During the Gulf war it was hard to avoid the impression that Britain was a country in the grip of a mass psychosis.
From the grey dull Thatcher-made Prime Minister, with his robotic voice and the grey metallic glint round the eyes, by way of no-guts Neil Kinnock translating John Major's pronouncements into a better class of sub-Churchilian rhetoric, all the way down into the sewers of the tabloid press, official society was caught up in a fierce fantasy about fighting a glorious war for freedom and liberty against great odds.
The TV pictures of Iraqi cities being flattened might have been blood-free play with a computer game, for all the rational human reaction there was from Britain's rulers and legislators.
Awareness of what was really going on, and a proper response to the systematic aerial destruction of Iraqi society- that was confined in Parliament to a few MPs, like Tony Benn.
And when, at the end, the war turned into a savage "turkey shoot" (as one American pilot put it), or (as another said) something "like shooting fish in a barrel", and many thousands of fleeing demoralised Iraqi soldiers were slaughtered on the road out of Kuwait City, the British Establishment did not show any sign that it had even registered the needless and therefore senseless horror that was being inflicted on thousands of Iraqi soldiers by their conquerors.
Now we have the triumphant homecomings. And what do the soldiers come home to, in the country whose fantasies they embody?
To a tremendous outcry in the press about the scientific miracle of "virgin birth"! This outcry by churchmen, politicians and the press against the idea that a woman who is not heterosexually active can be allowed to have a baby by artificial insemination, is as mad as anything we saw during the war.
It is also mysterious. Artificial insemination is decades old, and now very commonplace. Vast numbers of single women have babies by way of artificial insemination. So why are so many people alarmed at the idea of "virgin birth"?
Christians have made such a fuss about the one which allegedly occurred 2000 years ago at Bethlehem that you can understand them being upset at the idea that "virgin birth" might soon become commonplace. But Christians aren't all that influential any more, and lots of Christians no longer believe in Christ's virgin birth.
Yet listen to the Daily Express, an upmarket tabloid which sometimes tries to be a newspaper:
"News that doctors are helping prepare for a virgin birth has aroused immediate outrage. That is a great relief in itself, since the absence of outrage would suggest that our society, indeed our civilisation, is in an even worse way than many already believe.
To arrange a virgin birth – that's a step too far. That is to play God. At least this blasphemy has aroused church leaders to speak clearly on a matter that is properly their concern".
You would not guess from this that the Express, like the others, had been glorying in the way the generals used modern technology to "play God", "precision-bombing" the cities and towns of Iraq, killing vast numbers of people.
They "precision–bombed" a bunker containing hundreds of civilians, many of them women and children: but playing the God of war and destruction is fine and glorious. Playing God to help a woman create life is blasphemy.
Black is white, death is life, pigs can fly – and I am living in a sane capitalist society!
Socialist Organiser 479, 1991