In transit from Europe to London
25th anniversary. 96 lives. What does one say on such a day – that they should be here today? That their families should have had more answers, much earlier? That ‘accidental death’ was such a nonsense verdict that it should never have been heard? What could possibly count as a tribute – a minute’s silence? A year’s? 96 flowers on seats? Or candles? Or better yet, an increased and concerted effort on the part of all, to ensure that no such ‘accidents’ ever happen again. As soon as the new inquests finish – and they should hopefully enable everyone to move on with increased confidence that justice and accountability still have a meaning.
Business with a French twist
August 2013, Paris
Less than two years ago, France lost its top-credit rating. There are fears that S&P might further downgrade it to a simple AA. Government debt is 90% of the GDP, and unemployment – still over 10%. Creativity helps in these conditions. The French may be talkative and we may think they spend too much time in cafés, but that is not necessarily unproductive business. They have a flair for things that can be fun and work at the same time. Their joie de vivre need not be reason for bankruptcy.
During the five days that I was there, I saw more artists and writers making money while having fun than I would normally see in a month in London. Terrance, our ‘American friend in Paris’, spends most of his time at Café de Flore, and earns his living by showing Paris around to brainy tourists. The young intelligentsia get together at La Belle Hortense, a book-bar with expensive wines and free books in Le Marais. Students shop at Mona Lisait – a cheap bookstore chain that one can find in all the trendy areas. And if you can’t afford the clothes and the champagne in Montparnasse, you can always stop at L’Academie de la Bière on the same glorious road.
We take our time in France, says le garcon with a smile. He couldn’t possibly make more than 1,000 euro a month, but he seems happier than most white-collar colleagues I know in the City.
Seeking the “power” of influence?
January 2013, Italy
What is power – and why do so many want it? Power as such doesn’t exist, except as electricity; in socio-political contexts, it only exists as a relationship, where one of the parties involved is in a stronger position and can rule over the other(s). So the phrase “power of influence” is in fact a tautology. Seeking to gain “power of influence” actually means seeking influence over others, which amounts to being able to dominate, either directly or through others who can.
The recent “buddying” scheme between multinational corporations and ministerial departments is a good example for the concept above. Since July 2011, when the scheme was introduced, fifty large firms (including oil, telecoms and pharmaceutical companies) have been granted privileged access to three departments – Business, Innovation and Skills; Energy and Climate Change; and Culture, Media and Sport. According to The Guardian (“More multinationals to get access to ministers”, 19 January 2013), the first 38 multinationals have so far had nearly 700 meetings with ministers between them. And the government is considering adding another thirty companies to this selected club list during 2013.