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Ikeep recalling a play by Canadian actor Ted Johns, titled He Won't Come in from the Barn. It's about a farmer repulsed by changes in his way of life who decides he'd rather live with his animals. It was created at the Blyth Festival in the '70s and remounted often. It's based on that comic staple, the obsessive personality. (Think Molière, or The Odd Couple). Except the title I keep hearing is, He Won't Stop Writing about the War.

It's involuntary. I still dream of writing on Stockwell Day or globalization once again. I don't even think it's a war, yet I repeatedly call it that. Maybe I hear quotes around it in my mind but forget to insert them. No, it's worse than that. I've accepted their terminology.

I feel fixated on the new status quo imposed since Sept. 11. This consists of (1) a higher level of control, surveillance and restriction of dissent extending well beyond members of al-Qaeda, and (2) an increased sense of insecurity, so that, in the U.S., 79 per cent now accept that there will be future attacks. What an outcome: more repression with no relief from terror. How the hell do they sell that? Yet they have.

A general media consensus doesn't hurt, propagating dubious notions as unassailable. Like: The American people are stronger than ever. Or: The war ( aieee!) on terror is a success. These are contestable. The anti-terror measures have little to do with terror. Canada's new laws may dampen protests such as APEC or Quebec City, but how would they stop even a mildly bright shoe bomber? As for Afghanistan, they haven't caught Osama bin Laden, for whatever that's worth. So they switch to Mullah Omar. This isn't just moving goal posts; it's changing games. Mullah Omar sent no Afghans to New York; he never left Kandahar, except once, to go to Kabul. More Afghan innocents have now died from bombing than died in the U.S. on Sept. 11. You don't solve these situations by striking back. Ask the Israelis. They've been striking back for 35 years and are more insecure than ever. You do it by addressing underlying grievances. Ask the U.K. about Ireland.

Yet they keep up this din so you start to doubt your own sanity faced by claims, say, that U.S. forces did in Afghanistan what Russians and Brits couldn't. (Wrong. Bombing a country with no real air force was hardly a challenge. Occupying it is what no imperial power has done and the U.S. won't even try. They seem ready to hand it back to the same warlords whose plundering and extortion first led to the Taliban's rise. See what I mean about how hard it is not to argue.) Good propaganda, everyone knows, is based on repeating implausible claims so often that even those disputing them begin sounding idiotic to themselves. It's so wall to wall, you feel if you took a day off from arguing with it, you'd never get back in.

Yet there's never enough consensus for them. The U.K. government has now listed "10 media views which have proved to be wrong" on the war ( aieee). It's very Blairy. One and two go to Robert Fisk, merely the most experienced, respected Mideast reporter in the world. He dares to dispute the official line, even after being beaten by Afghan refugees in Pakistan. ("I couldn't blame them. If I were an Afghan refugee, I would have attacked Robert Fisk, or any Westerner.") If he sticks to his guns (or whatever), then the rest of us can damn well keep objecting, too.

Perhaps I thought of Ted Johns's play after a memorial Wednesday for Urjo Kareda, who died at a young 57. Urjo began as a theatre critic, then became dramaturge at Stratford (Urjo the dramaturjo), and spent his final 20 years running Toronto's Tarragon Theatre. At a two-hour service, full of thoughtful, artful language, the word politics was uttered just once by my count, though theatre is, as Sartre said, the most political of the arts. When we met, 30 years ago, Urjo interviewed me about my first play, on the Chinese revolution. I asked him, as someone around my age, if he'd ever got involved in politics. He smiled and shook his head, curiously, even tenderly, as if he'd found his salvation in art and culture. He didn't seem to need politics, though he wasn't hostile to it. Yet, in late career, he championed a very political playwright, Jason Sherman. He wasn't a static person. He also took up the cause of opera, though its theatricality was far from the intimate "chamber" style of the Tarragon stage.

At any rate, politics is back, as everyone says, since Sept. 11, after decades when we were told business would suffice, and back in the worst possible way. An overweening government presses into every area of life, not via education or health care, but through prying and policing, against an ill-defined enemy, making whole populations edgy. Their solutions include: giving bags of money to the rich and eliminating minimum corporate taxes. This is called making the people stronger and winning victory over terror.

Politics. Can't live with it. Can't delete it.