Saturday, December 04, 2004

More University Challenges

One thing that's inescapable to the visitor to the various bits of London University a heavy and constant presence of the sillies.

I went to a conference at Birkbeck three weeks ago on US foreign policy after the election. Sitting in the front row, I was grimacing, choking and retching like a gargoyle as the panel, which ranged all the way from extreme left to extreme left, offered their opinions.

Probably the most sensible was Dan Plesch, an ex-social worker and leading eighties CND activist, who also ran the dovish security think tank BASIC. He's plugging a new book with George Bush on the cover, and repeated its central theme of global disarmament. You would think people like him might have learned something from the late Cold War, but no, he's still determined to delegitimise and disarm the world's democracies. Like many authors from the anti-globalisation movement, he presents what he thinks is a bright idea - namely abolishing the limited company in order to make capitalism more ethical. He seems to have forgotten the old saying about a man who acts as his own lawyer himself having a fool for a client, as it's hardly the unlimited liability organisations - the accounting and law firms or Lloyds insurance market - who are noted for their business ethics.

Caroline Lucas, a Green MEP, offered the usual movement thoughts, along with literally smacking her lips in satisfaction in telling of how the USA was voted off the UN Human Rights Commission in 2001 - the notorious occassion on which that good global citizen and beacon of human rights, Libya, got elected to the chair.

Peter Gowan, an editor of New Left Review, most clearly articulated the feeling, common among all the panelists, of longing for some alternatives, domesticaly and internationally, to American power and liberal democratic capitalism. But then, what, I felt like asking, but didn't, would the people of North Korea LOSE from American efforts at regime change.

The School of Oriental and African Studies, SOAS, is perhaps the worst though, probably because fo the heavy third-world presence. There's an anti-Israel, or to use the Guardian's phrasing, an "anti-Israel",9959,1366286,00.html">conference on tomorrow tyring to co-ordinate a boycott of Israel. Time to buy some Jaffa oranges...

Finally, Rob Singh was relating how he found it difficult to overcome stereotypes, oversimplification and an obsession with George W Bush in a recent training session he gave. Which body of ignoramuses was he training? The staff of the Foreign Office.