How a war changes things…
It was only a few short months ago that Boris Johnson’s prime ministership looked distinctly rickety for having drinks and nibbles at Downing Street, contra to the then harsh Covid lockdown rules. Calls for his resignation were frequent and loud.
Now, having recently snuck into Kyiv to meet with Ukrainian President Zelenskyy, Johnson, absurdly blonde and rotund as he strutted in suit and tie amidst a city preparing for war, looked almost Churchillian. This image is no doubt enhanced by the scarcity of leadership from America and by the obvious moral contrast between Russia and Ukraine. It is also serves as important encouragement to the Ukrainians fighting to guard their homeland, as well as issuing a warning to Putin that the Prime Minister of the UK, a nuclear power and a top-five military force, is willing to make the genuinely dangerous trip.
The same is even more true for President Zelenskyy. His integrity, courage, and spirit in the face of the Russian invasion are exemplary and have elevated him to almost legendary status in a few short weeks. But the media coverage of the man verges on obsequiousness, and tends to paper-over some concerning aspects of his leadership, albeit under tremendously stressful circumstances. For example, many excuse his suspension of 11 opposition parties, something Churchill never did during the second world war. His sometimes truculent and vitriolic language aimed at his allies, and his inaccurate criticism of Israel, risk alienating those on his side.
While it is understandable that Zelenskyy wishes to push his allies to be more hawkish, the moral capital he has helped to generate may be squandered if he doesn’t take into account that other nations have their own self-interests, as well as good reasons to wishing to avoid a direct confrontation with a top military and nuclear power led by a ruthless man.
Even Macron in France stopped insulting the working class of his country to vie for the role of leader of Europe, taking advantage of the absence of the much overrated Angela Merkel. Macron even ditched usual suit and tie, going for Zelenskyy chic.
Perhaps having to face real crises has put perspective and backbone back into leaders such as Boris Johnson. Present circumstances have revealed the unbearably trivial and shallow nature of what has passed for politics in the absence of serious and seriously pressing issues.
For example, Johnson, an alumni of both Eton College and Oxford University, finally managed to give the clearest stance on the question of what a woman is and whether trans-women should compete against biological women in sports; questions that have stumped many a supposed serious and momentous political actors across the Western world, including the leader of the UK Labour Party Keir Starmer and the latest US Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson.
One can only hope that other equally frivolous and pointless rows can perish into the ether, such as the continued attempts by morally bankrupt individuals and institutions to try to ban historical figures for not leading perfectly moral lives, in order to telegraph their own supposed impeccable morality. Or the insistence by some against all evidence and data, that the most multicultural nations, such as the UK and America, are actually the apex of racism.
Or, most importantly in the current mise-en-scène, the continued emasculation of the American military. This is done by providing maternity flight suits for the supposed pregnant female (if we can use the term) pilots; the forced discharge and rejection of recruits by harsh Covid vaccination policies; and the bizarre woke cartoon recruitment ad, a reflection of a leadership out of touch with the basic purpose of a military. Biden’s budget cut also poses to shrink the American army to its smallest size since the second world war, with the backdrop of the ongoing Russia invasion of Ukraine that has likely already caused tens of thousands of deaths and displaced millions.
One realisation should be that the time and talents and energy that have been misspent and squandered on many of these non-issues or false issues have helped to pave the way to the current war in Ukraine. If the human species is to rise to the potential demanded by its dignity, what is needed is firstly serious contemplation and genuine dialogue, and no more of the insincere dross that has plagued societies for far too long.
Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.