The coronavirus has been credited with catalysing a shift from a self-centred ‘I’ society to another-centred ‘we’ society. The focus on individual well-being and material wealth that has shaped many people’s identity and aspirations for the last half century or more has now turned into a concern for morality and the benefits of caring, sharing, and community building.
There is a freedom beyond the freedom of speech, and that is the freedom of satire. Freedom of speech is already curtailed in countries which otherwise uphold it as a basic right through the criminalization of hate-speech, holocaust denial and incitement to commit acts of terrorism. Legislation aside, taboos, social conventions and personal consideration further dissuade us from saying whatever we please in practice. Indeed, much of the socialization of children involves inhibiting their impulse to make potentially offensive remarks.
The Geneva II talks have just ended with little to show for them, or so the press claims. They started out with an undiplomatic outburst by the Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem directed at UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, when he was asked to respect the time allocated to his opening statements. Nobody tells me what to do the message, or rather, the double-message stated loud and clear: the Foreign Minister was not going to be dictated to with regard to his talk, nor was he going to be dictated to at these talks.
A diplomatic fall-out from Saturday’s Eurovision contest has embroiled heads of State and Foreign Ministers: apparently some points assigned to the Russian entry by Azeri televoters have gone missing. These would have made no difference to the outcome, but they evidently matter enough to have prompted the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, to accuse the points of having been "stolen" from Russia and to warn that "this outrageous action will not remain without a response".
In October 2005, Hans Blix, the former UN weapons inspector, said that the US administration misled itself and the world. He went on to qualify: “I've never maintained that the administration deliberately misled" the public, ''I think they misled themselves, that we can see. And then they misled the world." How did they do so? By failing to apply critical thinking, Blix explained, and thereby over-interpreting inconclusive evidence in order to reach desired conclusions.
Language is riddled with gaps. Some are yawning gulfs, such as the abyss between what you meant to say and what you actually said when it came out all wrong, or between what you thought you’d said and what the other party understood. Others are so small that you don’t even realise they’re there, like the tectonic fissures which appear in certain words only once you add a preposition: “power to” vs “power over”; “fear of” vs “fear for”, to “laugh at” or “laugh with”.
According to Joseph Nye, politics in an information age can be seen as a “contest of competitive credibility”, one in which success is measured by “whose story wins”. In this posting, I consider what makes a winning story by looking at three recently released films: Lincoln, Monsieur Lazhar and Life of Pi, and argue that Nye’s dictum, attractive though it sounds, fails to distinguish between a winning story and a story which “wins out.” A winning story in modern diplomacy, as in literature and cinema, might wel