Why opposites attract

'Christmas saves us during the rest of the year by pulling all the terrible things such as family reunions into one accident black spot'
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The Independent Online

I recently introduced a new kind of advice column called Opposite Options. The idea was that, since people only accept the advice they want to accept, we have to offer them two solutions to each problem, one the opposite of the other, so that they can always take the one that suits them. The reaction was very exciting. Fifty per cent of you wrote in saying that you loved the idea and wanted more, and the other 50 per cent said they thought it was a load of old tosh. I think the former is excellent advice, so I am discarding the latter.

I recently introduced a new kind of advice column called Opposite Options. The idea was that, since people only accept the advice they want to accept, we have to offer them two solutions to each problem, one the opposite of the other, so that they can always take the one that suits them. The reaction was very exciting. Fifty per cent of you wrote in saying that you loved the idea and wanted more, and the other 50 per cent said they thought it was a load of old tosh. I think the former is excellent advice, so I am discarding the latter.

See how well it works?

So let's tackle some more knotty problems in another helping of Opposite Options.

Should we be building more airports and terminals in a crowded island such as Britain?

A) Yes. Communication, travel and delivery are the lifeblood of the future, and we get left behind at our peril. To opt out of the air race is to commit suicide. We are a commercial nation or we are nothing. Fly – or die.

B) No. The rush towards increased aviation is short-sighted and short term. It will increase pollution and global warming and, as fuel runs out, just leave bigger and bigger abandoned airports round the world. Cheap, easy air travel is about to vanish for ever. Why build for it?

Is Britain, in fact, a crowded island?

A) Are you kidding? We have one of the highest levels of population in the world, hence one of the highest levels of homelessness, etc, etc. Why do you think house prices are rocketing? Ever heard of supply and demand?

B) Are you kidding? Outside the cities, the place is virtually empty. Look out of the window at those green spaces next time you drive down a motorway. See anyone there? Well, then.

Is Christmas an event to be dreaded or welcomed?

A) Welcomed. It serves the same wonderful function as tourist resorts – that is, it pulls all the unpleasant things and people into one place, while leaving the rest of, say, Majorca comparatively unspoilt. Similarly, Christmas saves us during the rest of the year by pulling all the terrible things such as family reunions, present-buying, good will and over-indulgence into one temporal black accident spot lasting just a few days.

B) If that were true it would OK. But Christmas does not last a few days. The present-buying and card-sending agony started weeks ago, and the aftermath of Christmas – cold sprouts and turkey, pantos, debt – goes on for ages afterwards. If Christmas is an accident black spot, it keeps the road closed for months on end. Dread it.

Is there intelligent life in space similar to life on Earth, and if there is, why hasn't it got in touch with us?

A) Yes. If there are intelligent beings out there, they will have observed us and concluded that there is no point in getting in touch. And this is exactly what has happened, thus proving that there is intelligent life out there.

B) What is this intelligent life on Earth of which you speak?

Every time I tell people that I think the Israeli government is behaving in a fascist way, they look at me as if I am approving of the Holocaust. Is there any way of being anti-Israel without being anti-Semitic?

A) No. Anything you do or say will bring the Jewish lobby down on you.

B) Yes. There is one way. You must take the line that it is a mistake to regard Israel as a Western democracy or even primarily as the Jewish nation state. Maintain that it has become just another warring Middle Eastern country, a tribal desert entity that has been sucked into ancient rivalries and oppressions. Then disapproving of Israel is no different from disapproving of, say, Iraq.

I have been offered a knighthood in the New Year's Honours List and cannot decide whether to take it. What do you think?

A) Take it! It's a gold mine! It will get you in your lady wife's good books, it will get you on to boards of companies, it will get you into the beds of lovely women and it will get you tables in the best restaurants. You'd be a fool to turn it down. If you do, you'll never be offered one again.

B) Only a wally would take a knighthood. It is essential to turn it down, thus proving that you are the salt of the earth, while letting everyone know that you were offered it, thus getting all the kudos.

Is there a God?

A) No.

B) Yes, lots.

Opposite Options will be back soon

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