Saturday, November 15, 2014

a scary world

I’ve just left our francophone discussion evening, and despite the excellent food and many glasses of rouge, I am seriously depressed. We spent an obligatory amount of time on Jian and sexual assault and the injustices on both sides – women abused, men falsely accused - though for sure, many more of the former than the latter.
But then we moved on to the world. Jack, who grew up in a Siberian gulag and knows a lot, made sure we understood who Putin is – one of the sharpest world leaders, a crafty aggressor wanting to increase Russia’s already vast store of armaments. Jack blames Obama for not being strong or clever enough to play the major role the U.S. should play on the world stage. I retorted that American politics now is just about frantically raising money for re-election, no time for a wider world view. Gilbert said yes, the Bush Supreme Court in its decision to allow limitless money in elections had probably destroyed American democracy. Plus, I said, still defending Obama with my customary restraint - all this in French except when we got really really excited - the loathsome Republican machine is out to block every Democratic proposal, no matter what harm it does to the country. 
  Not to mention the issue of an incredibly complicated, shifting world map and the ever-growing ranks of murderous Islamic extremists the world over. No wonder Obama is not coming through.
Who HAS done a good job on the world stage, Jack? I asked. And we bemoaned the lack of leaders for the last … decades. 
And our own idiot, there in Australia turning a cold shoulder to Putin to gain votes in Canada – contributing nothing to civil international discourse, making Canada a pariah once more. Even Jack, whose politics are far to the right, admitted that.
He talked about 1815 – Talleyrand, Metternich, the great age of diplomacy when the balance of power was maintained by great diplomats. We do not remotely have that today. He talked about China and India, countries long at war with lots of bombs who are building rival railways in the Himalayas; Japan, seeking to arm itself again; Russian submarines filling the arctic … 
Jack said western democracies may not be able to sustain the kind of freedom they've always enjoyed when dealing with totalitarian regimes the world over. 
And Gilbert said he had talked to Margaret McMillan, brilliant author of a seminal book about WWI, and she said the situation in the world now is reminiscent of 1913. No one wanted war then, she said. The French, the English, they were clever, but they were dragged into war.

I just listened to the CBC news with new ears. But it’s better not to know. 

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