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Incidentally, the Tonga room in the San Francisco Fairmont Hotel opened that same year, serving a variety of delicious beverages and meals in a chic South Pacific themed bar. Unable to resist the lure of umbrella laden novelty cocktails and bamboo décor, delegates eloped en masse from the conference and quickly crowded the bar, causing a mini riot and an end to the special relationship when Britain refused to buy the USA doubles on their round. Its participants too lugubrious to continue, the conference was dissolved and those diplomats who could still stand swiftly repatriated in shame.
The scandal overshadowed the conference to the extent that its cause was largely forgotten by Christmas, with most of the denizens and decision makers of those 50 states just happy to be out of the war and still alive in a world of flourishing tiki bars. No more Nazis, no more horror, no more rum based long drinks being served in glasses rather than coconuts. In the bright lights of this fresh utopia, this global Xanadu of happy faces and happier hours, establishing a UN barely seemed necessary.
It was around this time that “Uncle Jo” Stalin (not to be mistaken for the then famous children’s entertainer Uncle Jos Talin) decided to erect an iron curtain across Central and Eastern Europe. At the time, this was claimed to be because he was sick of the neighbors peeking in and misconstruing his mass killings and anti-democratic actions for mass killings and anti-democratic actions, but it later transpired that this was due to his paranoia that decadent capitalist South Pacific themed bars might lure citizens of the newly formed Soviet Republics away from his preferred communist “novelty-road-signs-on-walls” bars. This led to an implacable cooling of relations and a near total breakdown in communications between the USA, France, and Britain, and their former Soviet and Chinese allies (the Chinese opting for bars with mismatched furniture, sofas, and coffee machines, a slight variation on the Soviet’s approach that would later cause some friction).
Meanwhile, without an international organisation to monitor its development, atomic energy saw a global boom (both figuratively and unfortunately in some cases, literally). Eventually, some of these disasters led to the forming of an international body, but without being part of a larger global governance structure it lacked any persuasive means – though it quickly became famous for writing exceedingly passive aggressive letters. Meltdowns continued, though only on occasion, a bit like "celebrity" politicians.
In 1948 it “all kicked off,” to quote Big Bill from down the pub, in the Middle East. With no large organisation to mediate and subsequently monitor a peace, the entire region turned into a hotbed of proxy wars, a veritable “dick measuring contest” (Big Bill Ch.7) between rival superpowers trying to secure the precious oil still required for motor cars and British cooking. The complexity of forming a united front among the superpowers meant that the region suffered heavily.
This horror continued when North and South Korea took a stance on which bars they preferred, separated, and then started fighting each other. A lack of international obligation to a sovereign south meant that a desperate USA was close to using nuclear weapons, eventually being forced to abandon the country to its fate at the hands of Kim Il-Sung, who totally hated any and all tiki bars and would later declare Barry Manilow an enemy of the state.
Most conflicts over the next few years ended either this way, or not at all. The USA, desperate to regain face after the Korean disaster, did not stop the attempts by Britain and France to annex the Suez Canal for filming some new interpretations of Poirot (at the time it was argued that the waterway would make an appropriate stand in for the Nile). President Nasser, who had ruined the Americans space race plans by pronouncing his name “Nasa,” nationalized the canal because he hadn’t finished reading “Murder on the Nile” and didn’t want a film to ruin the ending. Acting alongside Britain and France, Israel (which had been in a near constant state of war) successfully annexed portions of the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, and the entire region of the Middle East continued to be less stable than Big Bill after six or seven pints and a dodgy egg and cress sandwich from the pub’s vending machine. The negative effect of these actions on Egypt’s economy meant that destabilisation spread from the Middle East to other parts of North Africa, causing bloody civil and proxy wars across the region. Egypt became locked in a gruelling conflict with its invaders, with the Soviet influence inside the country causing Britain, France, and Israel to be bogged down interminably, and resulting in mass mobilisation in both European powers. For this reason, we refer to the USA’s later actions in Vietnam as “America’s Egypt.”
NASA got the last laugh on Nasser. Image Source: Flickr
In the light of these conflicts, a desperate “counter culture” cropped up throughout the west, demanding laughable things such as a framework for global governance and a bit more peace/love, thanks. These pipe-smoking, loafer wearing rebels gathered in Woodstock in 1957 for a huge jazz concert, which was seen as the music of the movement and had been gaining new fame among young people (the classy behaviour of Jazz musicians during this time gave us the phrase “party like a Jazz star,” for people who wear tuxedos and sip cocktails while talking quietly and respectfully listening to improvised music).
While such ridiculous calls for global governance seemed unrealistic, there were movements made towards these ends within traditional alliances. Britain, France, and Belgium clung to their colonies tighter than ever, assuring their other allies that this was simply to make the world map easier to colour in for school children. Attempts to oppress the growing rebellions and clamour for independence in these colonies led the imperial powers to cultivate strong alliances with countries such as South Africa, who took what might be diplomatically called a “firm line” against any notion of equal rights, democracy, and human decency. South Africa quickly grew wealthy and powerful as a result of this support, pouring a great deal of resources into defending and promoting the government’s ideals overseas, particularly in the USA, where anti-civil rights campaigners received generous funding.
The early 1960s were dominated by nuclear proliferation and yet more of that ever fashionable jazz music. Cuba, which had supported the USSR’s theory on bars, was blockaded following the construction of missile launch pads on the island. After tense negotiations, the situation defused rapidly following the invasion of Cuba by the USA and its incorporation as a US territory. In retaliation, the USSR pledged to always provide the baddies in the popular new James Bond films, which were seen as a more or less realistic guide on how to conduct international diplomacy at the time (although the films contained fewer explosions due to budgetary constraints).
One bizarrely interesting anecdote from this period sees the furious premier of the USSR banging his shoe against his desk while alone in his office, though this was later thought to be a simple measure to remove hardened mud. The bizarre interest is here because no one understands why this is an anecdote (“It just feels right” (Big Bill Ch. 9)).
Emboldened by their successful Cuban strategy, the USA then endeavoured to support French claims to Indochina, focussing particularly on the Vietnam region. Though a long and difficult conflict, America would continue to protect France’s claim, later expanding its operations to incorporate other areas of the colony such as Cambodia and Laos, in which tiki bars became both prevalent and somehow even less racially sensitive (as mentioned above, teaching geography was more about expedience).
Calls for self-determination would continue from the powers’ colonies for some time, but with no framework to oversee the transition and no legal protection for the citizens of such colonies these went largely unheeded. In a world without state equality the great powers developed a kind of colonial constipation, making whatever deals required to maintain land, territory, and prestige, which were alongside nuclear weapons as the only guarantee of having any kind of say in global affairs. Meanwhile, the USSR and China expanded their pro-novelty bar philosophies across most of Asia, exempting India and Pakistan as part of a proxy war.
By the 1970s, the world remained roughly under the divisions that became apparent after world war two: the tiki bar loving superpowers of the USA, Britain, and France, and the novelty bar loving clique of the USSR and China. There had been some talk among the three tiki bar powers of forming a kind of security pact, but the reality of the scramble for territory made this somewhat impractical, while the fact that nuclear Britain and France remained globe-spanning empires meant that they were not really intimidated by the Stalinist USSR (meaning run on the philosophies of Josef Stalin, not Uncle Jos). Most of Africa remained under brutal colonisation while the Middle East was in a constant state of war, leading to sporadic oil shortages and price surges. In China, talks of softening the hard-line stance on South Pacific themed bars were quickly dismissed in the face of this scramble for power, with even more worn leather sofas and brightly painted chairs being planted into bars throughout the country.
Medieval illnesses such as smallpox continued to flourish, with no international efforts to share information and tackle these diseases head on. As a result, smallpox later gave way to bigpox, which was just awful and definitively proves that medical practitioners have a terrible sense of “humour.”
The constant cavalcade of wars, disease, and oppression led to a pretty much permanent refugee crisis; famine and sickness ridden camps organically grew on the borders of the most dangerous regions. With no coordinated international aid effort and not even a run-of-the-mill EDM club in sight, these camps became tiny visions of hell, regularly raided by forces from both sides of the border to break them up. Refugees who did manage to make it to a safe haven risked deportation, having no international legal right to remain.
Thank God we would never dream of treating modern refugees that way. Image Source: Flickr
The superpowers used the 1980s to consolidate their seapower, alongside their already strong A and B power. Literal gunboat diplomacy became a norm, with no restrictions to these powers on plundering the resources and shipping lines of vulnerable states. In the non-colonised developing countries, torture and discrimination remained rife, with no international efforts to outlaw either.
In the background of all this was the 1983-87 famine in Ethiopia. Uncoordinated aid efforts meant that aid to this region became a political tool despite the best efforts of Britain’s most loved jazz musician, Bernie “Smooth Lips” Stricken, whose Christmas hit “Do-wabby-wabby-wee they know it’s Christmas” raised millions in relief. The later small jazz café concert tour, while noble in intent, hardly sold enough tickets to continue this support (with most venues seating fewer than 100 and larger tiki bars still opting away from the young and unruly jazz clientele).
From the middle of the decade onwards, it became clear that a large hole in the ozone layer was being formed through the ubiquitous use of CFC gasses in everything from refrigerators to Bernie “Smooth Lips” Stricken’s deodorant line (“Deo-de-dabby-dabby-dooby-rant,” the cans were made extra-large to accommodate this brand name). Thus began the tactical dumping of tonnes of CFC waste over the bits of the arctic adjacent to enemy states, in a bid from the rival powers to melt ice with these holes in order to flood each other. This led to the rapid depletion of the ozone layer over the arctic and the loss of most of the Netherlands, with Amsterdam renamed Atlantisdam and the Dutch winning every swimming competition thereafter. The Hague, a town famous for being the only one in Western Europe to legally require a definite article as a prefix, was also lost (though this town was, of course, of no strategic or international importance whatsoever).
A complete melting of the Arctic ice caps was eventually prevented when cheaper gasses were developed in the early 1990s, though by then the sea level had already risen irreversibly, with many landlocked countries left scrambling to simultaneously build navies and holiday resorts for their newfound coasts.
The civil and proxy wars in Latin America remained unresolved throughout this period, with coups, counter coups, and counter counter coups being replaced by the far more violent counter counter counter coups. As a result, the trade in ever stronger hallucinogenic and addictive drugs flourished, causing many commentators to call the 1980s and 90s the “decade of dope. And cocaine and heroin and crack and LSD,” and the murder rate in countries such as Colombia, Brazil, and El Salvador skyrocketed (continuing to do so to this day).
Observing the pretty miserable regimes occurring in the colonies and warzones worldwide, the Soviet Republics began the 1990s in a typically committed fashion, with workers supporting their regimes under the banner “grumblenot” and “probablyshouldnotstrika.” With renewed vigour, the USSR finally landed a man on the moon, along with 20 of his drinking buddies, to form the First United Soviet Moon Base for the Forwarding of International and Extranational Socialism and General Marxist/Leninism (due to the lack of international convention around initialisms and acronyms, this was never shortened). The wool, linen, and silk required to make the fashionable zoot suits worn by the likes of Bernie “Smooth Lips” Jenkins were readily available within the USSR, leading to many in Britain and the United States to secretly smuggle these trendy garments into Western countries to replace their denim workwear.
The Russian cover of Vogue, 1988. Image Source: Flickr
Tragedy struck when tensions following the death of Tito in the Balkans led to a bloody civil war that saw powers on either side of the bar divide become heavily involved, with France, the European Allies (West Germany, BeNeLux, and Italy – a United States backed supra-state), and the USSR attempting to extend their European reach. This war became yet another “frozen conflict” that exists to this day, with the region all but totally devastated. In the mid-1990s South Africa tested its first nuclear weapon in the Indian Ocean, nearly sparking a conflict with India, which had already been on a war footing with Pakistan and China for some time. The war was only prevented by the flooding of the border regions between India and East/West Pakistan (and therefore the Chinese corridor), making India an increased threat. The South African regime reacted with renewed prejudice against its Indian inhabitants, banning the letters I, N, D, and A for five years (making the apartheid state officially South Frc).
Throughout the 1990s to the early 2000s genetic experiments on humans flourished. Though supressed within the “mother” nations of the imperial powers, the practice was allowed to continue in the colonies, leading to cloning and super soldier arms races. Warnings about a new threat to the environment were largely ignored (strictly controlled information sharing between the pro-tiki and pro-novelty bar states meant that scientific data was regularly inaccurate). Terrorism continued to flourish into the early 21st century, with attacks against the major powers and smaller countries rife, and the subsequent responses increasingly violent.
Scientists were at this stage encouraged to grow long white manes and wear binocular glasses. Image Source: Flickr
These conditions led to the first decade of the 21st century being the bloodiest since the Second World War. In 2010, when a major earthquake hit Haiti, few cared. Rampant discrimination against races, sexes, and sexualities continued, with South African style apartheid systems being emulated (and violently opposed) in many of the African colonies. The recent popularisation of mass communication technologies has offered some hope for a more peaceful, less disease, war, flood water, nuclear waste ridden, and more equal world. Recently declassified military technologies that allow our always beige and boxy computers to communicate with each other over telephone wires have offered a glimpse to many in the few remaining democracies of the world outside our own bubbles. Thoughts and ideas about all kind of bars, pubs, and clubs can now be shared in the blink of an eye and the clunk of a button. Murmurings of boycotts against South Africa and support for pro-cooperation political parties exist in every home that possesses a glowing green and black computer terminal.
70 years on since attempts to form the UN descended into a drunken bar brawl: is it time we gave the idea another chance?
This author doesn’t care, he’s off to drink a Coconut Shy in an actual Coconut (with umbrellas and snazzy straws).