I hardly remembered the word existed. Then, yesterday morning, I read in the Guardian that the UK had decided to cancel a £5.9m contract to provide a training program for prisons in Saudi Arabia and the sun came up: But of course, there’s the word I had forgotten existed: h-e-r-o. Kudos to British Lord Chancellor and justice secretary Michael Gove who, after much wrangling, persuaded PM Cameron and foreign secretary Hammond that the dismal human rights record of the Wahabite Kingdom, certainly one of the ugliest regimes on earth, didn’t make the oil-rich and ruthless country a worthy partner.
This is a first in the agitated, incomprehensible phase the world is going through–countries in the West shamelessly vying with each other to grab the most lucrative deals, accommodating dictators and oppressors of all stripes, making sure that the oil never stops flowing (and effing up the planet) and that multinationals can continue to press impoverished locals into the new and improved brand of slavery. Our would-be leaders can only helplessly go with the flow. Look at Obama, shrinking and greying by the day. (How could a President who came with such promise turn out to be so indecisive and ineffective?) Look at Hollande, the French President, cheering on wave after wave of businessmen flying into Iran, ready to sign the biggest contracts of their career (note to Michael Gove: please take on human rights violations in that country, second only to China in number of executions. Or should Iranians take solace in the thought that the goodwill following the nuclear agreement will only last until the Islamic Republic starts reneging on the accord, which of course it will?)
The reversal that just took place in Britain is simply unheard of. Western politicians in a spat because a young Saudi risks beheading and crucifixion? Because a 74-year old British pensioner is condemned to 360 lashes for driving with homemade hooch in his car? Somebody pinch me, please. I’ve always been big on dreams but this is too much, even for me. What next? The vile troika Putin-Erdogan-Netanyahu putting an end to their shenanigans? The ice cap on North and South Pole restored? A roof for everyone, food for all, banks becoming honest, politicians serving the public? OK, I’ll stop here before going overboard but thank you Michael Gove. I owe you. The world owes you.