War of Worries
You don’t need me to tell you that China is a powerful influence in the world. You may have read Kishore Mahbubani’s book ‘Has China won?’ In any case, you read the newspapers, one way or another. Another big influence is President Trump. I seldom refer to him as President because it hurts my keyboard to do so – but I must on this occasion. For that is what he currently is, with all the influence that any President has. For better or worse.
Great leaders compete while cooperating. It’s a very Chinese concept. The Art of War is not to fight. To compete while cooperating you have to have a certain amount of intelligence. And you mustn’t frighten your backers into an hysterical belief that they are persecuted. America has the highest standard of living in the world among larger nations, with freedoms, security and comforts no one else enjoys. It is also of the opinion that there is no real world beyond American shores. America is not persecuted. If anything it persecutes itself. The ignorance of a world outside breeds fear. If the United States is frightened, we all are.
China is very China-centric, too. It has almost four times the population of the United States. That’s a situation where size matters. China’s system of democracy is different from the West’s. Instead of elections, with one person one vote, the bosses are controlled by an understanding of whether they merit their positions. This involves a certain ruthlessness not considered seemly in the Western system, so kept very low voiced and underground. It doesn’t mean there isn’t ruthlessness in Western politics. China’s is just more brutal, if less visible.
China is often likened to the Bear. I had a headmaster in UK as a child who was known as The Bear. I remember listening to him beating a friend of mine frighteningly hard – twelve strokes, as I recall. Actually, The Bear was quite a nice man who became Abbot of the monastery that ran the school. He might better have applied his cane to some of his fellow monks. The China Bear is quite clear about its power and how it wants to exercise it. Handling such a situation requires what we used to call diplomacy. There’s not a lot of that left, as you know.
The issues are clear. The health problem created by a World Pandemic tops the current list with Climate Change clinging on for second place. Shooting up the list to overtake them both is the Depressed Economies of the world. If the confidence we had in our economic system is destroyed we can all expect a severe cut in our standard of living. The poorest will be hurt first and the rest of us will not be able to sleep at night if we don’t help them when they are down. There are other problems that look – and indeed are – smaller but that will be played out by the wildly competing superpowers to the detriment of us all.
The South China Sea is one, Taiwan is another, Hong Kong yet another. Permafrost Melting is part of Climate Change but a very different part from sea levels rising in view of our virus problems. United States elections rate as a world problem obviously, and not just because of President Trump. We have to see him as a reflection of Prosperous Small-Town Politics (PSTP) where the Local Mayor has more say than the President. This is, after all, what gave rise to Trump’s presidency. It can do so again, whether Trump or someone else is the protagonist.
But the biggest worry of all is the world economic Shake-Up. It has been obvious for some time that we are all overdoing it in terms of consumption and what I call ‘Compulsory Fun’. I am as keen as anyone on a good night out, a decent party and a bit of travel to explore where we live. But by any standards we have been taking our energetic lives to excess. Lockdown has not been much fun for most people but it has given us a pause to think about why we are here, what makes for a fulfilled life – and why, if it’s all so good, so many people are not having any fun at all.
Endless quiz programmes, frenetic webinar learnings and a nonstop supply of, even admittedly great, old movies is all very well but where are we having the thoughts that enable us to think for ourselves? Now we have such super communications we should be using at least some of them to play a small but essential part in what is to be the future of the planet.
We are entering a time of war. Probably not physical, though we cannot rule that out either. Our war will be no less frightening, expensive and damaging than any war of bombs and bullets. It will be a war of ideologies between the steely, purely economically competitive and the greener grass of self-realisation and a confident, assured and fulfilled life.
Everyone with a mobile phone has a duty to take part in this battle. It matters not that too many people are writing too much. Good on them if their voice is heard for common sense and moderation.
And even if it isn’t, good on them for trying.
For in a war, it’s the ones who try that win.