Howard Jacobson: Someone should make a final stand for humankind before it's too late

Those who say we misplace the threat of terror are committing us all to suicide

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Been trying all week to decide whether I think the world is coming to an end or not. Polar bears are shrinking – that's not a good sign. Salamanders are disappearing faster than jobs. There are no returns to be had on our modest savings. Vigilantes are stoning the windows of bankers, which people of greater moral clarity than I possess say is not to be commended. Civil unrest, followed by revolution, is just around the corner. The Government has unveiled new anti-terror measures, warning that the likelihood of someone dropping a dirty bomb on us has never been greater. And even erstwhile fans of The Apprentice are wondering if the spectacle of a very rich man with no sense of the ridiculous bragging about how much he's worth is appropriate entertainment at a time when the Prime Minister is in Wall Street inveighing against avarice. Could this be the beginning of the end of television's heroisation of the fatuously wealthy? Will the dragons go the way of the salamander? Reader, look at it how you will, we're finished.

But oughtn't we at least to put up a fight? Not me, I'm beyond a fight. I'm steeped in the literature of luxuriating defeatism. Keats's "Now more than ever seems it rich to die" struck a chord with me the minute our third form English teacher recited it.

I'd just been rejected by a strapping girl with blond pigtails I'd met outside Lapidus's chip shop; and lost in the final of the Burnley and Accrington Boys Open Table Tennis Championships to a player with not a 10th of my natural ability, just the same insane will to win as the person who, with a bigger bag of chips, had enticed away the girl in the pigtails; so the idea of ceasing upon the midnight with no pain while the nightingale was pouring forth its soul in ecstasy was extremely attractive to me, no matter that I didn't know a nightingale from a nuthatch.

I have always been susceptible, too, to D H Lawrence's wistful evocation of a world without men and women, just uninterrupted grass and a hare sitting up. "If humanity ran into a cul-de-sac and expended itself, the timeless creative mystery would bring forth some other being, finer, more wonderful ..." That's me. I'm a timeless creative mystery man. Let's all go and leave it to the next species, so long as I don't have to go first.

Other, stronger and more verdant souls, though, owe it to humanity to make a final stand. But wherever you look it's all nay-saying. Take the greens. Every time someone offers a solution the greens didn't think of first they dump on it. I've just been reading about those marine biologists who have been doing something or other with regard to algae somewhere in some sea near the Falkland Islands – don't ask me to explain the science, readers don't come to this column for the science – but I think essentially the biologists are dropping tons of iron sulphate into the sea in order to stimulate a synthetic bloom of algae which will then absorb (or something) carbon emissions. Well, wouldn't you call this an initiative to be welcomed? Apparently not. All this will do, Greenpeace has warned, is create giant algae that will eat the planet. Think the Triffids. Science fiction, you see – ever the first recourse of those who fear an innovation that isn't of their own designing. For my part I'd rather be eaten by algae than burnt alive by the sun, or bombed.

And then there's the revulsion from wind farms. Wind farms were to be our salvation; now they're considered ugly, uneconomic, and assume a wind we don't have. Where I live in Central London it's been blowing like the Antarctic since November, but on Snowdonia it's apparently as still as a monastery in Lent. Besides which, critics of wind farms maintain, they deface the countryside. Well, that's tough. It's a defaced countryside or it's no countryside unless you want to leave it to the hare. The architecture critic Jonathan Glancey was on the Today programme last week, waxing lyrical about pylons. Since we need them we might as well learn to love them, he said, as the Victorians learnt at last to love the railways. And need apart, pylons are "hauntingly beautiful" in themselves, "the church spires of the electrical age".

Bravo! What we must have, we might as well find beautiful. I am not the only one who is deathful: aesthetics teach that beauty inheres in mortal threat – femmes fatales, tigers, loose-limbed boys on the Venice Lido. Why not, for once, balance the swooning loveliness of fatality with the more angular elegance of usefulness? So love the wind farms, too. Myself, I find exhilaration in a hill top of those extruded towers – not on every hill I grant you, but we have hills to spare – which evoke not only the windmills at which Don Quixote tilted but, in their gaunt innocence, Don Quixote himself.

As for the dirty bomb which is coming our way, those you'd expect to be pooh-poohing the idea are pooh-poohing the idea, and those who think the Government is looking in the wrong places for the causes of murderous extremism are finding it where they usually find it. No need to remind you where that is. As though a rational grievance could ever explain whysomeone would build a dirty bomb. As though the gullible malignancy of man, propagandised into fury, isn't explanation enough. But we want to go on rubbing at the itch of our ideologies and never mind the consequences. Where terrorism is concerned we are in the grip of a suicidal impulse far more irrational than Keats's. And far more irresponsible, since Keats imagined dying only for himself. Whereas those who say we exaggerate or misplace the threat of terror are committing us all to suicide.

We should look on terrorism as Pascal said we should look on God. We should take a wager on it. Assume it's there, if only for safety's sake. The assumption won't hurt us and, if it turns out to be well founded, so much the better. And if we're wrong, what has it cost? A few millions pounds – which would only be going to bankers anyway – and some sleepless nights. But then who's sleeping?

There is always running away. Let's do it. You and I. Blow our worthless savings on a yacht and go sailing off the coast of Thailand. Soft breezes. Perfumed air. Beautiful seabirds. We might even get to hear a nightingale. Just a shame about the pirates.

But there you are. There is no hiding place from our own species.

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