Two thousand miles north of where Dave was wondering why everyone’s cellphone was switched off, an entrepreneur received a blank telegram from his employers in London. Bon, he thought. Carte blanche. Within hours the West African jungle hummed to the sound of progress and the whine of wood-chippers. There’s oil in them thar forests, boys. Go git it.

But there were also loggers in them thar forests, and diamond dealers and antisocial missionaries, all of whom resented the arrival of progress, and very soon the antique telephone of a Mister Hamdoon in Peshawar, Pakistan, was ringing. Two thousand AK-47s by next week? My dear man, Visa will be more than acceptable. He put down the phone, twirled his moustache, kissed his little daughter on the forehead, and headed for the bank to see his broker.

His broker’s office — a cardboard box stapled to the rear wall of the bank near the welded-shut fire escape — was private and discreet, and the investment was quickly handled. Ah, a fine choice! Poppies from horizon to horizon, Mr Hamdoon; a cash crop if ever there was one!

And so it went, and so it goes, this leaky house that Jack (or George and Tony) built, and every day he waters the dead juniper, hoping for something, as the great obscure nursery rhyme of economics unwinds and unfolds around of him:

‘This is the guy who had a big braai that launched all the lorries that caused all the worries especially for Opec who thought it just drek that prices were slowing and so started mowing the woods of Nigeria which triggered hysteria that ended in gunplay and meant that come one day a gent of the Khyber of low moral fibre could further his passion for mediaeval fashion by hawking (through Mexico, transported by Texaco) the drugs for a nation enthralled by Creation and help fill the pockets of those who launch rockets at things Occidental and whose teachings parental have told them that hell is for girls who can spell and who wear their hair loose and who flaunt their caboose like J-Lo and Whitney and that ghastly child Britney, the upshot of which is a Yank in ditch taking fire from all sides while his PlayStation guides an especially nasty and excessively blasty bomb from on high in a clear blue sky to blow the dickens out of a hut and 10 chickens so that freedom prevails (for the free never quail) and all shall be equal until next year’s sequel and Man shall claim what is rightfully his, if he survives the bombardment, that is.”

And all because it was Peace Day.

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