It is the nature of our world that sometimes single events can seem, though significant, hardly groundbreaking. If, however, a number of events are seen as strands in an evolving process then they can assume a far greater weight. There has been, over recent days, a chain of events that offer an opportunity to do just that.
Ivanka Trump’s embarrassing over-reach at the G20 summit was one. Though it revealed a lot about the first daughter’s shamelessness and lack of self-awareness it spoke even louder of President Trump’s narcissism and contempt for the diplomatic conventions that underpin the equilibrium of our world.
Ivanka’s husband, a “White House adviser” too, Jared Kushner’s Middle East peace proposals launched — and dismissed — last week seems another example of dangerous hubris. High diplomacy played as a game of Happy Families. Unfortunately, there was more unthinking contempt in Strasbourg yesterday when at the opening ceremony of the newly-elected EU parliament, Brexit Party MEPs turned their backs while the EU anthem was played.
Such football-hooligan boorishness, such tribal ignorance may give their constituency a warm feeling of Blitz-like defiance but grown-up Europeans can only look away, hoping the cringe-making moment passes quickly. Not to be outdone, Britain’s Liberal Democrat MEPs took their seats wearing yellow “bollocks to Brexit” T-shirts. If these inarticulacies reflect today’s Britain then our government must, tragically, expedite preparations for a hard Brexit. John Bull has it seems lost his marbles.
It may, even if only to try to preserve sanity, possible to overlook those events but it is unwise to ignore unfolding events in John Bull’s former colony, Hong Kong. Protests have continued for several months but took a violent turn in recent days. The warning from Chinese artist, Aei Weiwei that Monday’s violence may have been staged, and facilitated by a police withdrawal, to allow a Chinese government crackdown is chilling.
That the warning comes so close to the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre puts it in even a darker light. Aei Weiwei’s warning that this is today’s China brushing against democracy and that the autocratic state will never negotiate seems more than chilling and is a warning to all societies where China is putting down roots.
Part of that process was seen yesterday when Huawei, widely seen as a Chinese Trojan horse, explained its Irish plans. Set against those events this week’s visit by President Michael D Higgins to Germany, the first in over a decade, may seem of limited importance but it offers invaluable opportunity.
Last year a Department of Foreign Affairs review described Irish-German relations as an “unrequited love affair” — we, it seems, are loved if unmoved. In today’s world any opportunity to strengthen relationships with powerful, stable democracies must be taken — especially as a hard Brexit means our relationship with our nearest neighbour would be more strained than for a century and require deft diplomatic skills.
We may have to seek Ivanka’s advice, especially as she may know more about Ireland than either of the Tory leadership candidates. What a strange, perplexing world.