The Ericle was born in 1949, the son and 1st child of refugees who fled to the UK from Hitler in 1939. As such my life has spanned a period of peace between the end of World War II & World War III, that has seemingly just broken out. A quartet of words of coincidental ‘D’ words – Dismay, Dystopia, Disassociation & Denial – come to mind at these dreadful times.
For my sins (sic!) I graduated from the University of Sussex in 1971 with a degree in International Relations. The 2 major deliverables that I came out of my course with were that
- International Relations are fundamentally different from National (Domestic) Relations
- the world has learnt from two Twentieth Century world conflicts such that the likelihood of another global disaster is severely diminished by dint of, albeit imperfect, international institutions & laws; and, in extremis, by an understanding of the concept of MAD – mutually assured destruction.
50 years on from my degree course, the 1st proposition remains palpably true but the second is hanging on barely by a couple of threads.
Any course in International Relations will involve a consideration of Games Theory. In fact, my course at Sussex involved residential weekends away, at a place aptly named The Isle of Thorns, where we played strategy games. I am not saying that domestic politics does not involve games playing; rather that in International Relations such activities have a supremacy attached to them.
A commensurate aspect of such games is that countries act as individual players, with the working assumption that a government or a dictator is in control of moving the pieces. At no time in playing these times can I recall any of the players involving themselves with national sentiment. Once the game was ‘on’, moves were made on the basis of actions & threats plus feints; the hybrid in the middle. A poor games player is one that doesn’t understand the differences between these three. This is exactly the point made on Thursday by Gary Kasparaov, the former Chess World Champion, when asked who was winning ‘the game of chess’ in Ukraine. His reply was that the game was not Chess, it was Poker. A salient sequitur to this is that a national leader, well-regarded for domestic policies, may not be an effective player on the international stage. Indeed to confuse the priorities of national politics with those in the international arena can, and does, result in major flaws in the conduct of international affairs. This truth is exacerbated by the fact that not all countries are democracies and even those who subject themselves formally & informally to public opinion evolve imperfect institutions that enable free-ranging executive privileges. In the end, it will be leaders who conduct war. Though it is a galling proposition, quite possibly, a Trump may play the game of International Relations better than an Obama.
A not unreasonable reducto ad absurdum of International Relations is that it models potentially dystopic end games. And though it is my personal credo – and thus part of The Ericle’s DNA – to try to elevate the positives from the human condition, it is hard to feel anything but dismay and despondency currently. (And that is before one starts factoring in the nuclear possibilities. Let’s not go there …). Hard as I try, I can see no acceptable ending that doesn’t involve the removal of Putin. Furthermore, I can’t see this happening as a short term outcome. I cling to the hope that things have a tendency to happen at warp speed in today’s global village; so perhaps the economic and global pressures may come to the fore sooner rather than later. Inshallah.
This Wednesday we picked up our new car, an act which seemed to me to be one of ‘fiddling while Rome burns’. However much it felt a counter-intuitive priority, we had financially committed to replace our 12 year old vehicle back in early-November and there was no backing out of it. However, it does beg the question as to the manner in which one lives one chooses to live ones life in times of crisis. During Covid we all made adjustments and some of those even felt life-improving. When looking at those black-and-white images of folk dancing and enjoying ‘ordinary’ life during the World Wars, I often think: “How did they do it? How did they put aside the very real existential threats to their lives to grab such moments of respite?”. The answer, ultimately, is that they had little choice. Though many will find themselves overwhelmed by the situation in which they find themselves, many others will manage somehow to grab what life offers them. I fear that we are about to have to eat a slice from that pie ourselves in the coming days, months & years. It may not be that bombs will be falling on our heads but, as I see it, we are already in a 21st century war being fought by politics, technology & economics which will majorly affect the lifestyles we have become used to. In such circumstances, buying a new car may not be as absurd an act as it may appear to be; even though we may not have the petrol to drive it anywhere!
My ‘2022 in 2022’ FEBRUARY METRICS
Thankfully I made good use of Dry January, because the arrival of plague to our home plus wet weather meant that the reserves in the tank well & truly spent this month:
Cycled in FEBRUARY : 8 Rides/90.71 miles
TOTAL MILES in 2022: 334.01 miles. (Ahead of target by 7.17 miles)
Number of Days cycled: 27 Average Distance per Ride: 12.37 miles
MILES TO GO: 1687.99
Money Raised for Macmillan Cancer so far: £1343.00 (Donations Page: here)