It is being denied, today, that the official spokesman for President Putin, spoke of Britain as “being a small island no-one listens to”, but in the abrasive atmosphere of the Russian G20 Summit, such rude honesty towards one of its guests would be unsurprising.
We are indeed a small island, and, looking back over the recent history of Britain, it is remarkable what a tiny area of sometimes uninhabitable land has produced as a result of its people with great minds and no limitations to aspiration and courage. The British influence in the world has been immense both in terms of human achievement and also spiritual development – and that is a story for another time.
Just as spirituality waxes and wanes over time, sometimes more embedded as a way of life than at other times, so too does national authority, for any country. Syria once was the most powerful country anywhere, also Egypt, the US, Britain, China……..and for each of these states, and many others, the situation is rather different now. Just as some people have trouble accepting that they are growing old, so too can a nation cling on to the memory of how it was before without seeing how it is in its current reality. I wonder how many leaders sitting round the dinner table in St Petersburg last night saw the countries represented there, and their own, as they are?
The offhand comments about Britain’s size and influence were unkind, but had some truth to them: we are small in terms of miles, and our voice, while one of experience, is one of a number which are respected but not extraordinarily so. If we are able to see ourselves and be ourselves, to be honest about our capabilities and limitations, to focus upon doing the best we can for our island community and to help the rest of the world proportionately and appropriately, we would be happier and richer, and better off in many ways.
And there is the future too: when power is seen in terms of spiritual wisdom and not might and money, Britain will be first – one day.