Passing bull 144 – The inanity of red lines


King Lear is in many ways the Everest of our minds.  It is about a choleric old man who digs a hole for himself and his daughters, and then he keeps digging, until he goes mad.  As he descends into the despair of his madness, he says:

I will have such revenges on you both

That all the world shall—I will do such things—

What they are yet I know not, but they shall be

The terrors of the earth. You think I’ll weep?

No, I’ll not weep.


This wild ungrammatical rant sounds like someone we know, but, like so much in this play, when you watch the descent of this old man, you feel as if you are being cruel in yourself.  And there is something childlike about this dementia in the aged.  It reminds us of the story of the wolf and the three little pigs.


Then I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house in.


These thoughts – or something like them – come to mind whenever I hear that dreadful phrase ‘red line’ – or its soul mate, ‘line in the sand’.  Barack Obama will I think regret until his dying day using the term ‘red line’ regarding chemical warfare in Syria.  Who will determine when the event happens, and more importantly, who will determine what the consequences should be?  The policy of President Obama toward the problem of Syria, and other problems in the region, was otherwise so sane.  The U S should not intervene unless it knows just when and how it will be able to get out.  The recent interventions by the West in Syria do not satisfy that simple criterion, and on that ground alone, I would not support them.


Donald Trump, who is as stupid as he is nasty, compounded the problem with a tweet that included a phrase that has even more notorious baggage in this region – ‘Mission Accomplished.’  God save us all.

Since we are speaking of inane language, it is not surprising that Donald Trump comes to mind immediately.  We are reminded of children in the shelter shed at school making up the rules of the game as they go; or of Australian cricketers drawing the line about sledging; or the board of Cricket Australia drawing the line about another inane phrase – ‘being held accountable.’

Well, at least Trump had the courtesy to count, very loudly, to one hundred before he said ‘Coming ready or not.’


Half of all gun owners say that ownership is essential to their identity.  Fear is a factor: nearly half of male gun-owners say that they have a loaded gun ‘easily accessible to them at all times at home’.  According to the Pew study, ‘There is a significant link between owning a gun for protection and perceptions of whether the world broadly speaking has become more dangerous.’

The New Yorker, 12 March, 2018.

Who would want to live in the United States, the land of fear?  Do gun owners have something in common with some Harley owners – is it all about their willies?  Is their world more dangerous because there are so many guns?


A tweet from Tony Abbott.  ‘More unsubstantiated bile from @vanOnselenP.  If my office was so hopeless why is my former deputy COS now director of the Liberal Party and why does my former COS rate more highly than PVO ever did?’

The Guardian Australia 7 April 2018

Does that remind you of anyone?  Apart from the obsession with TV and ratings, there is the suggestion that being a director of a political party in some way gives a person standing.

2 thoughts on “Passing bull 144 – The inanity of red lines

  1. Re Syria
    Have you read “A line in the sand “ by James Barr ?
    It is about the carve up f the Middle East on map lines and the subsequent behaviour of France and Britain after WW1.
    If you haven’t I will send it to you .

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