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Food for Thought Culture and Politics

Food for Thought 

Culture and politics 

By Felix Dodds 

I have just finished Stanley Johnson’s book ‘Stanley I Presume’ a wonderful journey through his time at the World Bank, the Rockefeller Commission on Population, DGXI in the European Commission before it became DG Environment and as an Ambassador to the Ramsar Convention or even his botched attempt to join MI5. Of course he may be better known to most people as the father of Boris Johnson the Mayor of London.  Reading the book I found one of the best stories was how he persuaded a couple of sponsors to fund him to retrace Marco Polo’s journey to China, while sending news stories back to the UK. BSA the wonderful motor bike company that at its peak was the largest motorcycle and producer in the world producing the Triumph Motorcycles gave Stanley three bikes to support his work. I had never realised what BSA stood for before – I just thought it was something to do with motor bikes that somehow had passed me by. So I was a little surprised to say the least that it turned out to stand for the Birmingham Small Arms Company. As an Italian adventurer Marco Polo probably has no second. It’s always interesting to see the impact that famous people have on culture Marco Polo has an airport named after him, two hurricanes.  Marco Polo’s adventures in the Far East and of course its riches inspired Christopher Columbus decision to try to reach those lands by a western route. Among his belongings was a heavily annotated copy of Polo's book and then of course there is the Marco Polo sheep -  the name for a subspecies of sheep But Italy as well as Marco Polo has given us Michelangel, Leonardo,Dino Zoff, Mario Andretti, Galileo Galilei as well as Sonia Ghandi.  This week will see the end of the Indian election the biggest democracy in the world and its clear that Sonia Ghandi does have an influence on Indian political life whatever the outcome. As this century progresses the influence of India and China clearly is going to grow. We are only seven months away from the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen and the role of India and China will be critical to what type of outcome we have. 

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