I find it very hard to feel sympathetic for footballers. But the image of A.C. Milan’s Kevin-Prince Boateng rifling the ball into the stands, ripping his shirt off, and storming off the pitch (the rest of his teammates in tow) in his club’s match against Pro Patria was certainly a poignant one. “I don’t care what game it is,” Boateng said defiantly, “a friendly, Italian league or Champions’ League match – I would walk off again.”
It’s at times like this when I can feel every inch of the 3,675 miles that separates London from Washington DC. Oakland, Aurora, Oak Creek, New York City, Minneapolis, Brookfield, Newtown – and that’s just 2012’s mass shootings. I could fill this entire article with the names of the wounded and the dead. It’s almost too much to take in. Never has the American anti-gun lobby had more ammunition. And yet, as it stands, I’m more inclined to despair for it than to hope.
“What is the fundamental question one must ask of the world? I would think and posit many things, but the answer was always the same: Why is the child crying?”
As Apple’s website displayed a poignant tribute to the man who made technology beautiful, very few of us spared a thought for those who made his dreams a reality: people like Wang Ling, Li Rongying and Lu Xin. They are just three of 23 workers at Foxconn, Apple’s Chinese manufacturer, who have committed suicide since 2010. Systemic abuse of workers’ employment and, dare I say it, human rights have been obfuscated by the lure of the dancing pixels – and you and I are part of the reason why.
Though all the winds of doctrine were let loose to play upon the earth, so Truth be in the field, we do injuriously, by licensing and prohibiting, to misdoubt her strength. Let her and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter?
“As Bertrand Russell said, ‘Most people would rather die than think; most people do’,” quips A.C. Grayling, leaning forward as though offering me a truffle of wisdom for my delectation. Philosophy is a rather strange business in the modern world of consumerism and commerce, I suppose. We’re so used to being force-fed ideas these days that we rarely, if ever, dare to stop and think for ourselves. And that’s where Grayling bucks the trend.
When Aung San Suu Kyi delivered her landmark acceptance speech after being awarded the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize, she made a plea on behalf of victims of persecution worldwide: “Wherever suffering is ignored,” she observed with characteristically understated defiance in her voice, “there will be the seeds of conflict, for suffering degrades and embitters and enrages”. How right she was. How different, though, from her non-committal response last week to whether Rohingya demands for justice in Myanmar should be satisfied: “I don’t know”. Was it pusillanimity, hypocrisy or just a slip of the tongue?
In the time it takes you to read this article, over 50 young girls will have their clitoris hacked out. What are you going to do about it?
It was the great 16th Century French essayist Michel de Montaigne who best expressed the idea that travel broadens the mind: “Je ne sache point meilleure école à former la vie”.* To travel, though, is not only to learn more about ourselves, but also to catch what we may be tempted to label brief glimpses of truth, glimpses that are rarely – if ever – afforded to those who live, day in and day out, in the pell-mell of our destinations. An outsider’s empiricism is often the best kind: nonpartisan, unflinching, honest.
“If you ask that, you’re dead”. Perhaps asking Philip Mudd, a senior CIA and FBI operative, what question he most feared was a naïve error of judgment. But I certainly didn’t expect a death threat. Fortunately for me, David Miliband’s congenial persona swept away the atmosphere of a Guantanamo interrogation room.