The Breakfast Table


Dear Clive,

I don’t believe that cosmopolitan thinking is confined to the educated global class. There is increasingly a big divide between those people who travel, speak English, have access to faxes and e-mail, use credit cards, and the vast majority of the world’s population who are tied to the places where they live. But you find nationalists and particularists among the global classes–the mafia, for example–and you find committed cosmopolitans among the poor and excluded. Have you seen the French film La Haine, about the suburbs of Paris?

As for dominant cultures, they are generally constructed through some historical episode, often war. At the time of the French revolution, only 50 percent of people living in France spoke French; at the time of Italian unification, only 10 percent of people living in Italy spoke Italian. One of the Italian founders, Massimo d’Azeglio, said: “We have made Italy, now we have to make Italians.” Actually I don’t think that political union will imply a European state. Nation-states will still be important. Rather, political union will be a new layer of governance with more power than now. I hope local government will be stronger as well. I think the concentration of power at a national level is very undemocratic. I think there will also be a global layer of governance.

What do you think about Pinochet’s extradition? I am strongly in favor because it is an important step toward the strengthening of international law quite apart from the fact that Pinochet should not be able to get away with the terrible things for which he was responsible. I hope you agree with me, because otherwise I might regret having raised the issue since you get the last word!

My last word has to be about Kosovo–that awful black cloud that is hanging over us. The bombing of the refugees is truly terrible. It doesn’t help, as Robin Cook says, to argue that the refugees would never have been in the road waiting to be bombed by mistake had it not been for Milosevic’s effort to deliberately expel them from their homes. The same old point we’ve both made over and over again in this correspondence holds. The West simply does not have the will or perhaps even the capacity to protect the people of Kosovo from ethnic cleansing. British and American lives are still privileged over the lives of Kosovar Albanians. Bombing does not protect the Kosovars; it even kills them sometimes.

I shall miss our Breakfast Table next week.