Politics of Life

Created on 2/4/2008

It’s strange how politics shape our lives, and how we change our political views as we grow older. I was a pretty extreme left-winger when I was a teenager. I couldn’t understand anyone who wasn’t. My dad came from a working class, immigrant family, and there seemed to be no other route open to me without my being that most hated of people, a class traitor.

Life plays funny tricks on us. I was part of an extreme example of upward mobility, long before it became fashionable. Dad’s hard work, talent, and business acumen took us from a starting point in a poor part of London’s Hackney, before it was fashionable, all the way to Mayfair’s Grosvenor Square by the time I was 14. This was quite some accomplishment on his part. He had taken a journey from being a structural engineer through to his being an ultra successful film producer, with barely a pause for breath.

It’s not easy being a Socialist in Mayfair. You feel a bit stupid. I well remember joining the anti Vietnam rallies outside our apartment, just in front of the American Embassy. “Hey, Hey, LBJ how many kids did you kill today?” we shouted. My aim was to get back inside the safety of the flat if it got too rough outside. All was fine, I even hung my small Viet Cong flags out of the windows overlooking the square. One particular demonstration looked like it was going to be very exciting and so I went downstairs to join in. There were a huge number of demonstrators and the police were also in very big numbers. As the policemen on their horses got nearer it became clear that some anarchists had infiltrated our midst, and were determined to confront the police. This was a clear signal for me to strategically retreat to the flat. I made my way to the locked door and knocked on it. There were new porters who failed to recognise me, and wouldn’t allow me in. I soon regretted my visit downstairs as the mobs got stuck into each other. I was lucky to escape unharmed.

Having learned very little I was still far to the left of the political spectrum when I was taken to Czechoslovakia to look for film locations. This was at the tail end of the Dubcek era, but we still thought it was a good idea. I had been working on the Avengers as a lowly Assistant Director and had obtained a brief leave of absence to help look for the locations. It was a bit of a family affair as my future wife accompanied me and the film’s producer, my dad, and my mother. We set off on the expedition in my father’s Cadillac and all went initially well. We were a bit nonplussed by the tensions running through the still Communist country. The population clearly wanted to escape the clutches of the Soviet Empire but the place was still grey and depressing. We were in Prague when the Soviet tanks rolled into town. We were advised to get out as fast as we could. We didn’t need much persuading to leave. We drove through the country to the nearest border, with the local population lining the side of the road to applaud our American car. We were told they thought we were from the US embassy going to get help from outside to aid them in their desperate plight.

We eventually stopped nervously at the Austrian border. The guards had abandoned their posts to flee for freedom across the small strip of land. I remember standing by the car, feeling and obviously looking very sad. An older gentleman spoke to me in perfect English. “What’s the matter?” he asked, “I’m upset, I was a socialist but now, after seeing what the Soviet Union is doing to your lovely country in the name of communism, I can’t believe it.” His answer, which echoed through much of Europe was, “So was I, when you’re a young person you should be socialist, it shows you have a heart, but when you’re older, if you’re still a socialist, it shows you have no brain!”

I shook the hand of this man, an ex member of the Free Czech air force, attached during the war to the RAF, and drove across the border as fast as we could. Lesson learned.

I still believe we have to help those members of our society who cannot help themselves, but we have to earn the means to be able to do so in a free, market driven economy. It’s strange that the man who was considered such an idiot by the Western liberal media, Ronald Reagan, led the victory over Communism, which led to the end of that system as we know it. Now, whatever kind of idiot you might consider him, I hope George W. Bush might get similarly lucky against the dark forces of repression and intolerance that threaten the lives and liberty of us all. History teaches us that well-intentioned liberal idiots don’t make peace, they appease. Strong leaders with defined concepts give us a much better chance. Failing that, we need strong leaders to keep us safe in the difficult days that I fear are ahead.

The election of the American President affects every person on the planet, so, although we can’t vote in that election, we, the citizens of the world have a right to an opinion. From that outsiders perspective I much admire the oratory of Barak Obama, he is a gifted speaker, and his recent speech on race was wonderful. Behind that surface glitter, I remain unconvinced what lies at the core of the man. I see all the right buttons being pressed, and you should admire a man who has reached this far despite a seemingly tough background, and a racial mix that has never seen success before in any American Presidential election race. But to me his core values look and feel like a doughnut. What’s really at the centre of Barak, except tremendous ambition and drive?

I prefer the experience of life, of having served his country where it hurts, of the Republican alternative, John McCain. He was a pilot taken prisoner during the Vietnam War and survived torture and gross mistreatment that would break many lesser people. His wife experienced prescription drug addiction but he stood with her, and they have come through the other side having nurtured their family through all the normal problems of life. His standards are those of an America the world knows, understands and has always appreciated.

Hillary Clinton is not for me, nor for her party or her country. I didn’t much admire her husband but he had great charisma, and a lovability that totally escapes his wife. Hillary shares a razor sharp intellect, but, except for self-pity, doesn’t seem to have a heart for anyone else. The leader of the Western World should have more than mental ability to represent us. I think Hillary is the arch pragmatist, and this is one election where we need more from the incoming American President.

So, if you have a vote in the States, please take another look at McCain, he might just be the man we all need right now.