Friday, 7 March 2014

You sure your enemy's enemy's your friend?

Today, for the first time this year, I took the dog for a walk in my shirtsleeves.

For the avoidance of doubt, I was wearing the shirtsleeves. The dog, Janka, just wore her fur. And fur suits her a lot better than it does our species.

'Is that Spring I sniff in the air?'
Just being able to leave my coat at home felt like a liberation. A relief. A sense that at last things are on the way back up again. A true promise of spring. 

Not that we’ve had a tough winter – no snow at all round here, unlike last year – but there comes a time when, however much you try to tell yourself that it’s good for the plants, the constant rain finally begins to pall.

The mood of joy was infectious and Janka seems to have caught it too. She was running all over the place, as though her thirteen years were just thirteen months. She even went for a cat at one point.

I’ve often wondered what would happen if a cat just stopped and stared at her. Would she run past, pretending it wasn’t that cat she was after? Or would she just a somersault and make herself scarce? I’m absolutely sure, at any rate, that she wouldn’t have the faintest idea what to do if she ever caught one.

With the only cat Janka doesn't chase (not that he'd let her)
Anyway, the one in the park didn’t hang around to find out. Positively high-tailed it out of there when she saw and heard the barking, black-furred fury bearing down.

It was only afterwards that I realised that the cat had been caught at the point of climbing up a tree. I looked further up and saw, in its topmost branches – the place where branches are actually pretty much just twigs – a squirrel showing at least as much enthusiasm as the cat for being somewhere else entirely. He must have been delighted to have the unexpected, unsolicited but far from unwelcome assistance of Janka, driving away the feline tormentor.

A great illustration of the principle that my enemy’s enemy is my friend.

And, come to think of it, of how false the principle is. Because the reality is that Janka likes nothing better than chasing a squirrel. Not that I think she’d do any more to a squirrel than she’d do to a cat, if she caught one, which certainly isn’t true of the cat: it would have no doubt what to do with a squirrel or any compunction about doing it.

On the other hand, while Janka may well have helped out the squirrel by chasing away the cat, as far as the squirrel was concerned, that only left him facing an even bigger and, for all he knew, more formidable enemy.

Sense enough to know that his enemy's enemy
may not be his friend.
And to get well away from both of them
Which makes me think of UKIP, the party that may take 20% in the British elections for the European Parliament in May,  at the moment, on a xenophobic and homophobic platform. There are people out there who tell me that they’re happy to see UKIP doing well, if it takes votes from the Conservatives. Well, I’d be delighted to see the ghastly Tories gone, but if the price is UKIP getting anywhere near power, then it’s just not worth paying. 

The squirrel in the park had sense. He took advantage of the canine support that drove away its immediate, feline enemy. But he didn’t hang around to find out whether Janka was actually well-disposed towards him, and not merely ill-disposed towards the cat. He just got out to somewhere as far as possible from either of them.

Sounds like the right thing for the British electorate to do, too. The Tories, UKIP? Out of our park please. We’re not going to back the enemy in the wings to get rid of the enemy we know. 

Otherwise, we might be forced to learn the hard way to be a lot more careful what we wish for.

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