I can’t get into it, said Alex, shaking his head, turning his palms upward. The conversation is one that is built around a vocabulary linked inextricably to a standardised and, yes, populist argument put forward by the ruling classes. It doesn’t matter which side you take in the argument, the fact that you’re using their words is always used against you to prove you’ve accepted their terms, accepted the proposal, the game. You’re midwife to the delivery of your own subjugation. But let me ask you a question: do you think silence is really just silence? Or something else?
The skies shudder in the midday heat as fighter jets screech overhead. Desert sands are crushed and churned by the caterpillar tracks of tanks. Localised conversations centre on canisters of teargas – security solutions, experts say, or ‘battlefield management’. Elsewhere we see stun grenades, fragmentation bombs, rubber ball shot… armoured personnel carriers rumble along while drones hover.
There is a soundtrack too: blaring global hip-hop blasts through the air. And a uniform: dark suits, darker sunglasses.
Everybody is smiling.
We have an ethical policy in place, says the UK spokesperson for the arms manufacturer at the Abu Dhabi arms fair.
Before he left the house, after kissing his wife goodbye, he turned to the mirror and smiled, stretching his lips wide so that he showed his teeth. He liked to set off for work confident and, seeing for himself that satisfying glint in his eye, felt rather proud. When he was convinced that the world needed him – loved him – then everything would go his way. Of course, his hair was now whiter by the week, his spectacles prescription stronger and the palms of his cold worn hands looked like raw flesh. But always, always, his faith in himself would prevail.
An old man sat in his wheelchair, a tartan rug over his legs and a pile of crimson poppies in his lap. The breeze blew but there was little hair on his head left to ruffle. His expression was immovable. He looked at the photographer and waited to feel the flash light his skin. The journalists scribbled into notepads. He had been asked quesions, but his whisper of a voice had scarcely been heard above the wind. They said he was the last of his kind. And he had replied that no, there were many, many more yet to come.