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msknight

Michelle's corner

Michelle Knight. Writer, photographer, programmer, truck driver and general, all round nut case. Life is a journey and that's what this blog will probably end up being. Let's see where we go, eh? ;-)

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Your Beauty Mark. All You Need to Get the Hair, Makeup, Glow, and Glam.
Dita von Teese
Progress: 208/256 pages

Review - Prisoners of Geography - 5 of 5 stars

Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Tell You Everything You Need to Know About Global Politics - Tim Marshall

There are so many quotes from this book that I want to show you. It brings politics right up to date, and ties it in with how military aggression, politics and populations have been affected by the geographical bounds. Mountain ranges, marshes, waterways, boundaries shifting as rivers change, the requirements for ports and transit ways; and the negotiations and arguments that have to be made as a result. Perhaps the most interesting observation for me, was this...

 

"I once took a Chinese ambassador in London to a high-end French restaurant in the hope they would repeat Prime Minister Zhou Enlai's much-quoted answer to Richard Nixon's question, "What is the impact of the French Revolution," to which the prime minister replied, "It's too soon to tell." Sadly this was not forthcoming, but I was treated to a stern lecture about how the full imposition of "what you call human rights," in China would lead to widespread violence and death and was then asked, "Why do you think your values would work in a culture you don't understand?""

 

We have a tendency to see events in other countries, through our own cultural lens, so it's no wonder when things go dramatically wrong and we are seen as meddling incompetents...

 

"The notion that a man from a certain area could not travel across a region to see a relative from the same tribe unless he had a document, granted to him by a third man he didn't know in a faraway town, made little sense. The idea that the document was issued because a foreigner had said the area was now two regions and had made up names for them made no sense at all and was contrary to the way in which life had been lived for centuries."

 

Marshall sounds a reminding note for those of us who have lived our lives having never known conflict on our doorsteps...

 

The post-second-world-war generations have grown up with peace as the norm, but what is different about the current generation is that Europeans find it difficult to imagine the opposite. Wars now seem to be what happens elsewhere or in the past - at worst they happen on the "periphery" of Europe. The trauma of two world wars, followed by seven decades of peace and then the collapse of the Soviet Union, persuaded many people that Western Europe was a "post conflict" region.

 

He goes through the world and pulls few punches; also offering observations on the recent annexation of Crimea, why the Chinese are pushing for more than their fair share of sea, and I came away with a fresh mind towards the future of shale gas in our own country. It all takes on a different perspective when seen from the point of view of the world stage.

 

Marshall shows, time and time again, where us Brits took a pen to a map, scribbled on it, and left behind absolute chaos...

 

"The middle of what? East of where? The regions very name is based on a European view of the world, and it is a European view of the region that shaped it. The Europeans used ink to draw lines on maps: they were lines that did not exist in reality and created some of the most artificial borders the world has seen. An attempt is now being made to redraw them in blood."

...

"When the Persians controlled the space they divided it in a similar way, as did Alexander the Great, and later the Umayyad Empire. The British looked at the same area and divided the three into one, a logical impossibility Christians can resolve through the Holy Trinity, but which in Iraq has resulted in an unholy mess."

His observations are honest, and sometimes a difficult truth to read...

 

"The best known quote attributed to Henry Kissinger originated in the 1970's when he is reported to have asked: "If I want to phone Europe, who do I call?" The Poles have an updated question, "If the Russians threaten, do we call Brussels or Washington?" They know the answer."


This book was a very good read. It is sobering to realise how much war has been going on, and so recently, even to this day, and have an extra insight in to the kinds of things that have an effect on the decisions that are made... and the things which will decide the future wars... because reading this, I'm sure that there are more, not very far away. Some of these decisions are being made as a result of changes that aren't even in our direct control...


"Already villages along the Bering and Chukchi coast have been relocated as coastlines are eroded and hunting grounds lost. A biological reshuffle is under way. Polar bears and Arctic foxes are on the move, walruses find themselves competing for space, and fish, unaware of territorial boundaries, are moving northward, depleting stocks for some countries but populating others. Mackerel and Atlantic cod are now being found in Arctic trawler nets."