The Politics of Push
It is difficult to imagine what President Xi is learning from the Hong Kong riots. That he is learning something is without question. He is from the genre of Mao and Deng Xiaoping. Deng was associated with brutal suppression in Tiananmen Square. President Xi must be wary of using military force to suppress the Hong Kong protesters. He may even be watching to see how a democratic movement in the Territory affects political views in Mainland China. Will he assert the expected response of tough crackdown? It cannot be an easy answer.
Meanwhile the assertive behaviour of North Korea is surely testing the wit of President Trump as he ponders his next tweet. Unable to fathom Kim Jong-un’s sense of humour he may be rather cautious, something against his nature and out of keeping with his normal presidential behaviour. He is more accustomed to dealing with the Boris Johnsons of this world. But Boris’s Adventures in Wonderland have just taken a bit of a beating.
His majority in the House of Commons is now just one. He lost a seat at the recent bye-election where a Conservative majority of 8,000 turned into a Lib-Dem majority of 1,400. The Lib-Dems are in favour of abandoning Brexit and remaining as part of the EU. Me, too. It looks as though Boris wants to call a General Election, but if he asks Mrs May I dare say she’ll suggest not. Unless she is feeling particularly vindictive.
Back in the East, President Putin is honing up his next riveting statement. The last one said that civilisation was finished, decent behaviour a thing of the past and scumbags will rule the world. He had obviously been looking in the mirror for inspiration to shock and amuse. It fell flat because so many others had got there before him and said it with somewhat greater skill. Putin is, frighteningly, always the Second Act. What might he do to become the Lead?
President Duterte of the Philippines is having a field day disposing of the drug runners who have done so much damage to his country. The politics of the Philippines are changing as the Catholic Church loses its iron grip, something that is happening to it almost everywhere. For evidence, look at Northern Ireland. The declared church attendance, not a reliable guide to behaviour but a splendid measure of what people think they should say, has plummeted from over 70% some three years ago to 12% in a recent survey.
Which is not to say that religion is losing its influence everywhere. The Middle East is still largely ruled by it, often – but not always – to everyone’s benefit. However, when Tony Blair said on his retirement from being British Prime Minister that the world’s future wars would be largely religious he was certainly right. Even if we didn’t like his decisions about war or his statements about what is true we look back on his time with a certain affection.
Phew! A world of unbelievable complexity driven by a rapid rate of technological change. How fast are your views changing? Even if you don’t understand everything that is happening, your standards are all up for review, your political mind is wondering if you have had it right all these years, your behaviour is sorely tested by the worldly success of many you despise. You waver between religious belief and disbelief, wanting surety somewhere however unlikely your Credo is.
Perhaps the most difficult thing is the balance between personal life and global demands.
Talking to the young about the future I notice that they are as aware as anyone about the threat to humanity as it has been developing for over 100,000 years. They regard this threat as quite normal and approach the coming upheaval of who we are as an interesting but not particularly frightening challenge. That, at least, is something for which to be thankful.
A famous racing driver of yesteryear once told me that each racing track was different. ‘Knowing that you can drive it is what makes it possible’, he said. ‘Knowing that it presents risks is what makes it challenging’, he went on.
Then he added ‘Knowing that you will drive it well is what makes it fun’.
May all those in the driving seat, or soon to be in it, drive well.
I’m sure they will.