It was an interesting evening, spent listening to a neoliberal capitalist who has across his writing career downplayed the negative impacts of colonialism and slavery in Africa’s economic deprivation and also sang the praises of history’s many migrations and Diasporas. It cannot be said that Robert Guest holds cookie cutter beliefs in perfect alignment with any one political party, movement or group. The topic of the evening however, was not his bibliography, but an analysis of 2017. France, America, Brexit, China and North Korea were but a few of the topics of discussion on our whistle-stop tour of globe. Above all global co-operation was considered both as most at threat, especially by Brexit, in the year gone by, and hailed as our great saviour; in our economy, societies and the environment. There was, in fact, little, those youths of the left side of the political spectrum in the room could disagree with that came from the mouth of the suave capitalist. 2017 seems then have had a remarkable impact in unifying those who would previously have not been seen dead with one another gathering in agreement. Then again, I detected a sense of selectivism in his words, as he understood the student demographic of the room. Regardless of which factor was at play, I wanted to know more, and so I sat down for a chat with Robert Guest.
In his talk, Guest had been rather flippant regarding the impacts and ramifications of the Trump administration. The highest office in American politics was so bogged down in bureaucracy and ceremony, there is little damage one man can do, even from the highest peak. The wall and the Muslim ban had both failed to (successfully) materialise, as Trump proves incapable of fighting the forces of the Supreme Court. Besides, Guest remarked placing his presidency in proportion, Trump would last four years, Brexit was forever. So I asked is “the wider situation around him such a temporary thing?” In reply, Guest stated that “not many people were happy” with the increasing number of ethnic minorities of the country. There was also the issue that the “benefits of globalisation were not being redistributed”, and there was a sense of abandonment among the out-of-work factory and industrial workers who had suffered from this. Finally, he mentioned the Christians of America who felt looked down upon by the rest of the country. Those who resented being referred to as “white hillbillies”. These people, Guest said, would not be going away before the next election. Trump, with “extraordinary charisma” and “ability to bullshit”, a word Guest quickly swapped out for “ability to say things which sound very exciting and simple”, or any other similar political figure would not be repeated.
I asked Robert Guest “is there any danger of [Trump] being impeached?” To this he responded that it was “possible”. It was however necessary that he be found guilty of committing an actual crime. Remembering Guest briefly touch on the scandal regarding the Porn star Stormy Daniels accusing Trump of bribing her with campaign funds to keep quiet about an alleged affair, I asked Guest if this was something that could be used to bring about the downfall of Trump. Guest dismissed this fervently, declaring that campaign rules were constantly being broken and that during Obama’s re-election campaign Guest himself had been asked for donations. Requesting donations from foreigners of course being illegal under American law.
It was at this point I turned to the British general election, which Guest had neglected to mention during his talk. “What do you think about the outcome?” I asked. To this question he twisted his face into something I can only describe as a pained grimace. He despaired at the move away, in this country, from sensible politics. Where one leader wants to “destroy our… foreign entanglement and rip us out of the European Union” and the other who “doesn’t believe in capitalism and believes that Venezuela is a really well-run country”. A real people pleaser, I thought. Moreover he expressed a worry that the British Prime ministership, free from the many bureaucracies in American politics, was a position that could enact more damage than the American Presidency could. Finally, on the topic of the British General Election, I asked if it was more “a success of Corbyn’s” or “a failure of May’s” that led to the outcome of the election. Resolutely he replied that it was a failure of May’s. That there was “some enthusiasm for Corbyn”, but only among those who didn’t remember the 1970s, the strikes, double-digit inflation and the IMF bailout. He does come across as “authentic” he admitted, “in that he hasn’t had an original thought since the 1970s”.
At this point I turned to something Guest had mentioned in his talk. He had stated that there was now less poverty and economic disparity in the world than there had ever been. To this I brought up the figure that came from Oxfam, which stated that the world’s richest 1% have a total of 82% of the world’s wealth. To which he replied “that’s rubbish”, stating that the Oxfam report had based their findings by defining the most indebted in the world as the poorest. A figure which includes British students, who may be very much indebted but are not at “the bottom” of the socio-economic spectrum. This figure, Guest stated, also included children, and had very little to do poverty.
Finally, I turned to the difficult concept of globalisation. This being a time of great rejection of globalization “how do we sell it”, I asked Guest. He replied that globalisation has been framed as an inevitability, and that revisiting its effects was futile. Instead people should think of the many benefits that it brought that the news anchors don’t usually focus on. People should remember the “super computer in their pockets” before dismissing globalisation in totality. And on this note, a consumerist defence of globalisation, that I ended the interview.
Matilda Smith is about to enter her third year of a BA in History and is also the co-Editor-in-Chief of the Globalist.