Monday, 23 March 2015

Majulah Singapura

The thing that strikes me most of all about the death of Lee Kuan Yew is that we never hear anything about Singapore.

There are six world cities, and only Tokyo has never been under British sovereignty or suzerainty. Such ties to Singapore, Hong Kong and Dubai are enormously more recent than those to New York, which ended in the eighteenth century.

In fact, all things considered, the lack of cultural impact of Dubai, which is full of expatriate Britons these days and which quite large numbers of our residents have at least visited, is truly startling.

There is also something ominous about all of this.

We continue to treat New York as the undisputed capital of the world, and that on the assumption that New York is an English-speaking city of WASP financiers and their grandes dames of both sexes, of Irish politicians and policemen, of very secular but very Yiddish lawyers and entertainment executives such as one also finds (or found) in London and indeed in the British provincial cities, and of Italian gangsters with whom at least we knew where we were, while the blacks whose families had been in America for 300 or more years did the menial jobs.

That city is long gone, but we comfort ourselves, not only that it still exists, but that it still commands the earth, and that it was ever especially British-ish.

Meanwhile, we cannot bring ourselves to look at the New York of today, or at the other megalopolese of the Arabs, the Chinese, the Japanese, the Tamils and the Malay. Even though we are currently at war to defend the Arab one, a war that the Emirates themselves have stopped fighting in any active way, another subject to which we never refer.

The world is not as we would like it to be. The world is as it is.

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