At a time when abundance is arguably the norm in most areas of life in the developed world – from the supermarket shelves heaving with imported delicacies to the information-rich electronic devices that have colonised the collective consciousness of vast swathes of the planet during the past decade-and-a-half – it seems bizarre to speak of acute scarcity. Yet in at least one key area of modern existence, this modality is arguably the defining one: creativity.
With typical creativity guidance searches on popular web portal in the millions per month, it seems as the world is sitting at a desk with a blank sheet of paper and a flummoxed expression. And this phenomenon is manifesting itself in almost every imaginable conventional sector. Literature is forced to draw on translated texts from other languages in order to be viable in qualitative terms: authors such as Orhan Pamuk and Aleksandar Hemon, both so recently curious exotica on the fringes of the mainstream, are now the centrepiece of the entire enterprise.
The general consensus on the Internet is that popular music has been dying a virulent death for at least a decade: what we are left with is endless remixes. And in football, the one position that almost no-one can occupy is that of the playmaker, the one person on the team for whom simple sideways passes are categorically insufficient; even the Brazil national team, the most successful international side in the history of the FIFA World Cup, has no obvious replacement for the iconic Kaká.
Is living in a world where the ability to create – to realise that which was not there and has no precedent – has perhaps never been so rare such a bad thing? Ultimately, this depends on one’s position on the continuua of creativity. The sumptuous insight articulated by Swedish business gurus Jonas Ridderstråle and Kjell A. Nordström – ‘Future success will be about challenging current wisdom and moving your pawn from A2 to E7 in one move’ – has never looked so prescient. But how can a person be or become creative? And what is creativity anyway? These will be the topic of the next article in this series.
As all students of great literature should be aware, an almost infinite number of small actions make large events possible: from Lear’s moment of divine realisation at the end of arguably Shakespeare’s most complete play to Galip’s outpourings to his beloved Ruya in Orhan Pamuk’s magnum opus The Black Book, this rule is seemingly set in stone. And as this blog goes to press, we are indubitably confronted with an event of genuine magnitude: the 17th March 2011 passage of United Nations Resolution 1973 (2011), a measure which transmogrifies Libyan airspace into a no-fly zone with the stated aim of protecting that country’s beleaguered civilian population.
But how have we got here? What other actions comprise the ingredients of these purified North African skies? The official reason given by the resolution – an humanitarian motivation – seems genuine, at least by the often questionable standards of international diplomacy. However, as with virtually all occurrences of this size, there are other factors involved:
1. The uncertain position of the centre-right in Britain and France. David Cameron, who first mooted the idea of a no-fly zone across Libya on 28th February 2011, and Nicolas Sarkozy, who has strongly backed the idea of military intervention in Libya, are both leaders who are facing a difficult future: Cameron leads a coalition which is enacting a raft of unpopular spending cuts, while Sarkozy has long had his credibility undermined for a whole list of reasons, not least an apparent political incoherence and crudity that has made him a byword for intolerance. This crisis gives the British and French leaders a prime opportunity to gain an international stature which has thus far eluded them.
2. A low-risk, high-profile intervention. Unlike the multi-trillion dollar debacle in Iraq and the increasingly surreal NATO mission in Afghanistan, a circumscribed operation in Libya – the resolution does not provide for the invasion of Libyan territory by ground forces – does not appear to offer a great deal of threat to international actors. At the same time, the potential positive media exposure to be gained by helping to topple Muammar Gaddafi is a huge prize, despite the fact that the self-styled King of Kings of Africa was until recently a paradigm of rehabilitation, having taken significant steps to normalise relations with the United States, France, Italy and the United Kingdom during the last decade; the irony of Libya and Italy signing a curious August 2008 US$5bn cooperation treaty in Benghazi should be lost on no-one.
3. Regional and economic instability. The price of oil has soared in recent weeks as the consequences for a planet deprived of Libyan oil – Libya meets around 2% of global oil demand – start to make themselves felt in markets; as the Libyan government announced an official ceasefire in response to the promulgation of the resolution, the cost of oil significantly declined. Libya is a vital source of energy for a number of European countries, including Spain; José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, the Prime Minister of Spain, has been one of the most enthusiastic advocates of the no-fly zone, with the Spanish willing to provide air bases as well as deploy the country’s air force and navy.