Struggling through a streaming cold and muzzy head to write a lecture for this coming Wednesday (on Being Confident in an Uncertain World), I was easily distracted by the glories of Twitter. I caught a link which, in the context of all the political upheavals going on around us, stood out. Die Zeit has the headline: Merkel öffnet für Hollande die Arme, nicht die Taschen (Merkel opens her arms to Hollande, but not her pockets).

It’s a weird world.

  • Greece votes against parties that think austerity is unavoidable, but offers no ideas for how the stringencies of economics can be aligned with desired social wellbeing.
  • It looks possible that Greece won’t be able to find a coherent coalition government at all.
  • Russia, against all protests, swears in a president who seems to assume power and the right to power. Ominously, he promises Russians some hard years ahead.
  • France elects a new Socialist president who might not be able to implement (economically or politically) what he has promised.
  • Germany welcomes the new French president to office, but won’t offer him the means to do what he has promised to do for France. (And Merkel has just had a bad election in Schleswig-Holstein, so all is not beautiful in her own garden either).

What is interesting about all these ructions in Europe (and bring into the mix all the other trouble spots across the planet) is the assumption on the part of whole populations that we have rights to certain ways of living or levels of affluence or provision – but rarely does anyone ask where those rights have come from. They are merely assumed. But, as ethicists know, you can’t get an ought from an is – that is to say, you cannot derive a moral imperative from the mere fact that something exists. So, what gives us the right to demand ‘rights’ in the first place?

Anyway, we’ll watch this space as everything changes in Europe and beyond. Putin is not the universally revered man he thinks he once was. Merkel stands firm, but the floor might potentially wobble beneath her feet. Hollande might find ‘reality’ harder to manipulate than he has suggested. And Greece? Er…

At least all is stable and fine at home in the UK, our glorious leaders steering us into a land of plenty. One day. Eventually. Maybe soon. Er…