The glorious sunshine in London is a reminder that there really are sometimes better things for the likes of me to do than blog away eternally on the problems of the Middle East. My near namesake Matthew Parris wrote this wonderful Times piece in 2009 and I often return to it; I recommend it to you today. Not that I obviously won't be returning to the Middle East on this blog in the future, probably very soon and probably quite often, but I do very much see what Mr Parris means, as he wrote:
A weight lifted from my mind this week. I had been looking at awful pictures and reports of mayhem in Gaza, and agonising over the outpouring of commentary from apologists for one side or the other. On finishing William Sieghart's cracking column in sympathy with Hamas, I blamed Israel. On finishing Daniel Finkelstein's reasoned defence of Israel, I blamed Hamas. Hearing David Aaronovitch's argument that we move beyond blame, I inclined to this too.
But yesterday something snapped. Do I, I asked, have to have an opinion at all? The whole world is having opinions, and it doesn't seem to be helping.
Then, very faintly through the moral fog, something began to dawn. If we all decided not to think about the Middle East any more, would that actually make things there any worse? There's now a whole industry of Arab-Israeli-ologists; the conflict supports the careers of thousands of journalists, broadcasters and photographers, not to say Tony Blair's. Duos, troikas and quartets of European leaders, US emissaries, Anglican peacemakers and the like fly back and forth, issuing solemn statements... and I wonder whether the prodigious capital invested in the proposition that a story is desperately important may be subliminally egging both actors and audience to ramp it up further?
Is this dispute getting like the Corn Laws, or the Disestablishment of the Church of England, or the violent dispute in Gulliver's Travels over which end of the egg to crack - a bitter impasse whose potency future generations may struggle to explain? Objectively, how high does this conflict, in fact, stand in the grisly league table of world horrors? Would it be much worse if we weren't looking? Here's my personal new year resolution: to contribute by silence towards a larger silence.