This year I have been away from home a great deal working on a documentary series that will complement my forthcoming book on the history of women. The experience has been an eye-opener in many ways.
The past month, for example, has been spent in countries that don’t entirely share the BBC’s position on the bribing of public officials, or the European Union’s love of health and safety, or America’s belief in equality for all. What I witnessed made me feel lucky to be living in New York.
The airport may be a sorry dump but the rest of the city still sizzles with energy and optimism. Yet for the first time I have arrived back with a sense of foreboding.
Contrary to popular belief, democracies are not more robust than their totalitarian counterparts. It is in fact relatively easy to subvert a democratic institution from the inside, rotting the core while leaving the facade intact. Turkey, for instance, that beacon of Middle Eastern democracy, has the highest number of detained journalists in the world.