Sunday, January 31, 2010

The last Week of January: Ends on a Trio of Positive Notes

The past two weeks I have been reading grand thinker and visionary, Howard Bloom's latest offering, The Genius of the Beast: A Radical Re-Vision of Capitalism. Bloom lays out his thesis in 70 short concise chapters that land on target like precision cruise missiles. His message is that humans need booms and busts to trigger the evolutionary source code of repurposing to adapt to the future and survive. Here is a brief example of how he explains repurposing.

Your heart and mine will each beat roughly three billion times in the voyage from the womb to the grave. During that time we will be put together, taken apart, and put back together again without noticing it. We will dance to the beat of the pendulum of repurposing. Remember we were first constructed as embryos. Then we were reconstructed as infants, repurposed as children, radically remade as teenagers, dramatically reshaped as young adults, re-created as middle-agesters, reshuffled as oldsters, rejiggered as doddering post-seniors, and discarded as corpses, and finally we will be taken apart again and repurposed as bacterial cells, cells that are eaten by worms that are eaten by birds. The birds will relieve themselves as they fly over farmlands. Their waste will help make the grain that feeds our children and their children beyond them. Repurposing.
This gives us a responsibility. We are parts of an evolutionary search engine, components in a secular genesis machine. We are among nature's tools for reconstructing herself in flamboyant new ways. Economies are also among nature's tools of creation. But when nature creates, she destroys to make new things. She creates by driving us with strange forces-discontents, desires, and dreams. We do nature's work when we turn those restless dreams into realities, realities that amplify the powers or elevate the lives of our fellow human beings.
Bloom's approach is secular, but calls on a cast of historical figures both secular and religious, ranging from Moses and Isaiah, to Croesus and Marco Polo, to explain how humans have adopted to the fissions and fusions that define booms and busts. The story weaves a tapestry of life that shows that we humans don't accomplish anything alone. Regardless of your persuasion of faith or lack thereof, there is a message of hope and understanding of our human condition woven within the chapters of this book.

How does this book square with today's world? We are fed a constant stream of visual and audio information that in some ways amplifies fears that fade to minuteness when compared to what even our recent ancestors faced. We are led to believe that the economy will only recover by turning to the same system of government controls that failed miserably in the Depression and again when tried by nation states on a vast scale. War is portrayed as more pervasive and deadly and our stewardship of the environment is leading to the imminent demise of life on Earth. What Bloom does best is remind us that this is not humanities, "First Rodeo," to borrow a phrase from a long past cowboy I once knew.

One recent article in World Politics Review, by blog friend and grand strategist Thomas Barnett addresses the issue of false assumptions that we are living in a world filled with increasing danger due to instability and war. Barnett begins.
It's taken as gospel by most pundits today that we live in an increasingly dangerous, deadly and unstable world -- with Haiti's horrific earthquake serving as the latest, irrefutable data point. We are told that ours is a planet at perpetual war with itself, locked in a global conflict that is not only cast in civilizational terms, but superimposed over a landscape chock-full of never-ending combat and ever-rising death tolls. The end of the Cold War superpower rivalry, rather than pacifying the world, actually unlocked a Pandora's box of tribal hatreds. In retrospect, the Cold War has even taken on a nostalgic hue, reminding us of simpler, more manageable times.

This creed is a complete lie, unforgivably peddled by fear-mongering "experts" as a way to justify their mindless schemes -- typically, uncontrolled defense spending from the right, unmitigated trade protectionism from the left, and unthinkable isolationism from both. Worse, both extremes deny the essential gift imparted by America to the world these past seven decades: a globe-spanning networking phenomenon variously described as the postwar global architecture, the international liberal trade order, the "free world," the West, the global economy, and -- last but not least -- globalization.
Barnett's article contains a link to a data rich report produced by Simon Fraser University of Canada, that pretty much dampens, like the familiar downpours of British Columbia, the flames of a 21st Century consumed by war. I have linked that report, The Shrinking Cost of War  in my blog favorites as well as their original report The Mini Atlas of Human Security.

Read Tom Barnett's article.
The New Rules: The Fallacy of an Increasingly Dangerous World

Lastly, this past week I learned something that reaffirmed my commitment to reach out to encourage the next generation. Any frequent reader of this blog will notice that I have a blog link section entitled, Honoring our Commitments. I posted the links in that section after I wrote a post a year ago about the trafficking of women, specifically in South East Asia. The links not only address the worldwide problem of trafficking, but also has links to sites that reach out to Cambodia, a country largely forgotten after we left Vietnam. When I wrote that post, I used a few photos for an introduction. That post and and a later post, Cambodia Revisited are two of the most visited posts on this site. Many visitors are looking for the obvious and move on; but a growing number stay and read the articles and visit the links, proving that the power of the word can make changes in attitudes and hopefully ensure a better life for someone.

One of the little rewards in my life was to know a person whose parents escaped the Killing Fields of Cambodia and made their way to America.For a brief time we worked together and I would share articles about cognition, global affairs and history, which she devoured, then always had a question or comment that revealed she totally understood the concept. Time moved on and we lost touch, but I learned this week, that she remains even more committed and focused to make a difference in this world. I am confident that her commitment, sensitivity and courage to learn about her fellow humans will pay dividends not only to America, but to the world at large.

No comments: