The Shangri-La Dialogue
The IISS has established the Shangri-La Dialogue as a major annual piece in the jigsaw of military international life. Soldiers are humans, too, and their voice and approach to the world of competitive cooperation we call diplomacy is as important as anyone else’s. To play their part, their voices must be heard. To be heard, they must speak. A tongue-tied handshake across a vacant chair isn’t dialogue, and nobody could consider it Shangri-La. This is not a criticism of a Chinese point of view nor an endorsement of an American one. It is a statement anyone who considers himself or herself a tenant of the planet is obliged to make.
We cannot elect or tolerate leaders who remain silent in the face of catastrophe.
Moderate voices of all sorts attest to the need for comprehensive cooperation at this stage of earth’s progress. Intellectual energy and money play a part in establishing this. The Will of the leaders plays the biggest part. How we are going to batter each other off the face of the earth may be good sci-fi stuff. How we can create a liveable, interesting, enjoyable life for those we have helped to produce is rather more to the point.
We do not have to live with other people but must live with ourselves and our legacies.
Muzzling people’s views is seldom a good idea. This was rediscovered when the pressure cooker was invented. Several people – may they rest in peace – tried to shorten the cooking time by holding down the pressure release valve. The ensuing explosion was fatal. We do not think of our fellow humans as pressure cookers but we should. They will take some repression and control but when it gets too much they blow. How well off they are will largely determine when that is.
‘Try to hide the kipper and everyone will be looking for it.’
The difficult line between freedom and anarchy is never held by silence. We are too creative to stop thinking and often not creative enough to think positively. So we become critical to a point where we must speak or die. We can let our populations die through drugs, as some US cities are doing, or we can engage them to think about making life better. The drug of silence is less physically damaging than fentanyl but more insidious. You can see a body in the process of drug destruction but you cannot see a mind going through the same thing. All you perceive when the mind blows is the rotting consequence of its abuse and disease.
‘To jaw-jaw is better than to war-war’ Churchill said. Were he around today I suggest he would be saying it again. The Shangri-La Dialogue is a major ‘jaw-jaw’ and is respected as such. Who denies the right to discuss carries a heavy burden of guilt when things go wrong. Who holds the release valve on ‘jaw-jaw’ has to answer for the explosion that will follow.
Please can this important event stop turning into Monologues and become The Shangri-La Dialogue again.
If it doesn’t it won’t be cook and kitchen that are blown apart. It will be all of us.
So stupid when we only want a reasonable life.
Do you have a view about ‘jaw-jaw’? Please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“If all the ears of all the boffs gathered so they could hear,
would, then, the Dialogue be helped to sound a bit more clear?
I think so, said the Carpenter, who raised a joyful cheer.”
Terrific Mentors International cheerfully helps people speak more clearly.
05 June 2023