Sunday 1 December 2013

Sunday Mornings: Coffee, Reflections and Music

If I ruled the world” is a regular section that appears in the monthly magazine Prospect. Because of its location, on page eight of the publication, it is usually the first feature I read. There is always a nice mix of the idealistic and the zany, the romantic and the pragmatic.

I have often wondered how I would answer the question: “What would you do if you could rule the world?” Maybe because my response would probably be: “I’d rather pass up the chance, thank you very much”. This is not based on any self-deprecatory trait of my personality (I don’t do self-deprecation really), but on common sense. If I ruled the world, I would probably make a hash of it.

But, just like the writers, musicians, academics and politicians who are invited month in and month out by Prospect to describe what they would do if they were put in sole charge of our nations, lives, institutions and resources, I will volunteer my reflections on what a world governed by me would be like.

The temptation, according to what I have seen in some cases, is to aim high. World peace, for instance. That is too high for me. Even for a pacifist like me, that would be too ambitious and unachievable a goal to realise. What I’d rather do is educate people in such a way that wars would become a loss-making enterprise instead of the profiting business they are. Attack the motivation and the causes; that would be my way.

This would set the mood for further measures. Education would play an important role in any policy I implemented as the world’s ruler. All children would be entitled to try their hands at a musical instrument for free from the age of five. You read that right, instead of preparing our little ones for their first batch of assessments at six (in the UK), children would be making a racket on pianos, xylophones, drums and tambourines. That leads me to my next idea: children would not start formal school until the age of seven. That is already the reality in some countries around the world, like for instance, in Scandinavia. I’d sooner children played more and explored their surroundings better than chaining them to a desk and chair from the age of four.

In order to grant children this freedom parents would have to have a more flexible childcare arrangement. I would make both maternity and paternity leave so appetising that mum and dad would find it hard to say no. I would also guarantee equal leave time for both fathers/male carers and mothers/female carers. On the question of how I would fund this initiative, the answer is: taxation. Of course, if parents still insist on working long hours straight after their offspring is born, leaving them in nursery or in the care of strangers (sorry, I meant “child-minders”) for twelve hours Monday to Friday, they will have that option, too. My responsibility then would be to ensure that that “wee, little bairn” would have access to the best psychologist/psychiatrist possible. I would even be willing to fund that service if asked nicely.

Under my rule I would stimulate small and medium businesses and would support them financially through revenues raised from big companies. I would not strangle private enterprise, on the contrary, I would encourage it, but at the same time I would also raise awareness – through education, there’s that word again – of the need to think of the collective even if professional success arrives through individual power.

On culture I would go big. I would fund orchestras and ensembles. I would allow theatres and arts centres to commission non-mainstream and cutting-edge pieces whose main goal would be to stimulate independent thinking. Galleries and museums would remain free, as most of them still are in Great Britain. I would fund schools to use the arts as an active element in learning.

As a world ruler I would make the learning of foreign languages compulsory. That would be probably the only dictatorial measure my regnum would include. Since I would be in charge of all the peoples of planet Earth, it would make sense to make communication easier. Children would be exposed to foreign languages from an early age. There would not be negative comments along the lines of “I’m not good at languages”, or “I’m too old to learn another language”. Learning a foreign language is contextual, meaning that you appropriate the learning process and turn it to whatever suits you better.

Healthcare and education would be free under my rule. Gratis also would be provision for the elderly in their twilight years. I have always believed that we owe the previous generation a lot for the many benefits we enjoy nowadays.

Last, but not least, is the economy. To me a mixed economy is the key to success. I would also foster a sense of individual identity. Every country in the world knows what it is good at. Therefore I would encourage manufacturing, the creative and cultural industries, fishing, farming, business (both private and social enterprises) and tourism. Under my rule, men and women would earn the same if they were doing the same job.

All of the above would guarantee a period of stability and satisfaction. How long would I govern for? I have no idea and that is the tricky bit. Give yourself a handful of years and you will run out of time before any of these measures becomes reality. Try to think long-term and you are entering dangerous territory. As in Mugabe/Castro/Tito/Mao/Chávez/Stalin territory. That is probably why, if someone were to ask me: “What would you do if you could rule the world”, my reply would be “I’d rather pass up the chance, thank you very much”. Even if that lost me a slot in Prospect magazine. Even if it meant I would have to wait for world peace a bit longer.

© 2013

Next Post: “Of Literature and Other Abstract Thoughts”, to be published on Wednesday 4th
December at 11:59pm (GMT)


  1. I had a long conversation with an old Indian man in Chennai - breaking all my rules about not talking politics when I travel - I maintained that if women rules the world there would be fewer wars as we are more likely to sit about drinking tea and talking that waving weapons about. And that, I suggested, would be to India's advantage as it would be great boost to their tea industry!

  2. Last time I heard that song it was a very different Nick Cave singing it!

    You know, I knew nothing of Prospect Magazine. I've now checked out it website and might well drop in to it from time to time.

    As a music teacher, I applaud your proposed musical initiatives. I would be keen to see as many children as possible learn the recorder, as it really seems to set people up in a good way to learn other instruments. If you stand for election, I'll vote for you.

    If I ruled the world... The first thing that pops into my head is nuclear power. It's hubris with a capital H, in my view. It would have to go, pronto.

  3. Your world sounds beautiful. When I heard the question, I thought of the old movie, "Bruce Almighty."

  4. Thanks for your comments. I tried to limit my post to no more than 600 words but failed miserably. Then, again, I was the world's ruler (in my head).

    More laws I would pass.

    - I would encourage big companies to find sustainable and green ways of generating energy.
    - I would also stimulate people to use public transport, cycle and walk more. In the case of transport I would freeze prices for a five-year period and would ensure that they remained below inflation.
    - Rape and sexual assault would carry heavier sentences, however, I would try to tackle the problem from the start, through education. Enforcement and education, that would be my motto.
    - CEOs wouldn't be allowed to earn 200 times more than their employees. I'm not against pay scales, but I am dead against big bonuses for people who do very little work and get entire nations into financial difficulties (Fred Goodwin, I'm talking to you!).
    - The media would be free but fully accountable to an independent body. The members of this body would be elected by the people.
    - People would have a direct vote in elections. I don't fancy being ousted from office because I lost a "majority". No, you vote for me, you vote me out or keep me in and then I will do the same for my successor.
    - I would also go big on social enterprises. I mentioned that briefly in my post but having worked for one I realised that they are the future. Money collected goes back to the community and is spent on new projects. Close monitoring and full accountability would be necessary, too.
    - Going back to Jo's comment, I would like women to have a more relevant role in society. I still don't know whether I would introduce quotas or not (not big fan of them) but if I did, I would make sure they had a time-limit attached to them. Parallel to that I would educate the new generation to think of workers in terms of performance and not gender, or race, or sexual orientation, or creed, or skin colour, or (dis)ability.
    - Finally, I mentioned how long I would govern for in my post. I think that twelve years would be a reasonable amount of time. I think that if we start thinking at world level of democracies being run in six-year periods (I think in Brazil presidents serve five-year terms) it would make politics more realistic and appealing. Twelve years is almost half a generation. Enough, I think, to change some minds and attitudes.

    Have a great week.

    Greetings from London.

  5. nice... not easy if you were really in that role of ruling the world... i had to think carefully about the things i would like to do and change and how they affect other would be a big point for me as well... the freedom for cutting edge and thought provoking art/writing/speaking... def. as well... health care..honoring the old by caring for them... yes... good stuff...happy sunday to you

  6. Wow you'd sure make me have done more work in school, other languages geez lol be an interesting ruler at your sea

  7. I wish you did rule the world!

  8. I love your reticence. People who'd want to take over right away have too much ambition for me; and too much ambition becomes its own obsession. I loved how you identified child care and parent involvement, and access to the arts. All good things.

  9. Do I think I'd be dreadful at ruling the world? No, in the same way that I don't think I'd be an inherently bad PM. But I *would* need an amazing team beside me... in this case I think that would involve replacing a few world leaders ;) I wish it were simple, but sadly, there's a huge amount that needs fixing...

  10. I heard that song it was a very different Nick Cave singing it but nice.

    Lakeview Lodge bed and breakfast gidgegannup

  11. I'm a pacifist too and I agree with all of your political points except I would go for world peace and impose a two-term ruling limit like they do here in the U.S.

  12. I think your world would be a good one, indeed. I have to agree with JO also. I think women generally have a good grasp on what's truly important and could go a long way toward truly achieving world peace. Of course, I would say that being a member of that gender. You and JO could rule the world together. I'd be good with that. :)

  13. I really would never dare to even try to rule the world. I think that's because I firmly believe that governments can't influence the things that really matter to us in life and I think that history shows how badly most grand plans fall flat on their faces. Having said that, one gets people like Chairman Mao who could be said to have ruled one fifth of the world - or its population. But who would use him as a model?
    Interesting post though!

  14. As another Englishman (although this one did not arrive in England via Cuba and the U.S.) is credited as saying something more than a century ago: "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men." We see evidence of this at all levels of government, in business, in schools, simply everywhere.

    I am not sure if Lord Acton was including women in his equation of power = corruption, or not.

    I think many, possibly most, of your goals are worthy, CiL, but I am too much of a believer in the presence of both good and evil (and, I mean pure evil) in our genetic makeup to think that we will ever reach a point where the poor and war will not be with us.

    This is not to say many of the items in your "campaign platform" could not be achieved within a generation within many nations. A greater opportunity for music and foreign language education, for instance. I would add to that creating significantly more exposure to all aspects of Mother Nature -- plant, animal, fish and bird life. In other words, teaching children to have a greater sense of value for all life forms and not just for that of we, who claim to be homo sapiens.

    I like your idea of children waiting until age seven to begin school, although I think accommodations must be made for learning to read.

    A very thought-provoking and well-written post, CiL. I enjoyed it very much.

  15. A couple of months ago I happened to be having lunch with my youngest best friend, an extremely smart 4 years old girl. She was unwrapping a "mistery toy" which happened to be a soldier. She asked me then for the meaning of two words I found myself unable to give a reasonable explanation, SOLDIER and WAR. Her "whys" were like "galletas sin manos" in my face.

  16. Your work is great!! It needs lot of effort and creativity to do. This is really very great!!! Well war is not the least choice.

    Kopi Luwak

  17. so when do i get to vote for you? smiles...some solid thoughts...i think some would accuse you of least here in the states....ha....i def like the thought of art initiatives and promoting learning and education....

  18. I'm with you - especially about the taxation and child care - already in force here in Sweden with 16 months of paid parental leave.

    And I agree with Jo - if women were in charge there would be fewer wars!

  19. If I ruled the World, I'd probably make a much worse hash of it than you ever could!
    I hate to admit it, but my emotions tend to rule my head - that is just the way I'm made.
    And that would be a disaster.
    For instance: I have always longed and hoped for World peace...and yet I see atrocities committed on news programmes, and can't help wishing the perpetrators to suffer the same fate as they have inflicted on others (obviously, this kind of thinking is clearly not conductive to World peace).

    Oh I so wish I had the answers...or at least one, that would help achieve this monumental aim. But I don't...and alarmingly, neither do the World leaders...or so it would seem!

    So, I suppose all we can do is try to live decent and humane lives, to the best of our ability...and do our best to inspire others to do the same.

    You, however, are the exception to the I wish you ruled the World! :)

  20. What a wonderful post to read, especially this time of year. So many things that need to change in the world and those positive changes often take much too long or never happen.

    You've got my vote! I agreed with many things on your list.

    Best wishes for the holidays.

  21. You got my vote. If only our politician could be so thoughtful and fair.

  22. “If I ruled the world” we should have balance instead of growth.

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