Ladies and Gentlemen, my heartfelt thanks for your presence here tonight. Thanks also to the good people at South Bank who honoured me with the humbling idea and invitation to combine my own musings on globalisation with the remarkable images of Andreas Gursky – images which have, over the years, done so much to enlighten us regarding the topsy-turvy world that we have been helping bring about. Yes, a picture is a thousand words but, at the same time, words liberate our mind’s eye so that it can make sense of otherwise incomprehensible images. Globalisation is such a word – a word packed with humanity’s past aspirations and our current trials and tribulations. Words and images, images and words, must become co-conspirators in our rebellion against the Unholy Alliance of Banality, Oppression and Ignorance. Tonight I shall attempt such a rebellion, blending my words with Gursky’s images.
Ladies and gentlemen, there is bad news; there is worse news; and there is hope. The bad news is that globalisation has triumphed. The worse news is that it is in retreat – albeit not in ways that those of us who opposed its triumphant march can celebrate. And finally there is hope – hope that there is an alternative to both globalisation’s destructiveness and to the parochialism that is now trumping globalisation’s oeuvre in Trump’s America, in Brexit Britain, indeed everywhere.
And the name of this hope? Of the potential scourge of both globalisation and its xenophobic nemesis? Its name is… internationalism – an old friend from a bygone era that fell by the wayside as the Left collapsed into a pile in the late 1980s, weighed down by our own folly. It was that stupendous defeat that allowed the idea of a borderless, cosmopolitan world to be replaced by the dystopic vision of a planet in which digital money and containers stuffed with our artefacts move unimpeded and at incredible speeds while, at the very same time, people are fenced in – surrounded by a new type of impenetrable, brutal, unyielding, murderous wall.
Globalised capital’s triumph, and the fizzling out of the anti-globalisation movement, was perhaps epitomised by the manner in which the establishment succeeded in demonstrating the irrelevance of our polulous global demonstrations against invading Iraq – by invading… Iraq! And by subsequently silencing all opposition to their madness.