City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Book Festival: Misha Glenny

By Bill Dunlop - Posted on 24 August 2008

Show details
Misha Glenny

Roland Glover ably filled in for Alan
Little, "away" doing more pressing work than interviewing Misha Glenny at the
Edinburgh International Book Festival. He and we needn't have worried; an hour
in the company of Misha Glenny is to profit from one of the most informed and
sharpest minds contemplating the state we're in.

And what a state, to judge
from Glenny's latest commentary on contemporary politics and society. McMafia is a chronicle of international criminality that makes The Sopranos appear a
bunch of harmless bumbling shysters and would almost certainly have made the
likes of Al Capone and "Legs" Diamond blush deeply in embarrassment for their

We know, but can scarcely acknowledge, that drugs and sex power the
risen criminal class. There are, of course, those who strive to oppose
corruption, and Glenny recounted the forgotten tale of Doran Zindjic, Prime
Minister of Serbia, assassinated, it has been said, at the behest of those who wished
to make an awful warning to those tempted to speak out against the degradation
of democracy.

Zindjic is, of course but one, however prominent victim of a war
which has already claimed thousands of lives; this is not hyperbole, if one
includes the victims of drug-related crime, people-trafficking and other
activities which in turn fund and feed war and terrorist activities across the

Glenny's survey of the way we live now indicated how shabbily and
hypocritically we do so; we worry about our children succumbing to "drug culture"
but wilfully deny how deeply drugs have penetrated and damaged poor and
incohesive communities. Government control of currently illegal drugs may be
the only way to smash the criminal networks that profit from them, but for a
politician to suggest so now would end their career immediately. Equally, neither
liberated women nor men "against sexism" appear to care very much for
trafficked women and others involved in prostitution against their will or unable
to escape from it. People trafficking, like the arms trade, is something we
know goes on, but believe we're powerless to prevent or limit.

There are of
course, new forms of criminal activity, or rather forms which have become criminalised;
in 2004, 90% of cyber crime was fuelled by egotism. In 2007, 90% was fuelled by
criminal profiteering. The number of computer viruses detected between 1994 and
2006 equal the number detected in 2007. Counterfeited goods also help fund
oligarchs, criminals and even states. Counterfeit items represent 80% of the goods
exported from the People's Republic of China.

It's perhaps little wonder that
people shy away from the complexity that globalisation has created. Taking
stands has never been an easy or popular pastime, but it has always been an
essential part of being a citizen of the modern world. Even those who oppose corruption
and oligarchy can become tainted. As Glenny pointed out toward the end of his pertinent
and timely presentation, even the courageous Dzinjic could not entirely free
himself from the taint he attempted to eschew. Yet to despair would be to
concede a victory none of us can ultimately afford.

Time: Aug 22 at 17:00

Copyright Bill Dunlop August 2008

Published on August 2008