Carmen Gomez Diary

Carmen Gomez

Warlord created the first diplomatic passport

Looking through a “Q” magazine, I came across the HU, a Mongolian metal group, well known in the UK music scene. Apparently European festival organisers were queuing up last year to book them.

Apart from their striking image (have not yet heard their music) what interested me was what came across in their interview. They regard themselves as nomadic people who respect and love the earth and nature, and wish to share their culture and their music.

One of their questions was why younger people did not respect their ancestors. They touched upon the great Genkis Khan who although recognising he was a warlord, had created amongst other things, the first diplomatic passport. I thought this was quite an extraordinary thing to have done in the 12th and 13th century, so I looked it up. Sure enough there it was; known as “Paiza/Paizi; the metal tablets which were inscribed in gold, silver and bronze, gave certain privileges and safe passage to diplomats, merchants and messengers travelling in silk route. The silk route was the most famous long distance trade route in the ancient world; a network of roads that connected the East and the West; with certain stretches of this route being extremely dangerous.

On one of the two known Kublai Khan Passports; the imperial passport reads “I am the emissary of the Khan. If you defy me you die.” It worked like the diplomatic passport of today, and was reserved for people who travelled on state business through the Empire. Marco Polo is said to have carried a foot long three inches wide Gold Piaza; issued by the grandson of Ghenkis Khan himself; on his extensive travels across Eurasia. The Paiza here, is a passport made of iron with inlay of thick silver bands, the inscription of which reads “by the strength of Eternal Heaven, an edict of the Emperor Khan. He who has no respect shall be guilty.” Pity this was not the case when in 2013, the Spanish Guardia civil opened and searched a diplomatic bag at the frontier; something which had only happened once before in Zimbabwe in 2000.

Another example of how Spain totally disregards an International treaty, when it takes their fancy; on this occasion, the 1961 Vienna convention on diplomatic relations. In the UK, during the 18th and 20th centuries, badges were used by Kings or Queen’s Messengers. Later came the diplomatic passport; used by the corps of Queen’s Messengers, as couriers employed by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

The Columbian Exchange

At the heart of the Columbian exchange named after Christopher Columbus, which took place in the 15th and 16th centuries; was the widespread transfer of plants, animals, culture, human populations, technology, diseases, and ideas between the Americas, West Africa, and the Old world. Tobacco, curiously enough, was used as a substitute for currency in many parts of the world. Nobel David Cook, historian and demographer, estimates that discoveries of new metals and new staple crops such as potatoes; which resulted in a significant increase in population and urbanisation particularly within Ireland; brought many gains, but the European contact also brought the transmission of disease to previously isolated communities; causing total devastation of the native populations; far exceeding even the Black Death in 14th century Europe. All this came about following the voyage to the Americas by Christopher Columbus in 1494. It is known that within fifty years following contact with Christopher Columbus and his crew, the native Taino population of the islands of Hispanola, which had an estimated population between 80.000 and 8 million, was virtually extinct. This resulted in a demand for labour that was met with the abduction and forced movement of over 12 million Africans during the 16th to 19th centuries.

Our fight is with an invisible enemy

If we are prepared for a conflict, we must know in advance, so that the combat may have truces, although not quite a peace. If we take the widest and wisest view of a cause, one will find that there is no such thing as a lost cause; because there is no such thing as a gained cause. In other words, we fight for what may appear to be lost causes, because we know that our defeat and dismay may be the preface to our successors’ victory. That victory may be temporary, and so we fight rather to keep something alive, than in the expectation that anything will triumph. Our present crisis is neither conflict nor cause; although there are similarities between conflict and the challenge we face seeing how they can both result in the loss of life. However, our fight is with an invisible enemy and we are not allowed a truce. It’s a race between our immune system and a mystery virus that wants to invade it. On top of which there will not be a victory in sight for some time yet; if ever. The historian Peter Franko, author of the new silk roads “the present and future of the world;” in his article “planning for pandemics” said that the real concern comes from pathogens i.e. a virus or bacterium that can spread disease before action can be taken. Although both viruses are different, they say of patients who survived Sars, that they suffered long term health effects such as lung damage. This is not very encouraging.