To prick the conscience of the world, to spark the kind of outrage that puts protesters on the streets and peacekeepers on the ground, the world’s suffering peoples are required to possess certain qualities. We kid ourselves that our humanity and compassion are impartial emotions, available to all. The truth is that it is easier to feel sympathy for some human beings than for others, and that our reasons for doing so are usually arbitrary.
Sometimes it is kindled by a chance image, like the skeletal Muslims in a Bosnian concentration camp in 1992 or the drowned Syrian toddler on a Turkish beach in 2015.… Seguir leyendo »
On the face of it at least, Japan’s police are the most brilliant law enforcers in world history. Greater Tokyo, after all, is a megalopolis of about 37 million people, where the kind of crime regarded as routine in most foreign cities is virtually unknown. According to Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, there were about half the number of burglaries in Tokyo last year as there were in New York, a smaller city, and less than a fifth the number of homicides. Even in the seediest parts of town, women walk home alone late at night without fear of being molested.… Seguir leyendo »
Korea has been such a huge and intractable problem for so many decades now that it is easy to think of it as just an unpleasant fact of life, like drizzle or midges or the aches and pains of age. There it lies on the far side of the world; we know something's wrong over there, but we can't always remember what.
The Korean War was the one that our grandfathers were too old for, and our fathers too young. We could probably find it on an atlas, but it would take a while. No one we know has been on holiday there.… Seguir leyendo »
When a man walks down the street firing a gun over your head, it is difficult not take it personally. When a dictator with a million-strong army and a well documented dislike for the “imperialist aggressors” of the West, lets off a nuclear weapon, it feels much the same. This sentiment informed foreign reaction to North Korea's nuclear test yesterday, from Washington to Tokyo to Helsinki: how dare he do this to us?
“North Korea's attempts to develop nuclear weapons, as well as its ballistic missile programme, constitute a threat to international peace and security,” President Obama said. But there is another way of thinking about North Korea and its dictator, Kim Jong Il, just as there is about the armed loser who shoots up the neighbourhood.… Seguir leyendo »
Twenty years after the demise of the communist Evil Empire, the world has begun to struggle when it comes to credible international supervillains. Robert Mugabe? Horrible, certainly, but also rather pathetic. Vladimir Putin - sinister, perhaps, but hardly foe to all humanity. Even Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran lacks the edge somehow, and it's been far too long since Osama bin Laden put in an appearance. In the global obnoxiousness rankings there is only one serious contender, leagues ahead of anyone else: the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Il.
He's got the bizarre personality cult (“Dear Leader”, “Lodestar of the Twenty-First Century” etc).… Seguir leyendo »