Certain North Koreans and Americans are laying bare in all its newness the great division of our times, not between right and left, but between nation and world.
When I stepped fleetingly behind the Iron Curtain in 1982 the young avant garde of Prague were listening to British and American pop music, perhaps nothing new in that but in retrospect it was an eye opener as an example of what I was to later understand as the soft power of the west. In the 1980’s the need for stick and carrot politics was fast disappearing, Dubček had long gone but his ghost haunted the whispered conversations of real freedom, the secret police it seemed were still listening through the rough cement walls and from the backs of the queues outside the butcher where we waited for a freshly slaughtered chicken.
The Berlin wall was still to fall, Glienicke Brüke, Checkpoint Charlie and the barbed wire fence across the Wannsee were all in place, political change in the former east was still a way off.
The seduction of the Beatles Back in the USSR in the 1960’s and the Clash’s London Calling of the late 1970’s were obviously a far more effective form of coercion than the hard edge balance of power politics being brandished by Donald Duck and the Divine Leader Kim. The USA might be more powerful than any other polity since the Pax Romana of Agrippa, Caesar et al, but like Rome, America is neither invincible or invulnerable and could succumb to the latest leader of the barbarian hoard of Pyongyang.
Trump does not possess Daenerys Targaryen’s dragons so unlikely to breathe enough fire to blow down the house of D L Kim. The suggestion of inviting him to a Mad Hatter’s tea party at a Virgin Lounge or a round of four ball at Mar-a-Lago is probably as crazy as Red Ken’s untimely idea of a face to face with the IRA at the height of their sectarian madness.
10 years after 1982 I was living in Marseilles, outside my apartment on the Rue de la Republique was a political rally in support of Le Pen, the father not the daughter. Jean-Marie Le Pen was well and truly succored to the bosom of his Front National supporters who wished away the North Africans. The Alegerian decolonisation rhetoric was still a major thorn in the side of the Les Provençals as they cheered their rotund sweating champion, their NF tricolours waving in the warm air of the sirocco.
25 years on Jean-Marie’s daughter uses her inherited skill in verbosity to sing the nationalist anthems of her father whilst her opponent the young suave BCBG Monsieur Macron favours France retaining a world role, reach beyond its borders, beyond nation, beyond the EU towards the intellectual sense of global federalism.
The failure of the League of Nations and the onset of World War II should lead to the no brain conclusion that we simply cannot continue to operate or think alone, from the safety of our own borders. The UN should have an expanded role and take control of these world political conundrums, it can’t be left to the playground bullies. We no longer have the need for Churchill’s freemason rhetoric or the great one arm hero Nelson. They were the once bravehearts of the hoi polloi who gazed uselessly upon the great ship Britania, the Fighting Temeraire as it was tugged to towards breakers yard.
The lesson of Brexit, the fear of a Le Pen driven Frexit, make it abundantly clear we need politicians who have a future vision of the world that is not the warm, soft focussed, honey-coloured, yesterday with its fond belief that everything was better back when “all our troubles seemed so far away”. As soon as David Cameron slipped on his own banana skin he bought a timber travellers hut for his rustic walled garden, in which to write his memoirs. Dylan Thomas had a proper writing shed at Laugharne, that was the 1950’s! Get with the programme for a modern world, David you dim wit.
The wanting of something back that no longer exists is a deeply disturbing sign that our model of a world society and a vision for the future is broken. At best we have a very foggy view of what nationhood means in the 21st century if it still has any real value in this age of globalisation. It is most certainly not the nostalgia of half-timbered vernacular house, the black and white Dickens movie or the choo choo of the steam train as it leaves the green valley for the smoke with Jenny Agutter waving a handkerchief just out of shot.
There are no more bluebirds over the white cliffs of Dover (even if Mrs May resembles a twin set and pearl Vera Lynn) Moby Dick has been well and truly harpooned, Johnny Halliday has had his last face lift and K Pop was always going to be a one hit phenomenon (at least outside Gangnam)
This will sound a bit Star Trek but it’s time for a president of a World Federation, a common political authority for the benefit of all humanity that is tasked to resolve the fundamental issues of our time i.e. global warming and food production. We either face these things together or crumble away to eventual dust like Miss Haversham’s bridal gown, propelled towards our collective doom by a few crazy people who want to sleep in their cots again
Mandela could have been the first President of the world, the hero Nelson not of Trafalgar but of Robben Island. Even his 27 years in captivity did not dim his belief in humanity. We need his faith; we need a miracle. I’m sure Tony Blair would fancy his chances at the top spot but Mr Nice Barack Obama would sail into the berth perfectly to exercise his charm offensive over all the sun encircles.