As increased globalization forces countries to pretend that they like playing with all the other kids in the playground despite fearing they'll have their toys stolen, never has there been more blatant self-interest cloaked in the phony pretext of outreach or do-goodery. Nowadays, a country is expected to appear both broke and overtly generous -- otherwise, you're just a jerk.
Take Canada, for example. Canada used to be run by nanny-state leftists more concerned with looking like Boy Scouts to the rest of the world than with any kind of self-preserving action. Now, as it benefits from six years of conservative governance, it's loading up on military hardware in anticipation of Arctic resource protection. It has just expelled select Russian diplomats and charged a Canadian naval intelligence officer for allegedly peddling what were likely Arctic-strategy secrets. It's flashing its huge oil reserves to various international suitors as oil-extraction projects finally come to fruition.
All this makes Canada insufferable at a time when the nations of the world are supposed to be leaning over a common bathtub, slitting their wrists in unison. A French friend who had nothing but positive things to say about Canada a year ago said to me this week, "What has Canada done for the little kids in Africa? Canada only cares about itself!" A recent Slate magazine article asks if Canada is "becoming a jingoistic petro-state."
A "good" global citizen is apparently expected to go around in a crisis helping others with their oxygen masks at the risk of passing out and being of no use to anyone. It's expected to take in any and all newcomers, be driven by overwhelming emotion to give all its money away to dodgy foreign regimes, and bask in the prevailing global brotherhood forged by empty pockets.
So how can a country assuage the guilt of having its act together and not come across as some kind of weirdo who'd prefer to sit on the couch licking the Frito Lay sour cream dust off his fingers rather than socialize? Well, there are clubs for that, son! Pick a pandering preference -- anything from aboriginal rights to environmentalism -- to serve as the politically acceptable context for seeking to further enhance your bottom line. Just don't actually start believing what comes out of your own mouth about it, because then you'll end up broke -- the European Union being the gold standard of this.
Two such prominent clubs are the BRICS group of developing economies (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) and the new Eurasian Union (Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, with Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to soon follow). And there's a lesser known group formed in 1996 but just now becoming prominent: the Arctic Council, comprising Russia, Canada and other nations with Arctic interest ... with China and India aiming for observer status.
Notice a pattern here? Who's the compulsive club joiner? Who's the little Nikolai No-Mates shoehorning his way into every club, no matter the cause? Russia. And that's not counting its recent joining of the World Trade Organization, its participation in NATO exercises last year when it isn't a member of that club, and its creation of a special club with just Russia and China. I doubt this club-joining enthusiasm is because Russia has the biggest hearts, although Vladimir Putin may try to prove me wrong with a photo if I press the issue.
And why would China and India want to "observe" a club consisting of countries interested in an Arctic region that those two countries are nowhere near? Because they're as interested in the environmental sanctity of the region as the other club members! Feelings! Huge hearts! And China was really upset when one of its billionaire businessmen -- a self-proclaimed poet and mountaineer -- was unsuccessful in his bid to buy 0.3 percent of Iceland to build a nature resort. He says that if he keeps failing in his attempts, he'll try Denmark, Norway or Sweden -- all Arctic Council countries. The man's going to get his polar bear park if he has to move every ounce of oil out of the way to see his dream become reality.
Globalization has forced everyone to be seen as open, meaning secrets have to be kept and stored under the very words one speaks. In this new era of grotesque pretexting, the club joiners with the resilience to withstand a constant fire-hose blast of verbal sewage to the face will be most revered.