Besides being a good read this book repaid its cost to me if only because it contained deeply instructive maps and thickly textured references including many well found web sites. For me totally novel and fascinating was the Inglehart values map which "... shows findings...along two key axes, from traditional values to secular-rational values, and from survival values to self-expression values"
My only reservation is that from the radio piece that alerted me to the book I was expecting more of the two conversations mentioned - one with President George.W. Bush, the other with an illegal Morrocan immigrant - perhaps TGA has in mind this sort of material for the web-site which he has set up to further the debate.
The greatest selling word world wide along with NEW is FREE - the USA has gone from being known as the new world to being seen as the champion of the free world, and we have gone in Timothy Garton Ash's witty phrase "from Plato to NATO".
Timothy Garton Ash (TGA) is an able and seminal chronicler of our (foreign policy)times, in particular he has been where it counted during the European changes of 1989
(We the People: The revolution of '89. Witnessed in Warsaw, Budapest, Berlin & Prague).
Writing now , honestly teasing out contradictions and interpenetrations in the relative positions of EU, UK and USA he speaks as Director of the European Studies Centre at St Antony's College Oxford.
Tellingly the jacket photo shows the author as a younger man. I judge this to be the less malign vanity of not wanting to make a fuss about getting an up to date portrait - endearingly English.
And it is, one senses, as an Englishman that Timothy speaks as Churchill and Orwell hover informatively about the text.
An Englishman who is called in on both sides of the pond to give his views on matters of foreign policy in small private briefings of high officials, presidents even.
An Englishman feeling now, perhaps, as many of that generation must, an obligation to step forward a little into the more direct fray from which they resiled as too too bloody a generation ago.
So as well as a fascinating and pacey discussion of the UK's necessarily Janus like position in relation to the US and EU in the first part, the book may signal TGA's move away from the detached though weirdly anthropomorphic discussions about the behaviour of states into the position of the activist.
This is accomplished in the second part of the book by what is, in my judgment, nothing more or less than a geopolitical fantasia.
TGA has the courage to let his coat, as it were blow in the wind and roll towards an enlargement, clarification, correction of Tony Blair's "bridge" thesis.
Towards a Europe where we simultaneously improve our welcome to immigrants from the fringe countries as replacement for our reduced numbers of young (and the major buggered-upness of those left ) and hope that potential immigrants stay at home and under freer trade make the goods we need to buy.
I began to get the feeling that process was, as it must with any fantasia, beginning to feed on itself.
Suddenly TGA imagines himself singing a European anthem. I put the book down for the first time. I felt a little queasy . Some awful memory. Suddenly the vision of esperanto flashed into my mind - both its dingy headquarters that I used to walk past on the way to school in Kensington, and also in one of Orwell's or was it Graham Green's tales.
Because it seems clear that any blooded knave who runs us, any hooded death lover will at last have to be confronted, no matter how many candles blow in the wind, no matter how much in tithes from those "on above average income" go to the international poor.
For as the disproportion in incomes in the exemplar state (USA) gets even more extreme than the charts in this book show us; as the combination of highest gun ownership with highest religious adherence becomes more strident it is there as it was in the USSR that things will happen from within, the hollow dead centre must be filled from the bottom and in this process the victims must learn, somehow, to speak with charity and pity of their oppressors.
TGA himself has a "Tiresias twinge" when he acknowledges the "insatiable power of Western-style consumerism" and sees clearly that some other model may emerge from newly free countries that they may not tread the same paths.
This is interesting. The idea that valuable ideas still securely located in "old fashioned" cultures could be their and our saving grace in the future is good.
Like the need to preserve bio-diversity because of the as yet unknown useful plants the idea of not being fobbed off with the pseudo choices of the consumer but to have the spiritual and intellectual guts to consider real alternatives seems to me the real starting point.