Lincoln Speaks to Us Today From the Ages
‘Lincoln’ is quite the film; not only does Daniel Day Lewis seem to inhabit the form of Abraham Lincoln, by speaking in his cadences and assuming his mannerisms, but the film also stands out as a civics lesson in American History and, through deft script writing and direction, one that invites the viewer to draw parallels with contemporary US politics. While equality, justice and democracy are universal issues which are at the heart of the movie and Lincoln’s life and work, we also see in ‘Lincoln’ how politics, with all the compromises, pettiness and sharp practice, can still be a noble art and where sometimes, in exceptional circumstances, the end can justify the means – in this instance, the passing of the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution to abolish slavery; here’s where the contemporary resonances kick in.
Who knows when America would have had its first Black President if it weren’t for Abraham Lincoln? We’d like to think the abolition of slavery was an historic inevitability but who can say that were it not for the exigencies of a bitter Civil War and the providence of a
Titanic figure being the First Citizen that abolition could have taken many more decades? Barack Obama looks to Lincoln not only for his role in the American story arc but to to his career as a remarkable politician. For Obama, ‘Team of Rivals’ isn’t just a best-selling
account of the Lincoln years; it is a record of how ‘Honest Abe’ brought in former opponents and yoked them to his goals. History will judge Barack Obama’s legacy but history is also a guide to how he wants to govern and what he wants to achieve and most importantly,
what his legacy will be.
Alphas Big In Japan and Everywhere Else
Davos, where the rich meet to discuss global trade, expand commercial empires and generally feel big about themselves, is a state of mind as much as a place. Most of us mere mortals won’t ever get to rub shoulders with the Gods and Goddesses who cauesd musch of the economic wreckage of the last five years. But instead of acknowledging responsibility or producing a radical change of path, Davos will cull trees by the thousand for documentation on ‘flexible labour markets’ (i.e. less employment rights and an attack on employee combination), affirmations on what great (mostly) guys they all are and platitudes on ‘Green’ stuff. Such is the predictability of the annual Neo-Liberal shindig that none of us should expect anything original, profound and, for the most part, sincere to come out of this
Some NGOs are getting involved, looking to influence from the inside. This brings up the hoary old question of whether you can change this Leviathan through influencing and lobbying, or whether such participation leads to little apart from slight incremental change and window dressing for Money Bags on the Global Monopoly Board. But why should the Davos Alphas want to change? In their World, the Corporation is thriving, Executives rule and nearby skiing under armed guard has probably never looked so appealing.
Britain & Europe (Again)
David Cameron thought he had the best wheeze ever. Promise the Tory Right an In-Out referendum on EU membership by 2018 and accrue the benefits. Benefit one – unite the Conservatives. Benefit Two – divide the Labour Party. Benefit Three – fend off UKIP. And Benefit Four – perhaps the most important one of all, buy time. But Cameron can’t guarantee anything. Britain is most unlikely to get co-operative re-patriation negotiations – the Franco-German alliance could just as easily turn around, conjure a De Gaulle moment and tell him to stuff it. If he gets a shibboleth of repatriated powers, he looks weak and is still committed to a referendum that many Tories would not want to vote yes in. What if Scotland votes for independence? Will Cameron be seen as the Conservative that brought about the demise of the United Kingdom? Of course all of this, unless he can foist the policy onto Labour during the 2015 Election, will be mute, subject to Cameron getting an overall majority, which on current trends is a remote prospect. The British Prime Minister hopes this will be part of a winning combination of policies that will bring him Home with the help of a jingoistic Tory Press. It is, whatever way you look at it, a huge gamble.
The Tory vision of Europe is depressing. Tories may bang on and on about how Brussels is undemocratic and that they want a return of national competencies but their real colours are thus; we like the unfettered markets, financial casino capitalism and the driving down
of non-executive salaries, please can we stick with that and forget all the citizen stuff, rights and employee protection nonsense. Sure, they’d like to return to ‘London First’ but they’d accept dilution of powers as long as it the EU can be more economically right wing. Hard
to say if the ‘British People’, whoever they are, want this Market-Only EU in their hearts but Cameron is praying that they do. But for now, his ‘bold move’ looks opportunistic, ill-conceived and politically reckless.