London Pub Conversations

After a literary lunch I attended, I was walking around central London thinking about my writing, when I found myself outside a pub near the Houses of Parliament. I was thirsty so I went in. I got myself a pint and noticed two groups conversing in adjacent corners of the pub. I sat down on a bench in the middle of the two groups so I could listen to each group’s conversation. They didn’t even notice my presence. There were four men in each group, all wearing dark suits.

One group was discussing the pros and cons of GLOBALIZATION. The other group was arguing whether or not the UK should stay in the EUROPEAN UNION.

“My shirt was made in Thailand, my shoes in China, my phone comes from Japan and my car is German! Nothing I have is made in the UK. Is globalization a good or bad thing?” said a middle-aged, bearded gent.

“I think it is a good thing because the consumer can get products cheaper. It also gives countries a larger market. So if you can buy cheap shoes from China, the UK can concentrate on other things such as British tailoring of musical equipment.

Then a grey-haired fella spoke up:

“Well, I think it is a bad thing because globalization causes unemployment. Firms move their factories where there is cheap labor. Diseases can spread more quickly. Environmental problems increase because factories in other countries don’t have strict pollution laws. The rain forests are disappearing to supply wood to the rich countries.”

There were sour faces in the group. But he continued:

“Many workers in Third World countries are exploited and work in bad conditions just so rich nations can have cheap goods.”

A little fella spoke up:

“How did all this globalization come about?”

An intelligent looking bloke with large spectacles said:

“Well, it is NOT new! People have been trading goods and traveling great distances for thousands of years. In the modern age, it has been moving at a much faster pace. Today it is easier for firms to work in other countries. Technology is rampant, the Internet reaches more customers around the world. We can exchange money and ideas faster and cheaper than ever before.”

One chap stood up like a soldier and concluded:

“Well, there is good and bad things connected to globalization and many challenges will arise that the world will have to face.”

Then a guy slammed his fist on the table and shouted:

“I believe in Nationalism. I devote myself to the interests of my country. I want to emphasize national goals rather than international ones!” The fellow’s eyes were flashing with anger!

Everyone in that group went quiet!

I went for another pint and moved closer to the other group. I wondered if there were any politicians in the two groups.

“Britain would lose about three million jobs if it left the European Union,” said an important looking chap.

“Maybe those jobs would be lost that are dependent on the EU. But the EU would lose four million jobs that are dependent on UK membership. So, it would be silly for them not to trade with the UK. And another thing, The Lisbon Treaty stipulates that the EU must make a trade agreement with any country which leaves the EU!”

“Would the UK economy be hurt by leaving the EU?”

“I don’t think so because the EU and the UK are members of the World Trade Organization. The WTO would limit the amount of tariffs both could apply to each other’s goods. And Europe sells more to the UK than the UK sells to it. The EU needs the UK!”

“I’m a businessman and I am sick of the EU restrictions and rules that really hinder us, they are burdensome and expensive and time consuming! For example, if the US firms can get new products licensed and to market in days, why does it have to take weeks or months in the EU? And also, the EU open border policy is destroying all our infrastructure!”

Everyone was silent for a minute. The men that were for staying in the EU were glaring at the ones that wanted out!

One distinguished looking man broke the silence:

“I don’t think Britain can survive outside the EU as far as trade goes.”

“That’s a complete myth. Japan, the world’s third largest economy, is not in a trading bloc. Anyway, the EU’s share of world Gross Domestic Product is declining. Norway and Switzerland are not in the EU and they export more per capita to the EU than the UK does. So, being out of the EU doesn’t mean you can’t have a healthy trading business. Britain’s best trading partners are outside the EU, the USA and Switzerland. Plus the biggest investor in the UK is not an EU country, but the USA!”

By this time everyone in both groups had angry and irritated looks on their faces! They actually looked menacing!

I left the pub thinking:


What Is A Man (or a woman)?

I was mingling at a literary lunch recently, when I started talking to an elderly gentleman. We were talking about the pleasantries of the day, when he came out with:

“Do you realize you and I are nothing but machines!”

I almost choked on my Hemingway Daiquiri!

“What do you mean by calling me a machine?”

“Well, your organs and body parts are working parts as a machine. Your brain is your mental machinery. You originate nothing, all your ideas and thoughts come from external influences. You are a machine shaping raw material from external sources.”

The elderly gentleman smiled sardonically, and continued:

“You and I are not in control, our lives are determined by factors outside of our control. Our futures are fixed and predetermined.”

“I am a writer, what about my creativity?”

“We create nothing, your creations are imitations!”

“What do you mean by that?” I was getting angry.

“Your imitations come from outside influences, experiences, reading books, etc. All this frames patterns in your mind and your mental machinery turns out the finished product. The less outside influences, the less product!”

“I have to disagree with your strange doctrine,” I scowled.

“It may be strange, but it makes sense. What do you think about creativity and originality then?”

“My originality comes from my judicious selection of all the ideas I have come across and how I put them together into a story. No one combines the knowledge in the exact same way as I do! My creativity is how I present my knowledge. You are a Determinist. I am a Existentialist!”

The old man thought for a moment and then said:

“So, what are your beliefs?”

“Well, I believe we have the freedom to CHOOSE who we are. My future is NOT predetermined at all! My belief is that our essence, our SELF, is something we decide and cultivate with our actions. We are our choices. You and you alone, are responsible for everything you do. You have the freedom to choose your “SELF.”

The old man looked quizzical and said:

“Well, I still believe our lives are completely predetermined.”

I finished my daiquiri and pondered my reply.

“Well, I adhere to the opposite philosophy: Free Will and Choice. Originality is your judicious selection of creative material and how you present it”

We both headed to the “Books For Sale” table. We both bought the same book.

“I was destined to buy and read this book. I simply picked it up because it was meant to be,” the old man said in a determined voice.

“I made an independent decision to buy this book, it was my choice!” I said confidently.

We both took our book and walked away in OPPOSITE directions!