Brian Micklethwait's Blog

In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Category archive: Globalisation

Sunday April 16 2017

Lincoln Paine is an admirably ambitious historian.  Here is the first sentence (to be found on page 3 of my paperback (but still very big) edition) of the introduction of Paine’s very big book, The Sea and Civilization, which is 744 pages long and which I have just started reading:

I want to change the way you see the world. ...

Good, because I bought this book in order to do exactly that, change the way I see the world.

In the following specific way:

… Specifically, I want to change the way you see the world map by focusing your attention on the blues that shade 70 percent of the image before you, and letting the earth tones fade. ...

Hurrah for the internet.  I went looking for a maritime history of the world and found this, which I might never have done if I had been relying on merely physical bookshops.

… This shift in emphasis from land to water makes many trends and patterns of world history stand out in ways they simply cannot otherwise. Before the development of the locomotive in the nineteenth century, culture, commerce, contagion, and conflict generally moved faster by sea than by land. The opening of sea routes sometimes resulted in immediate transformation, but more often it laid the groundwork for what was later mistaken for sudden change. ...

Here is an example of what you notice when you think like this.  On page 7, we read this, about the USA:

A maritime perspective complicates our understanding of the “westward” expansion of the United States. California achieved statehood in 1851, two years after the discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill, when the territory was virtually unknown to Americans back east and the number of United States citizens on the Pacific coast numbered only a few thousand. Thanks to the extraordinary capacity of the American merchant marine of the day, tens of thousands of people reached San Francisco by ship, a mode of transportation that was faster, cheaper, and safer than the transcontinental journey, although the distance covered was more than four times longer. The United States conquered the interior of the continent - what are today known as the fly-over states, but at the time could aptly have been called the sail-around territories – in a pincer movement from both coasts, rather than by a one-way overland movement from the east.

On my TV I have just recently been watching Michael Portillo investigate that very “westward” expansion of the USA, with plenty of wagons and locomotives involved, but no mention at all of any ships.  So I know exactly what Paine means.

Paine goes on to assert (on page 9) that there have been …:

… changes in the public perception of the maritime world, for the merchant marine and naval services no longer hold the attraction for people that they once did, when ocean liners and freighters crowded the piers of Manhattan, Hamburg, Sydney, and Hong Kong. At the start of the twenty-first century, ships and shipping lines are the warp and woof of globalization. Ships carry about 90 percent of world trade and the number of oceangoing ships has grown threefold in the past half century. But the nature of shipping has led to the relocation of cargo-handling facilities to places remote from traditional port cities, ...

In other words: out of sight, out of mind.

About that, I am not so sure.  Maybe it’s more a matter of degree than he says.  I guess I’m a bit different, in that I have been particularly noticing both what is happening to London’s old docks and waterways (they’re being prettied up for tourists like me and for the new gentry (really, mostly, just indoor and better paid proletarians) who now live next to them) and where London’s new mega-dock is now nearing completion, downstream.  I am definitely not the only one who has noticed shipping containers.  As Paine himself says, in his final chapter, containers are driving globalisation, and much of the globe has surely noticed.  Indeed, this might be why Paine’s publishers judged the time to be right for the switch in focus that he argues for.  On the other hand, I did have to go looking for this book.  Nobody else brought it to my attention, spontaneously, as it were.

Talking of focus, my eyesight has now reached the stage of me only being able to read a book by holding it about two inches away from my face.  Spactacles don’t do it for me any more.  Usually this is fine.  But this is a very big book, and it is going to be a very big struggle for me to read it.  But I am determined to do all the struggling that I must.

Or, I might go to the internet again, and buy something like this contraption.  If I do purchase such a reading aid, it will presumably be as cheap as it is because it recently crossed the world in a shipping container.

Thursday February 09 2017

One of the many dispiriting aspects of getting old is that your favourite sorts of technology revert to 1970s standards of reliability, even when brand new.  This is because the kind of kit you want to buy is often no longer now being made, so if you can find it, it was made a really long time ago, and that means it is liable to not work properly.

Last week, I wanted to buy a small television set.  Everyone else who wants a small television buys a tablet or some such contrivance.  But I am me, and I wanted a small television set.

And this was the picture it showed me when I got it home and switched it on:

image

Yes, a television set that doesn’t work.  When did you last experience that?  It’s like globalisation never happened, and I am back to buying a television from GEC or Ferguson or some such fiascotic enterprise.

This was the only kind of small television they had.  There were several rows of huge televisions, and a single row of even huger ones.  But no small ones.

I tried to include in this posting a link to the actual television and where I bought it.  But that website wasn’t working.

Thursday January 12 2017

Sticking with sport, this morning I followed, on Cricinfo, most of the run-chase in the Big Bash League game of the morning.  It happens in the morning over here.  Some of the games are even being shown here on free-to-view TV, on Channel 5, although C5 hasn’t been so lucky with the games it has so far shown, both having ended rather tamely.

But, the one this morning didn’t end tamely.  Oh no.  The Some-city-in-Australia Aggressively Rebellious Types (perhaps of the animal sort by perhaps human or naturally disastrous) scored 222-4, which is the biggest score for a team innings posted in the BBL, ever.  And the Some-other-city-in-Australia ARTs chased it down!  How amazing is that?  Very amazing.

Whenever I tune in to the BBL, I have a look for what English players are playing, by which I mean merely: have played for England.  I very much want my cricket-playing fellow countrymen to impress the cricket world,but as to which Australian city hosts the winning team, well, I really cannot make myself care, not matter how hard I try.  The Australian team with the more Anglos in it is the one I support.  This morning, only one Anglo was involved, Stuart Broad.

Broad’s side bowled first, and Broad took no wickets for 39, which under the circumstances was not that bad.  Not good, but not that bad.  In reply Broad’s team for quite a while looked like they might breeze it, without needing down-the-order Broad to be doing anything with the bat.  For as a long as a bloke called McDermott was batting, all was looking good for the Broad team.  But in the end, Broad, batting at number 10, had somehow to make nine runs off the last three balls.  He hit two fours and a one, to win it.

After Broad hit the second of his two fours, I yelled my appreciation, the only time I said anything out loud.  Then, Cricinfo told me that Broad had fluked this secomd four by snicking it, instead of connecting properly like he did with the first four.  And the final and winning one turned out to be a dodgy shot too.  But never mind.  Broad had done it.  Rule Britannia.  Go Blighty.  “Broad’s final flourish in record chase”, said the Cricinfo home page.  To me.  I assume that in Australia, Cricinfo was attracting clicks to that same report by mentioning McDermott, just like the actual report does, in its headline, thereby at least suggesting that the report was the same for everyone.

Someone needs to write a game-theory type paper about why multinational club teams eventually end up getting more, and more fervent, support than merely national teams, and I am sure that plenty of someones have, because of course this has been going on with the Premier League for quite a while.

All this happens not because partisan patriotism is abolished.  Rather does partisan patriotism fuel the eventual multi-national outcome.  Having a couple of your fellow countrymen on a team, if it keeps happening, may well turn you into a supporter of that team.  And they can work the same trick with other nations too, thus multiplying their support, and ability to sell goods adorned with the club’s heraldry.

Also, the management of the club can be first world, by the simple mechanism of holding the entire tournament in a first world country.  That means that each club is better than most nations.  And it all feeds on itself in a virtuous circle of enthusiastic sporting insanity, which ends up with everyone becoming citizens of the world.

Friday August 28 2015

I like statues, by which I mean that I like the statues that I like.  Statues that I like don’t read where it says on my blog that I like them, and then say things like “But you never visit”, when I visit.  They don’t say things like: “So, now that you are visiting quite often, what is this?  Where is this relationship going?” In decades and centuries to come, maybe statues will behave in exactly this sort of troublesome way, but for now, they don’t.  They just stand there.

And, they stand there immobile, which as a rather crap photographer, technically speaking, I greatly appreciate.

Here is a recent London statue that I now like:

image

That’s also another in my ongoing series of Great Photos Taken Rather Badly, which you, oh Real Photographer, can now go and take better.  Big Ben won’t have moved.  Nor will the legs of the recently unveiled statue of Mahatma Gandhi.  Today, as I write this, looks like being a lot sunnier than it has been in London for quite a while.

(New Gandhi statue unveiled in “London’s Parliament Square”.  Interesting how hitherto national organs now aim themselves at the whole world.  The media they are a-changing.)

I only recently noticed this Gandhi statue.  For decades Parliament Square had no Gandhi statue.  Then, it had one. 

Not that Gandhi as he was was anything like what he is now cracked up to be.  (Thank you Instapundit.)

Friday February 13 2015

I just came across this Economist piece from last November (I think that link will keep on working), saying that there may soon be ultra-cheap trans-Atlantic flights.  I did not know this.

Norwegian Air Shuttle, a low-cost carrier that has been expanding rapidly across Europe, has begun flying across the Atlantic and to Thailand. Next March Wow Air, an Icelandic carrier, will start flights on routes such as Boston to London, via Reykjavik, with introductory prices as low as $99 one way.

Time was when …:

… the fuel burned by long-haul planes made up a large proportion of the cost of operating the flights. That made it hard for budget carriers to find enough cost savings elsewhere to cut prices sufficiently to tempt flyers to switch from carriers offering more comforts.

This is now changing, with the launches of some new and far more fuel-efficient planes: Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner, already in the air, Airbus’s A350, which will start flying within weeks, and a revamped version of Airbus’s A330, coming in 2019. Ryanair’s boss, Michael O’Leary, recently reiterated a promise that he would eventually sell transatlantic flights from as little as €10 ($13) one-way and with average return fares of around €200-300. The full-service airlines will also be ordering these new planes, but their cost disadvantage compared with the nimble budget carriers (because of such things as their legacy pension schemes and labour agreements) will become more stark.

Perhaps I will one day set foot in the USA after all.

As for that Economist link above, no, unless you subscribe.  You have to google “making laker’s dream come true”.  Then you can read it.

Or: this link seems to get you straight to a recycled version of the piece.

Saturday February 07 2015

Yes, I spent the whole of today telling myself that it was only Saturday but feeling it to be Sunday.

For starters, the first of this year’s Six Nations games happened yesterday, on Friday.  I don’t remember that happening lately.  Isn’t the first 6N game usually on Saturday?  And then today, I went to a birthday party at Rob Fisher’s home, in the afternoon, out in the deep suburbs. Which was nice, but that’s something I associate with a Sunday rather than a Saturday.  It was the quite early start and the quite early finish that did it.  Saturday jollifications usually seem to start later and end later.  I’m not complaining about the timing, you understand, just saying that it messed with my head.

I was telling myself this all day long, yet still, when I was in the train back to London, I was thinking that I needed to buy some milk and some bread, but reckoning that I’d be too late for any of the big supermarkets, which are the ones which have the cheapest milk and the sort of bread I like, on account of these big supermarkets closing early, what with today being a Sunday.

Not that I mind any of this.  It’s been a great weekend so far, and there is still a whole day of it left.  England beat Wales in that 6N game last night, and today, Spurs beat Arsenal.  Spurs are my favourite football team, but I’m not a proper Spurs fan, because if Arsenal are involved but if Spurs aren’t, I like Arsenal to win.  Your real Spurs fan wants Arsenal thrashed, by Sporting Beelzebub if that’s who Arsenal are playing.

It actually is now Sunday, and I am cheating on the timing of this posting, by a short while.  The day ends when I got to bed is my rule, and I make the rules here.  What are you going to do?  Cancel your subscription?

Tuesday January 27 2015

Lexington Green, here:

What if … ?

What would a history of the British Empire look like if it did not use the “rise and fall” metaphor?

What would that history look like if it examined not just the political framework or just the superficial gilt and glitter, or just the cruelty and crimes, but the deeper and more enduring substance?

What if someone wrote a history of the impact of the English speaking people and their institutions (political, financial, professional, commercial, military, technical, scientific, cultural), and the infinitely complex web of interconnections between them, as a continuous and unbroken story, with a past a present … and a future?

In other words, what if we were to read a history that did not see a rising British Empire followed by a falling Empire, then a rising American Empire which displaced it, but an organism which has taken on many forms over many centuries, and on many continents, but is nonetheless a single life?

What if we assume that the British Empire was not something that ended, but that the Anglosphere, of which the Empire was one expression, is something that has never stopped growing and evolving, and taking on new institutional forms?

What if it looked at the unremitting advance, the pitiless onslaught, universal insinuation, of the English speakers on the rest of the world, seizing big chunks of it (North America, Australia), sloshing up into many parts of it and receding again (India, Nigeria, Malaya), carving permanent marks in the cultural landscape they left behind, all the while getting wealthier and more powerful and pushing the frontiers of science and technology and all the other forms of material progress?

What if jet travel and the Internet have at last conquered the tyranny of distance which the Empire Federationists of a century ago dreamed that steam and telegraph cables would conquer? What if they were just a century too early?

What if linguistic and cultural commonalities are more important than mere geographical location in creating political unity in this newly shrunken world?

I recall musing along the same kind of lines myself, a while back.

The important thing is, this mustn’t be advertised first as a plan.  If that happens, then all the people who are against the Anglosphere, and who prefer places like Spain and Venezuela and Cuba and Hell, will use their ownership of the Mainstream Media to Put A Stop to the plan.  What needs to happen is for us to just do it, and then after about two decades of us having just done it, they’ll realise that it is a fate (as the Hellists will describe it) accompli.

Because, guess what, we probably are already doing it.

Saturday October 18 2014

This funny letter posting got me googling for Viz, which has the best letters page bar none.  I found a clutch of Viz epistolatory masterpieces here, of which this is my favourite:

What is it with vegetarians and their veggie sausages and burgers?  I’m a meat eater, but I don’t go around making carrots and sprouts out of beef.

This is also a good one:

I work in a call centre in Norwich and we’ve just been told our jobs are moving to India.  I’m so excited!  I’ve always wanted to visit India and with the salary they pay me I’ll be able to live like a Maharaja over there.  Well done Aviva, keep up the good work.

Interesting piece about the rise and fall and rise of Viz, here.

Letterz
Bill Bryson on the miracle of crop rotation
Capturing moments
Daniel Hannan’s latest book(s?)
London Gateway from above
Michael Jennings - pictures of globalisation
What Michael Jennings has been learning about and will be saying about globalisation
English will not last for ever shock
Mmmmmm … Asian skyscrapers!
Another link enema
Links to this and that
Surrey are now crap at cricket but they are sitting on a gold mine
Cricket talk tonight
Stepping forward into the abyss!
Old-school media versus (or becoming) new-school media (again)
ClimateGate roars on and Man(n)-made warming is taking on a whole new meaning
Talking with Toby Baxendale
Frank McLynn: “Counterfactual history is the essence of history …”
Going global
Antoine Clarke talks about Facebook and Twitter – Guido and … Ian Geldard?
More recorded cricket chat and some further Oval hindsights
What next for Guido Fawkes?
Globalisation Guido – and other Bright Young Things
Indian Premier League trumps test cricket
Thoughts concerning FDR’s warmongering nature
Reasons to be a bit more cheerful
Chinese Friday?
Twenty20 cricket on Sky TV
If the Jews have been running the world they haven’t been doing it very successfully
Synergetic junk phone call
Ducks - frogs - turtles – beavers – Galaxy Quest
Michael Jennings on telecoms at Samizdata
Guess the city (2)
Guess the city
Will China fail?
The cranes are migrating to China and Michael Jennings will be talking about China
What are the world’s biggest problems?
When “it’s” becomes “it is” – plus a picture of some Mac users
Pictures of the world for the world
Happy Christmas Day
Big ships
Leon Louw talks about the habits of highly effective countries
Tech talk mp3 with Michael Jennings
I really hope that the Samsung SPH-P9000 catches on
How I became a One Minute Crap Manager
Alex is too busy - Sting records Dowland songs
Other Billion Monkeys at the Globalisation Institute party!
One for Global Guido to celebrate
Billion Monkey snaps shadow chancellor!
A handwritten letter from Alex Singleton
Car wreck Natalie
Voluntary World 2: You’re on your own
Pauses - Indian accents - English names
Last night’s talk
China is economically way ahead of India
Not worth nicking