Flat Earth

Peter Walker

Unfree, uncivil and unprosperous

OFF TO the Guildhall to hear the Lord Dahrendorf (we don't know why he gets a "the"; sometimes you do and sometimes you don't, apparently, and that's all there is to it) giving the annual Churchill address to the English Speaking Union, a splendid and solemn event sponsored by Rio Tinto Zinc (RTZ), which later laid on lashings of wine and asparagus tips wrapped in beef of an irreproachable pinkness.

Lord Dahrendorf's subject was: "Can We be Prosperous and Civil too?" and he sketched out a tale of three cities - an American company town which is free, prosperous, but not civil (ie, not everyone is part of the community); a German town which is free, civil, but not prosperous, and Singapore, which is civil, prosperous, but not free. His Lordship's innate delicacy clearly prevented him from mentioning a fourth type of society, one which is neither civil, prosperous nor free - like, say, those Papuan communities shattered by the invasion of huge mining concerns - notably RTZ.

Eternal West

READING the recently published Japan Encounters the Barbarian - an account of the first official Japanese delegations to the West in the 1860s - we were struck by how little some aspects of life have changed. The visitors were surprised at the shouting and "wild gesticulations" they witnessed in the US Congress, which "resembles nothing so much as our fishmarket at Nihombashi". In Europe, they announced that they could not stomach any Western food, though, luckily, they could manage to keep down foie gras and champagne, and so subsisted on those for the rest of the trip.

The French government made a great fuss of them, gave them a military escort and installed them in luxury at the Hotel de Louvre. In Britain, in contrast, the Foreign Office, in an unusual early outbreak of Rifkindism (ie, getting everything exactly wrong), decided that Japan would never amount to much and sent a lone student interpreter to meet them.

Ordinary people, however, sensed something was up, and a crowd at Dover gave three cheers for the Japanese; one of the visitors observed that although the meaning of "Hip-Hip-Hooray" was not clear to him, it seemed to be an expression of approbation.

Infernal restraint

SO, another French test rumbles under Polynesia and, once again, that depressing fact is met with eager British tail-wagging. This time in the United Nations, where 95 countries condemned the French, a few abstained, and only a handful of African francophone states, shamelessly bullied by the French, plus China and Britain, backed the wretched Jacques Chirac. Great company to be seen in - thanks a million, Malcolm.

The British argument in favour of France is worth a moment's attention. Our delegate, Sir Michael Weston, said that the resolution was quite wrong because at the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty meeting last May, France had not promised not to test its bombs but only to "exercise utmost restraint" in testing. Bombarding the atolls of Tahiti three weeks after this promise, in Britain's view, constitutes "utmost restraint".

Exercising some of the latter ourselves, we will not say what we think of the subtle Sir Michael, but merely point out that the abuse of eloquence in argument is, according to Dante, a most dreadful sin, punishable by an eternity spent in the eighth cleft of Malebolge, where the sinner, even if he is a pinstriped knight and former Cambridge man, is to be completely enveloped in flames, the tips of which suggest moving tongues.

Cold comfort

IT'S WITH some relief that we move to the more innocent guile of the Southern Hemisphere. The scene: the Cape Town docks. Dead of night; the coast is clear. Two shadowy figures slip aboard a ship, hide in the hold, and wait for the engines to start and carry them off to a new life in Europe. Unfortunately they are going in the opposite direction: the stowaways have chosen a ship taking 46 Italian and German scientists for a nice long stay in Antarctica. After their discovery, the two were fed, cleaned up, wrapped up and have now been taken on a sightseeing trip across the pack ice. They are reported to be feeling "surprised".

Serial separatist

"CHEERFUL, Charming Odd-job Man Driven by Sex and Sadism" read the headline above a photograph of Quebec separatist leader Lucien Bouchard and his wife Audrey in the South China Morning Post last Thursday. "Devoted couple... killers" the caption continued. The photograph was taken as Bouchard announced he intended to seek the job of premier of Quebec and continue his gruesome plan to dismember Canada. The Morning Post had made an error: they thought they were printing a picture of Fred and Rosemary West.

peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Fans hold up a scarf at West Ham vs Liverpool
footballAfter Arsenal's clear victory, focus turns to West Ham vs Liverpool
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
New Articles
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Cover Supervisor

£75 - £90 per day + negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Are you a cover supe...

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam