What has this got to do with Russia and Crimea you ask? Patience dear reader, patience. All shall be revealed.
But let us begin at the beginning.
I was in my early twenties and it was summer. The sun shone, ladies wore not so much clothing and gentleman went about the municipality with a general air of satisfaction at the state of the affairs of the world.
In such situations of universal bonne humeur it is not unusual that friends are apt to gather and partake in a drink or two and immerse themselves in the overall okayness of this thing we call life.
My friends and I were no different. We made a base camp at the terrace of a local establishment, cold beers in hand and warm smiles on our faces. I sat down with my comrades-(no longer)-in-arms. We young gentlemen had recently fulfilled our duty to the Fatherland and through some strange quirk of governmental bureaucracy had received honourable discharges from the military.
Blessed with all this good fortune I am sure you can appreciate my overall air of contentment with my lot in life at that particular time.
Alas, this was not to last.
Just a few minutes after sitting down, along the road there approached three young gentlemen about a similar age to us. Just a few tables down there were a couple of young ladies with whom these three young gents stopped to chat with. It was clear they were all old friends and I wouldn’t have paid them too much mind but one of these gents was doing a rather impressive impersonation of a certain dance move Michael Jackson was famous for.
The thing that caught my eye was that this young fellow had improved somewhat on Mr. Jackson’s move. He first leaned forward, then corrected himself back and immediately proceeded to do the same move to the side. He continued in this manner, pointing his body in every direction of the compass with equal skill. After pondering on this for a bit I came to the only conclusion one can come to on witnessing such an act of skill: This chap was as drunk as Oliver Reed at a brewery brunch.
After a while, this will not surprise you, he got a bit tired and needed to rest his calf muscles. This was when troubled ensued.
He decided that the best place to sit on and rest was on the bonnet (hood to our American friends) of my friend’s car, which was parked right next to where this young gentleman was stationed.
The owner of the car (my friend who I alluded to earlier) was sitting facing me, so he had not witnessed the extraordinary dance capabilities of this fellow and would not have understood his understandable need for an interlude.
My friend, although being a thoroughly pleasant chap, was an ice-hockey player and one of those fellows that it takes a little time before you warm to his ways. Our friendship had been forged in army fatigues in a ditch in a forest, so he was truly a man of action. It was with this knowledge of the psychology of my friend I decided that diplomacy was the order of the day and I called to the sitting chap in the most friendly way I could manage.
“Excuse me, please don’t sit on that car” Perhaps I didn’t articulate well enough, or maybe I mumbled the “excuse me” and the “please” because the chap gave me a rather mean look in return. The “Evil Eye” if you will. But no matter, it was at this point that my friend cleared up any misunderstanding by turning around and seeing the chap’s derriere firmly rested on the bonnet of his car. He then jumped up and shouted.
“Get your arse off my car!!” Needless to say my friend did not mumble and his articulation was clear.
The young gentleman detached his buttocks from my friend’s automobile and my friend sat back down at his seat. I was relieved and hoped that peace was restored.
The young dancing gentleman then proceeded to walk towards our table and as he got next to me he called me a “pretty boy”. A rather nice complement I’m sure you’ll agree but strangely enough he followed this complement with a contradictory physical action. He slapped me on the forehead. Not hard, just a slap and he continued walking along the road as if slapping pretty boys on the forehead was something he did regularly as a way to pass the time.
Now, if you were to walk up to me today and slap me on the forehead I would be apt to leave the vicinity in a jiffy. At most I might write a very stern blog post about the decay of society and how the youth are running amok, but in my twenties there were no such things as blogs and having only recently been discharged from the profession of learning to kill people there remained in my psyche a certain amount of the martial spirit.
Honour suitably wounded, I jumped up and yes, I am ashamed to say it, I let out a loud expletive or two aimed at his direction, he turned back and started coming towards me. I then did what I believe the Americans refer to as “putting up ones dukes”, the Slappy Chappy answered in kind.
Unfortunately for him his earlier skills of gravity defying balance abandoned him at this his hour of need. He raised his fists and readied himself for action, but along the way the e-mail to his legs from his head stating “Stop now, plant your feet in order to set up a foundation of attack for your fists to smack that pretty boy in his pearly whites” had gone directly into the spam folder. Thus it was that his feet keep going forward while the rest of his body had decided not to proceed. The result was that he fell flat on his bum.
This of course produced loud applause and much hilarity from the audience at the terrace.
Well I couldn’t believe my luck. This had started much better than I had anticipated, but my joy was short lived as the Slappy Chappy inspected his predicament from the comfort of the pavement and came to the conclusion that it was not satisfactory and redress was called for. He then got up and with renewed vim and vigour launched for me once more.
I did what any sane man would do in such a situation and retreated. I did not run though, I followed military protocol and retreated in an orderly manner, in a boxing stance. As I hopped and skipped backwards I did the best possible Muhammad Ali imitation a 132 lbs white boy in front of a pub can muster on such short notice.
As he came for me my brain said “punch him with a left hook to the stomach” I followed orders and did a side step to my left in readiness to punch, but such was the second wind of my opponent that he went flying past me before I could launch my counter attack.
Noticing that he had overshot the mark somewhat he put on the brakes. Turns out they were ABS. His feet did not fail him, they obeyed and stopped immediately, but this time it was the turn of the rest of his body to continue going. He fell flat on his stomach.
He was now down for the second time.
But the Slappy Chappy was resilient. A real go-getter and without a doubt a successful future Head of Sales in a medium sized corporation due to the fact that he just refused to give up. He was also a surprisingly quick learner because he now tried a new tactic. He had come to the conclusion that his body was a Democrat while his legs were voting Republican and to ask the two to work in bipartisan understanding was simply impossible. He surmised that staying in place was clearly a better stratagem. So he planted his feet down on the ground, lifted his fists and started calling me to him in no uncertain terms.
As a moderately successful backgammon player, counting probabilities was not new to me and it occurred to me that based on the previous form of the past minute or so, the odds of me emerging victorious in this skirmish were on my side. Suitably emboldened by this realisation I accepted his invite and proceeded towards him. I thought to myself that I’ll just jab him in the nose and that’ll be the end of it. I kept a nice boxing stance and as I approached him I did what any amateur boxer would do and did a small feint to see how he would react. As I did this feint he deduced it to be a punch and thought best to get out of its way, but the Slappy Chappy was not experienced in the Sweet Science. In boxing the golden rule for an oncoming punch is to get under it or to the side of it, never backwards. He moved his head backwards.
Now you will recall I previously mentioned that his feet voted Republican. As any one who knows their politics knows that Republicans are a conservative bunch and they are not easily moved. Hence his feet stayed loyal to the conservative cause and did not budge, but the rest of him went backwards and he fell.
Now, if you’ve read my tale of manly battle this far, I am confident you have found it somewhat amusing (perhaps even confusing as to what it has to do with Russia and Crimea, which I will come to in due course). But it was at this point this story stops being funny.
As the young man fell backwards he hit his head on the curb with an audible crack and as any person knocked clean unconscious, he went completely limp.
My first thought was “I hope he’s not dead” followed by panic and a feeling of missing my mum.
Luckily for me, after a moment his eyes opened and he came to, at which point his two friends stepped in and instead of engaging me in battle they suggested that perhaps they should take their friend, the Slappy Chappy, home. I concurred with their assessment.
So now we come to the matter of Russia. In my first post on the subject last week I explained the economic tools at the disposal of the USA to bring Russia to its knees. Some readers (understandably) took that as me supporting such a course of action. I don’t.
In my follow up post on the subject I explained why Europe and the rest of the world had far less to lose on pure economic grounds than Russia. So the reason for not supporting the full scale cracking down on Russia’s economy is not the adverse economic effects (or lack thereof) on the Western world.
What does all this have to do with my story about the Slappy Chappy? Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.
The right course of action for myself would have been to ignore the Slappy Chappy, he was already walking off after he delivered his initial slap. The situation was over. If I had ignored him, we could have avoided the very real possibility of serious head injury or even death.
Just as with Russia, just because Putin could be brought down, why would the USA want to do so? What would follow? There is no effective opposition in Russia. They have one former oligarch recently released from prison who is busy in Switzerland looking for his money and a masked girl punk band named after the female genitalia. That’s it.
If Putin’s Russia were to implode the ramifications would be ugly and far worse than what we have seen in Crimea. There is no way of knowing if in the current climate of patriotic fervor in Russia some complete and utter nut jobs would take over. Then the world really would have problems.