Globalism and democracy

The road to revolution (part 4)

It was all so simple when I was growing up. Britain was a democracy, able freely to change its political course at general elections. Our friends, the Americans, had a similar democracy. Our slightly less good friends in continental Europe were attempting to maintain stable democracies for the first time, bless them. Most other countries had dictators, and Russia and China had Red dictators, so they were completely beyond the pale.   Continue reading

Vietnam War, part 3

This blog is the third instalment of the Vietnam chapter of my unpublished novel on post-war American history (the first and second instalments went out last week and the week before that). Set in 2008, the protagonist, Tig, has gone looking for his old childhood friend, Jack, whom he hasn’t seen since Jack left for Vietnam in 1968. The chapter is set near Santa Fé in New Mexico, where Tig has tracked down a screwed-up vet called Joe, who might know what happened to Jack. In the first two extracts, Joe has told Tig what it was like to fight a jungle war in Vietnam. It is beginning to dawn on Tig that Joe is in fact Jack. Now ‘Joe’ continues…   Continue reading

Vietnam War, part 2

This blog is the second instalment of the Vietnam chapter of my unpublished novel on post-war American history (the first instalment – Vietnam, part 1 – went out last week). It is 2008 and the protagonist, Tig, has gone looking for his old childhood friend, Jack, whom he hasn’t seen since Jack left for Vietnam in 1968. The chapter is set near Santa Fé in New Mexico, where Tig has tracked down a screwed-up vet called Joe, who might know what happened to Jack. In the first extract, Joe painted a picture to Tig of what it was like to fight a jungle war in Vietnam. Now he continues…   Continue reading

Vietnam War, part 1

The Vietnam War has been on my mind recently. One reason is the Ken Burns documentary on Vietnam, recently repeated on BBC4; another is the admirable film The Post. A few years ago I wrote a novel, never published, that explored my contradictory attitudes towards America and its recent history. One chapter dealt in detail with the Vietnam War. This blog and the next two will serialise that chapter.   Continue reading

What will we ever learn?

Having missed Ken Burns’s documentary on the Vietnam War when it was first screened, I am watching it on catch-up. What it reveals is a war that was even more harrowing than it seemed at the time. Vietnam was the defining war of my generation, and probably of the entire post-1945 period. There are several reasons for this, but perhaps the main one is that it was a conscript war, opposed by many of those who were conscripted.   Continue reading

Tom Russell at the 100 Club

There’s a Mexican dead on a power line
He’s deader than yesterday’s communion wine

That’s a good opening for a song by any standards. It’s from Stealing Electricity by Tom Russell. He sang it last week at the 100 Club in Oxford Street, calling his audience ‘bastards’ many times over, as is his wont. Somewhere, I have a weird recital of the lyrics by the beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti. They include one of my favourite couplets from any song:   Continue reading

Not set in stone

So (to pick up from last week’s blog, ‘A Matter of Judgment’), if we should be cautious in condemning people whose beliefs, while anathema to us today, were widespread in their own time and place, what should we do with the statues that were raised to them? Do we allow a stony Cecil John Rhodes to preside over Oriel College, Oxford, or a brassy Robert E Lee to have pride of place in Charlottesville, or in many other towns of the old Confederacy?   [read more]