Sunday, April 27, 2014

Good Morning Jack...

Letter to my Son
Sunday, 27 April

The cavalcade of news

Good Morning Jack…

News is an endless serial of interrelated events that offer no definitive conclusion.  We like our stories to be like Aesop’s Fables and have a clear, resolute finish.  The fox couldn’t reach the grapes he desired so he eventually walked away from them, defeated after much effort, and mumbled to himself, “They’re probably sour, anyway.”   Such endings give us the opportunity to draw conclusions about people, ourselves and the way of the world.  Stories make for neat packages that we can finish up with ribbon and put a bow on it.  The end of the Cold War brought the curtain down on Communism and proved the failure of Marxist ideas.  

News is the cavalcade of human events and, as such, is impossible to contain between ‘In the beginning’ and ‘The End’.  Sure, a world leader’s biography ends with their death but their impact reverberates with newsworthy significance long after they’ve stopped being a household word.  Those reverberations put new events into motion and inspire the minds of fresh people that, in turn, become world leaders with lasting impact on the human community.  How can we possibly make sense of it all if we don’t find an ending point around which we draw our conclusions? 

We write:  The Age of Roosevelt; The Soviet Union under Stalin; Twentieth Century China.  Roosevelt died.  His presidency ended.  But he inspired a generation of new politicians, including Lyndon Johnson, who’s Great Society was patterned after Roosevelt’s New Deal.  Roosevelt’s Social Security is ancestral to Johnson’s Medicare which, in turn, paved the way for Obamacare.  Stalin’s world view reflected the geopolitics of Russia under the Tsars as well as the catastrophe that was Napoleon’s 19th century invading army, culminating with the burning of Moscow and, more recently, Germany’s repeated 20th century attempts to make western Russia German.  In the space of a single century China overthrew its ancient Manchu Dynastic rule and attempted to create a republic based on Sun Yat-sen’s founding principles:  nationalism, democracy and people’s livelihood.  Years of turmoil followed – invasion by Japan, civil war, the Communist Revolution, Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward and the Red Guard, China becomes a nuclear power, and the economic reforms of Deng Xiaoping whose impact continues to this day.  All this history, all this collision of human desire, ideas and collective action were compressed into a single demarcation of human time – a century of years. 

Today we have President Obama on a tour of Asian nations aimed at firming our economic and political ties in a region where our dominance is being contested by China, the new rival for power on the world stage.  While meeting with allied leaders in Japan and South Korea the President simultaneously has to defend his efforts to resolve a confrontation over the Ukraine with Russia’s leader, Vladimir Putin.  As with most clashes between nations of the world the motivation driving confrontation has to do with wealth and economic resources.  In this instance Western Europe is vying with Russia over whose economic sphere the Ukraine will choose to become part.  Russia has historic, ethnic and geographic claims for influencing Ukrainian affairs while the nations of the European Union offer a track record of overall economic success.  Whose method of affiliation is more likely to improve the quality of life of Ukrainian citizens? 

The political norms of international affairs reflect the shifts in power among nations.  The dominance of any one nation, society or civilization over humanity hasn’t the permanence of natural law.  Power gravitates towards wealth and access to the resources that provide a nation’s wealth are dependent upon a complex interplay of factors that include, to no small degree, the foresight and wisdom demonstrated by a country’s leaders.  There is no act of God or world body that will protect us from our blunders.  The winning streak must inevitably end for every society at the forefront of human progress as it did for the Egyptians, the Romans and every one of history’s other empires.  Competition among civilizations is always rigorous, fast paced and limited to nations offering other societies something truly exceptional.


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