One weekend in London, a terror attack and a prediction

A dark object appeared in the periphery of my field of vision. A pair of hands were holding it, almost caressing it. Forcible insomnia after a red eye flight from Venice to London had forced my mind into overdrive. I was writing at a caffè while killing time to take the train to the city. Twin portraits of the Queen at Gatwick Airport had sent my imagination wondering about the absurdity of a hereditary monarchy in one of the largest economies of the world.

Yet Britain has run more smoothly than so many of its neighbors for the last five centuries so any argument against its system of government could hardly pass the test of history. It may very well run against the tide but we all know what the Age of Reason has brought upon mankind. And in this famously unconventional island formerly prone to outbursts of violence, the French Revolution and its excesses had a tempering effect, and pushed it towards political conservatism. To this date. So, the Queen and her descendants are probably set to reign in uncontested fashion for a long time to come.

But then I raised my bleary eyes and the dark object came into terrifying focus. It was a massive submachine gun. The man holding it was a British police officer smiling reassuringly but for a moment I felt close to violent death. It was just take a very soft pull of the trigger to create mayhem. There were other police officers walking around the tables, a dog sniffing bags here and there.

Sure enough, a few hours later a bucket bomb failed to detonate on the London tube. At that time, your correspondent was traveling on a different line towards a meeting. The trip was uneventful and the train was half empty. But after the meeting, when I went online at a fast-food restaurant, my business partner in Buenos Aires was asking me if I was alright. Only then did I check the news and saw about the botched terror attack.

Even after that, however, London went about its business as usual, and calmly so. The weather was English with an almost ironic overstatement. A storm was gathering after a mildly promising morning, then a downpour caught a few of us without umbrellas and then the skies cleared, letting the sun shyly come out briefly before hiding again behind an endless convoy of clouds.

A bunch of lunatics and discontents with civilization (and with freedom for women, which is at the root of all this brutal idiocy) are not going to disrupt easily the life of a city that put with a massive bombing and destruction in World War Two. Yet one wonders if the arrival of so many people unwilling to conform to the uses of British society pushed a majority of citizens over the edge to vote for leaving the European Union.

Herein lies the true challenge. The European Union is the culminating experiment of a continent that saw too much bloodshed only seventy years ago. It was a massive step towards a world without borders, that needs to be the final station of political evolution. Western economies have made huge strides towards the free circulation of ideas, goods and capital.

It is absurd that, in the end, men should be precluded from enjoying the same benefit in the very planet they share. Yet there must be consensus on equal rights for all, regardless of race, religion and sex. Terrorists are against that, but so are other, nonviolent people who have been flooding Britain as migrant workers. And the descendants of the peoples have been living on this island for centuries have been seeing how the outlook of their country has changed in some areas beyond recognition. Their gut instinct was to opt out of the European Union.

If it was only so easy. A number of economic and technological factors make migrations impossible to stop. So Brexit is not the answer. Immigration into Britain will continue unabated even after it leaves the European Union. That very Friday evening your correspondent met an old friend who works as an editor at the BBC.

As we were drinking pints of Guinness at a pub in St James, we barely spoke about the terror attack earlier in the day. Instead, we talked about old friends, family histories and how we had ended up at corners of the world we never thought would become home for us. And this BBC editor made this prediction: “Brexit is not happening.” For every solution to a problem that Brexit created, two new problems arose, like new tentacles growing in the place of the ones you cut off from the Medusa head. “Remember it,” the editor said. “Today, 15 September, 2017, I say Brexit is not happening.” Your correspondent raised his glass of stout: cheers to that.

Will the English Language in the EU go the Way of Brexit?

The mælstrom unleashed by Brexit has given rise to questions about the status of the English language within the European Union. As the United Kingdom was the only EU member to list English as its official language, in theory it would be destined to disappear from institutional paperwork. The press is still awash with speculation on what would happen once Britain formalizes the decision to abandon the EU, but an Irish translator, who started working for the European Commission in the early days, has witnessed the change from French to English as new members were added from Central Europe, Scandinavia and the East. Some French are trying to reassert their language but linguistic barriers would render English impossible to avoid. Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges had said French had been relegated to being a haven for thinkers. Should there be a need to formalize the decision to keep English as one of the official languages of the EU, there could be an ironic solution: Ireland could come to the rescue. Not only it has given the language some of the best writers of universal literature, from Oscar Wilde to James Joyce. Bureaucratically, the Republic of Ireland, which has Gælic as its official language, could add English as a second official language. For Irish translators and officials, it would be a boon, as they would be in high demand. Still, there is a background of historical drama. “Be advised my passport’s green/No glass of ours was ever raised/to toast the Queen,” had written Irish poet Sæmus Heaney when he had taken offense for having his work included in an anthology of British poetry. But then again, when Heaney declined to be named Poet Laureate of the UK for ideological objections, he had clarified: “I’ve nothing against the Queen personally: I had lunch at the Palace once upon a time.”

Why Britain spends $410 million on BBC World

 

There is hardly any news operation in the world as storied as the BBC, and that shows in what arguably is its best service: the World Report. The broadcasting corporation’s division was just allotted 289 million pounds, or approximately 410 million dollars, in public funding for the next five years. A writer for a conservative-leaning magazine, The Spectator, believes it is money well spent, and most Britons would probably agree. For information is what makes our modern world go round; so yes, it may not address your daily concerns that in Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini’s grandson is not being allowed to run for president in the Islamic Republic his grandfather founded; or that Greece may exit the Eurozone. Yet Britons know what happens when we listen to the siren song of isolation, for “uninformed” is another name for “ignorant.” And at times when across the Atlantic not a few voices call for ending public financing for PBS and NPR as antithetical to the founding values of the nation, it may be worth remembering that Britain was the cradle of modern capitalism, which coexists very well with state-funded BBC. Information promotes wisdom and its lack, ignorance, and just a quick look at the loudest in the presidential campaign in the U.S. may serve as a sample.