It was an underwhelming departure even by his own standards. The demand for grandeur lost somewhere in between his previous departures from his home country. He was a product of an era where sociologists popularized notions of “global citizens” and the value of “international perspectives”. He’d found comfort and a certain degree of self-importance in these theories. That was until he entered the frosty job market where an international understanding and strong academic track record was deemed to forever be in the shadow of “concrete work experience” and “connections”. He was determined, however, not to let the stagnation of the global citizen influence his decision even though his CV did look like the product of a frequent flyer alcoholic.
He wanted the sub-zero winter air outside the airplane window to signal the start of something new. But it was hard to deny that it all looked more like yet another Stockholm – London flight. By his side a British youth with whimsy curly hair obsessively hammered on a Blackberry, smiling at his own writing like only a self-consumed teenager can. Even the miniature plastic bottle of French wine – delivered by an overtly hospitable member of BA (by far the company with the largest discrepancy between its branding and real life performance) – failed to create any feeling of grandeur as he used it to wash down a spongy sandwich.
As he bade farewell to his colleagues a few days prior to the underwhelming departure they were sad to see him go. Considering the anglophile nature of the urban Swedish population he realized that no one would try and talk him out of a London move unless they were cross-country ski enthusiasts (which a surprising number of them were). Yes, it does make sense, he told himself as the BA-flight headed towards the runway in no particular hurry.
The backdrop to any adventure contains certain elements of unknown, and, certain elements that are known to be problematic. Among the known problems the current “meltdown” or “financial crisis” which was slapping the world like a cold fish in the face seemed most acute to him. The “mismatch between global economics and local politics” (from the complimentary issue of the Financial Times that he wished he had never read) was a structural problem that now meant that “globalized capitalism has outstripped the capacity of national governments to manage it”.
God damn you gloomy economic forecasts, he lamented inside his head while looking out of his airplane window in search of comfort. All he saw was compact darkness. It seemed to him that the elements of unknown were out of control, mixing with the known in a stew of dark Danish clouds. He proceeded to read the FT-article until a professor of international relations at Georgetown University, a certain Charles Kupchan, concluded that “The danger is that what started out as a crisis of financial capitalism will give way to a new age of nationalisms – a backlash against globalization and a return to zero-sum politics.”
He gently folded the over sized newspaper and placed it in the seat pocket in front of him. He closed his eyes and brought to mind a scene from Wes Anderson’s film Darjeeling Limited, a tribute to what now seemed to be the fall of the global citizen. In the scene three prescription drug addict sons confront their mother who has moved to the Himalayas to help the poor. At the end of a conversation on broken promises and trust issues she makes a three point plan. One of the points being:
“We’ll stop feeling sorry for ourselves, it’s not very attractive”