Sunday, October 24, 2021

James Bond: The Warrior of a Dead Empire

In the 1940s, the British lost their empire but they did not lose their aspiration to be the savior of the West. So they invented the super spy James Bond who works for MI6. Ian Fleming wrote his first James Bond novel Casino Royale in 1952, almost immediately after the fall of the British Empire. The USA and the Soviet Union had battle carriers, fighter planes, missiles, and armies—the British had James Bond who would single handedly save the West.

In James Bond books and movies the powerful figures from the Soviet Union and other non-Western cultures are shown as deranged psychopaths who would walk over any number of corpses to achieve their nefarious agenda of dominating the world. Though Britain was allied with the USA, the British intellectual and political establishment had a condescending attitude towards the Americans. In the world of Bond, the CIA spies are characterized as bumbling operatives who don’t have what it takes to destroy the enemy. It is Bond who destroys the enemy.

The popularity of Bond in Britain was a sign of the country’s cultural and militaristic decline. In the era when Britain was a global power, it did not need a mythical super spy like Bond. In those days this country had the power to send its navy, army, and air force to any part of the world. After the fall of the empire, Britain became a mediocre power, and the British people started taking pride in their mythical one man army: James Bond.

The British made a last attempt to relive the “glorious” days of the empire in 1982, when Margaret Thatcher was the prime minister. The military junta that had captured power in Argentina was convinced that the British would not take military action for the Falkland Islands which had no economic or strategic value. They invaded the Falkland Islands on April 2. But they were taken by surprise when three days later the British dispatched their naval task force to retake the islands.

Argentina was no match for Britain and Thatcher won an easy victory, though she had to use cruise ships to transport her troops to the Falkland Islands. The once powerful Royal Navy did not possess enough ships in 1982 to transport British troops. In the days of the British Empire, the colonies used to transfer a massive amount of wealth to the British economy. But the Falkland Islands have been a massive drain on the British economy since 1982.

When the cost of the victory in the Falkland War became apparent to the British public, they lost the appetite for being the savior of the West. They no longer needed James Bond. He didn’t need them either. He had found a new home: Hollywood. Ian Fleming died in 1964 and the American movie producers had complete control over the new adventures of James Bond who was now battling the forces that were villainous from the American perspective.

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