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my dinner with A.

The regular Francophone soiree last night was particularly interesting – old friend A., a French diplomat, was there. He has spent his life living in different countries, including 3 years in China; recently, he organized the G20 and G8 conferences in France. The French conferences, which cost far, far less than the Canadian events, were organized by 7 people; the Canadian ones by 80. The Americans are mad for organization, he said. When the enormous American delegation arrived, they were so disturbed that all their questions about every aspect of the event were being answered by one man – A. – that he showed them the room where a big crowd of carpenters and sound technicians was setting up. That’s our management team, he said. The sight of all those busy people made the Americans happy.

We had to give everyone gifts, he said with disgust. Beach bags with a nice towel, personally approved by Sarko. They’re there to discuss how to save the world, and everyone is opening their beach bags to see the towels. In fact, was his conclusion, those meetings can never work – how can you bring thousands of people together to back world leaders – who meet for 24 hours? Jack pointed out that at the Bretton Woods conference in 1944, decisions were made, like the founding of the World Bank, that have remained in place ever since. Now, after these enormous meetings that cost many millions, nothing changes.

There were 3500 members of the world press there, A. told us, who never got near the candidates. They had a good time at the café’s, were handed a press release, filed it and went home.

Re France: A. said that Sarkozy quoted Angela Merkel 14 times in his last speech. They are both now nicknamed Merkozy. He will not survive the next election, he said, and neither will she. A. has lived for the last 2 years in Paris and will be happy to leave. I hate Parisians, he said. Snobbish, rigid, rude in cafés, in the streets. I have to dress someone down about their behaviour every day. I lived in London for 12 years, the happiest years of my life. Such crazy people, the British, funny, creative. I laugh all the time in London. I never laugh in Paris.

That discussion wound down, and we moved on. We discussed daily structure – do we need it to be creative? Or does it impede creativity? And then anarchy, and Bakunin. Has Bakunin been misrepresented by history? someone asked. (Of course I knew the answer but pretended, humbly, that I barely knew what they were talking about.)

Obama – the great disappointment. How, said one of the young people at the dinner, could you have thought he was a man of the left? It’s obvious he’s not.

But think who was there before – he was the opposite of George Bush, the swaggering cowboy! I cried. Obama spoke the English language beautifully, with idealism, passion and depth. He was a Communist poet next to Bush. We wondered why the American white working class supports the Republicans, who are actively working against their interests. But then, perhaps the working class has always been fundamentally more conservative than is logical.

Our final, disheartening topic: Why are there almost no leaders of conscience and principle left in the world? Where are the F. D. Roosevelts and Churchills? Everywhere, the flimsy politics of show biz, spectacle and gossip. There’s no substance; the level of debate is appalling. Is it the fault of citizens who don’t demand better, or the fact that no good people want to enter politics? Except for Jack Layton and Vaclav Havel. (And, I add now, Elizabeth Warren in the U.S., who was so stirring recently on Jon Stewart.)

Nearly every African leader who led his country to freedom, said Jack, who knows almost everything, became a corrupt and brutal dictator.

And on that sombre note, after much wine and dinner, head buzzing with thought, conversation and questions about Bakunin, I went home.



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I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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