Friday, November 13, 2015

Events, dear boy, events. But are some worse than others? Or are they all equally bad?

I can’t remember what ‘dangers’ the world faced when I was ten because I didn’t follow the news then. The first big issue I remember being aware of was the Cuban missile crisis. I was 12 (not a particularly mature 12, just your average 12-year-old) and living in what was then West Berlin, and the world as presented to me was made up of Good Guys - us, the West - and Bad Guys - them, the red Ruskies.

I have since learned and come to understand that nothing, but nothing is that straightforward and whatever evil was perpetuated by the Bad Guys, we, the Good Guys, could match them blow for blow and then some. But until then I wasn’t aware of ‘world events’, especially as there was no internet, no instant news and all things considered television, if not in its infancy, was still in its early days. But if I had been, I don’t doubt the landscape would have looked just as bleak as it does today. Ignorance really is bliss.

The question is: do world affairs really wax and wane in their potential for danger? Perhaps they do, perhas they don’t. But if they do, it would be hard to disagree that things aren’t looking all that good in the autumn of 2015. It’s not so much what is happening now, it’s the potential for silly situations to escalate and grow out of control.

So, for example, take Syria and specifically the involvement of Putin’s Russia there, as well as the regional interests of Iran and Saudi America, to say nothing of the horrific actions of IS (or ISIL or whatever they are calling themselves this Thursday). Then into the mix throw in vague reports of talk of growing disagreement among the several thousand - it seems - Saudi princes and talk of some kind of potential coup there.

Add to that the fact that traditionally Saudi Arabia has been the West’s ally whereas traditionally Iran has been the West’s enemy, but it might now suit the West more if things were the other way around, and the situation becomes ever more confused. Russia, of course, will have its own reasons for getting involved (which I’ve read range from the pretty straightforward one of wanting to protect its interests in the region to the rather less straightforward one of wanting to re-establish itself as ‘a player’ in world affairs). Related to the problem of Syria is the sheer number of Syrian refugees fleeing to Turkey and then on to Europe.

Related to Turkey is the difficulty that Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the country’s president and one-time poster boy for ‘Islamic democracy’ (as we condescendingly put it) is proving to be rather less democratic than we assumed and is apparently angling to make himself the strong man of Turkey. But the West, especially, Europe is in no position to get arsy about what it suspects might be his undemocratic tendencies as we want him on our side to help solve ‘the migration crisis’ and are this week offering Erdogan several billion euros to make sure the Syrian refugees in Turkey stay there.

Nominally the money is intended to help Turkey offset the cost of looking after them, but it does, from where I sit, smack pretty much like nothing more honourable than a bribe. As for ‘the migration crisis’ - and I’ll repeat that whatever considerable difficulties the flood of migrants might be causing Europe and the EU, I really can’t blame the poor folk risking their lives to get to Europe for wanting to improve their fortunes - it is proving to be the first true test of EU solidarity. And as, arguably, EU solidarity is the essence of the European Union, we might well over coming months find out whether the whole notion of the EU as it stands today has any substance at all or is just a load of post-hippy hooey.

If, of course, you think it’s all getting just a little frivolous and the troubles in Europe and the Middle East are being organised by the community of unscrupulous news providers to keep their rating up, here’s a shocking piece of news which will bring you right back down to earth.

. . .

A sideshow in the test the EU faces is Britain’s hissy fit about EU membership. I’ve always thought that over the past 20 years the EU, run as it is by (in my view) a gang of superannuated Sixties hippies who have since discovered the joys of high pay, generous pensions, jobs for life and fine wining and dining, pretty corrupt and long ago lost not just its democratic credentials but its way, most definitely needs wholesale reform.

One well-known example of how in many ways the EU has lost the plot would be establishing and operating two parliament buildings, complete with the necessary bureaucratic infrastructure, merely to keep the French sweet. But having said all that, I think that given the EU’s potential, it is still - as yet - worth salvaging and, more to the point, Britain’s interests are better served if it remains a member and is in there as part of the party having a say in what decisions are made.

Yes, I know of all the arguments and claims that Britain would be better off out of the EU, but there are just as many arguments ‘proving without doubt’ that Old Blighty would go to the dogs economically if it went it alone: the point is that, as all too often, we make our minds up about an issue - in this case Britain in or Britain out - then cast about for the necessary arguments which will

The EU debates on what measures are best to sort out the migrant crisis

bolster our particular prejudice. Sadly, it comes down to nothing more intellectually rigorous than ‘you pays your money and you takes your choice’. Of course, what with the ‘migrant crisis’ if things really go badly for the EU, and brotherly love and common interest is in very short supply on this issue, there might in time no longer be a viable EU to for Britain to leave. There’s a good piece about Britain leaving the EU and attendant shenanigans here.

I’m often described as ‘cynical’ - yes, really - though to be honest I like to think of myself more as ‘pragmatic’. But were I asked to defend my views about human behaviour and why I am ‘so cynical’ about it, I would say ‘just look at how people behave’. In from ‘dust to dust’ dust comes first and last. The other thing about taking a ‘cynical’ view - make that ‘more pragmatic’ view is that you are rarely, if ever, disappointed by what happens. Dismayed, yes, saddened most certainly, but rarely disappointed.

What happened to that young ten-year-old in West Berlin (who once suggested to his mother that one solution to the then perceived problem of overpopulation would be if folk simply stopped having sex for a while)? He grew up and spent more time among people. And what in all this of events in South America, North America, the Far East and Australia? Well, I don’t know and so I am unable to pontificate.

I do wonder quite how much the Bolivians, Brazilians, Peruvians, Canadians, Malaysians, Indonesians, the Koreans, the Australians and the Samoans are agonising over IS and the ‘migrant crisis on the EU’s borders. I suspect they find themselves with their own concerns and problems

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