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Shop and defy terrorism

We all have a duty to do our bit for the fight against terrorism - no matter what it costs

Last week I was in a pub with some friends and after a quick pint realised I ought to be heading home. But then I thought about how the recession is starting to affect the leisure and catering sectors and I thought: "No - by not spending any more money in this pub I'd be doing exactly what those extremists wanted." So I resolved to defy terrorism and have another pint.
In fact I defied terrorism several more times after that, and then we all defied terrorism some more by going for a curry and eventually sharing a mini-cab home. It was expensive and time-consuming, but these are the sort of sacrifices we should all be prepared to make in times of national crisis.

In the United States, Weight Watchers have reported significant weight gains among its members as patriotic US citizens do their utmost to help the economy by trying every single pudding on the dessert trolley. In the second world war people could not help but lose weight, but as we slide into the sequel, Mayor Giuliani is calling for more people to go to restaurants. It's time to loosen our belts. People are always looking for an excuse to have whatever they want and if September 11 is the nearest justification to hand then that'll do fine. With a recession looming it has become our patriotic duty to spend as much as we can on consumer goods and Tony Blair has been leading the way as he flies around the globe.

"President Musharraf, the British prime minister just called. He's coming to see you again and asked if you wanted him to pick up any more duty free at the airport."

"Oh yes, 200 Marlboro Lights please."

"Oh but no more ciggies - he's used up his allocation getting a load of B&H for Sheikh Zayed of the United Arab Emirates. How about a big Toblerone?"

Indeed it's only Tony Blair's shuttle diplomacy that is keeping the airline companies afloat at the moment. Too many people remain anxious about flying, which is quite ridiculous. Statistics show that you are still far more likely to die at home following a terrorist chemical weapon attack. You've got less chance of being killed in an aeroplane than you have of being wiped out by the anthrax virus, so there's really nothing to worry about.

Bin Laden wanted this recession, so now we must all contribute to the war against terrorism by buying loads of stuff we don't need. The first casualty of war is shopping. "Once more unto the Arndale Centre dear friends, once more!" Carpet manufacturers would like us to do our bit by buying more carpets. Or maybe you could stand shoulder to shoulder with the Americans by having a new conservatory.

If there is any capital outlay which you've been putting off, now it's your duty to shop for victory. "That's one in the eye for the al-Qaida network" you can say to yourself, as you unpack your new DVD player from Dixons.

But although we must spend more, it is also our duty to expect less in our wage packet. One business group last month called for a cut in the minimum wage, in order to stave off recession. And can you believe it, the unions were against this idea? And then government actually put the minimum wage up! How can these lefties be so insensitive at this hour to break the prevailing sense of peace and unity by opposing this patriotic suggestion from our company directors? You'd think low-paid workers would be delighted to do their bit by slipping back below the poverty line but no, even after all the suffering that we have seen, they are selfishly clinging on to their 4.10 an hour. Okay, so the recession started before this political crisis, but if you suggest it's the fault of anyone except Bin Laden you must be on his side. It's much easier to blame your company lay offs on September 11, rather than the massive slump in shares that happened the day before.

The businessmen who try to use the current crisis to increase their profits are the corporate equivalent of those bereaved relatives who rush back from granny's funeral to be first to grab all the silver. "It's what she would have wanted," they say as they flog off her best stuff at the car boot sale. In America, this syndrome has been dubbed "hitch-hiking"; major corporations have been using the September 11 tragedy as an argument for lifting restrictions that were placed upon them by previous Democrat administrations. "I think as a mark of respect we should be allowed to drill for oil in the National Park" or "in order to send out a clear message about freedom we believe that federal health and safety regulations should now be abolished".

"Business as usual" was the slogan that appeared outside bombed corner shops in the last war. "Big business even more appalling than usual" is the axiom of this one.

John O'Farrell is the author of Global Village Idiot, recently published by Doubleday

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