Mercedes Benz heir Mick Flick and I have been friends for more than half a century. We both married Schoenburgs, both like the odd drink, both adore the fair sex, and we are now both candidates for a visit from the man in the white suit, yours truly first in line. Mick gave a wonderful dinner the other evening for around 30 of us. It was in his upper chalet, the one that’s half art gallery and half live-in space. He also has a lower chalet for his two sons and daughter. The dinner was seated and the wine was Latour. I think I had two bottles before the wife dragged me away using all sorts of excuses. The last thing I remember was Mick laughing as I was being led out.
I had hosted a somewhat similar shindig the previous week, and Mick sat on my wife’s right. Art and Afghanistan were the main topics of conversation. Chalet prices never came up. Later on, Mick mentioned the man in white. ‘Sometimes I think of him,’ he said. ‘Ignore the son of a bitch,’ said I. Or, as they say in Brooklyn: ‘Bust ’im one in da chops.’ Before dinner, while having drinks in the garden, I noticed a beautiful woman, blonde and blue-eyed, with a hint of melancholy and without that Latin come-hither look. I felt a flicker of the long-distant ecstasy of youth, and went up to chat to her. Her name is Anya, she’s German and she lives nearby, in the Black Forest. She had come with Mick and left with him. I stayed with what Italians rather inelegantly call cazzo in mano.
Otherwise ‘tout va très bien, Madame la Marquise’, as they say in French music halls. Everyone I spoke to at our non-stop dinner parties assumed that Afghanistan is a western problem, and an Anglo-American defeat. When I say we never had any business there, eyebrows are raised and conversation turns to chalet prices. When I say that if we had to invade, why not Saudi Arabia, a triple-dealing, money-grubbing gangster state that is protected by powerful lobbies in DC, people roll their eyes. Everyone seems to have been brainwashed. It reminds me of when, as a young naive, I believed that the Americans in Vietnam were winning hearts and minds and pacifying villages by burning them down. Except that Ashraf Ghani and his gang were more corrupt and far more cowardly than the South Vietnamese ever were.
Mind you, I learned my lesson after Vietnam, and that is to do the exact opposite of what the neocons say is good for America and the West. I also put my money where my mouth is and founded the American Conservative, whose motto is that we are a republic, not an empire. But wars are not what the ‘little people’ think they are, battles between good and evil. They are money-makers for those inside the loop. Autocue aside, Biden is presiding over a republic that turned into an empire, and the inevitable decadence is now taking its toll. Some predict the American empire will be history by 2050. Uncle Sam produces a quarter of the world’s GDP, and has an unprecedented geographical position, but self-doubt and spineless politicians will be the straw that ends it all. Still, 100 years is not bad going.
But does America’s descent into insanity affect us Europeans? I used to think that without America Europe was like a ship without an engine floundering in the ocean. Now I’m not so sure. Britain, alas, is following in America’s footsteps, bringing down statues and turning heroes into villains. I now look to Hungary and Poland, France, Italy, Spain and Greece to uphold our glorious past, not to mention the Dutch and the Scandinavians. Germany reminds me of early Lebanon, with better-looking women and of course the best cars, although the last time I was in Frankfurt it felt like 1960s Beirut.
Good old Helvetia seems the only oasis of peace in the mix, and now that the cows have come down from the heights it feels more Swiss than ever. The weather has been perfect and I’ve seen a lot of friends, mostly Greeks, as everyone is packing for the return. At dinner the other night a friend brought up the 6,500 migrant workers who have died building football stadiums in Qatar for next year’s extravaganza. I wonder why this hasn’t made any headlines. Instead we have the detailed account of the allegations of an ex-girlfriend of a tennis star who claims he tried to strangle her. In the meantime, 6,500 families have lost their breadwinners so we can enjoy watching football next year. Something’s very wrong here. I’m following my Low life colleague and heading for Blighty.