Sunday, November 7, 2010

When Random Musings Start to Converge

Between classes and the ever present drive to understand our world and in my own small way pass something of value along to the next generation, I find myself wedging these next pursuits like bookmarks in the journal of my life. To me it is vital to teach or encourage reflection about history, responsibility, and the essence of what brought us to this point, and hopefully what will lead the next generations to choose the right course for a future worth living.

That is why during my readings this week I am posting links to things that are both troubling and insightful as a way of prompting some sliver of cognition and thought about what we have seemed to have wrought in the first decade of the 21st century if we stay the course of self-indulgence and overt entitlement without taking personal responsibility.

Amid this weeks blog readings, I am deep into reading two books that on surface seem disconnected. But upon deeper reading begin to reveal some insight into democracy and the rule of law and how they work in relation to reality. Or better said. Be sure of what you might get, when you wish for it with all your might.

First, thought let's reflect on the state of America and what we seem to have become in the first decade of the new century. blog friend Robert Patterson  wrote this post about the state of leadership and what he notes is the ruling class of the United States. Rob, begins by stating that America is ruled by an aristocracy, only to change his opinion when another blog friend Mark of Zenpundit pointed out the following and led Rob to declare.
I prefer Mark's term "Oligarchy" on reflection - An Aristocracy goes to war with its people - Has a shared sense of community and knows it has Obligations - These people have none of this. They care ONLY for their own interest.

Rob goes on to reflect the following and backs up his observation with data from the link below from Nick Kristoff in the NYT.

So what about the Dream? This situation is OK I suspect for many Americans so long as they believe that they could rise too. But is this possible for many people? It is still for a few - start Google or eBay and you are in. But with the middle class being impoverished cut off and excluded by cost from the filter schools - with the working class being slaves - I see social mobility being less. I suspect that the Dream is no more than a Lottery idea now. Yes it happens but the odds are very very very small.
Our Bannana Republic

I usually find Kristoff a bit Pollyanna in his observations at times, but let us look further at the evidence he cites and let you the reader make your own interpretation of the facts.

Read more:
The United State of Inequality

Read Rob's reflections.
Is America Ruled by an Aristocracy Now? Of course it is!

And since I am asking you to dwell on the growing inequality of life in the United States. Let's pause to reflect on this article about how 99% of the population doesn't know or particularly care about the 1% who are fighting our wars.

AT FORT CAMPBELL, KY. Emily Franks was playing with her toddler when a soldier called from Afghanistan with devastating news.
A massive roadside bombing had killed five soldiers from her husband's 120-man infantry company. The soldier was calling Franks, who was at the center of a wives' support network, in violation of a military-imposed communications blackout on the unit.
Using an Afghan cellphone, he told Franks that her husband was safe, but that the company commander was probably dead.
Franks's cellphone beeped. Kitty Hinds, the company commander's wife, was calling.
"I gotta go," Franks told the soldier.
She was sure that Hinds was going to tell her that her husband had been killed. Hinds, however, was oblivious to the events 7,000 miles away in Afghanistan. It was a perfect afternoon and she was driving her three boys home from baseball camp.
Franks struggled to mask the dread in her voice. Her pulse raced as she said goodbye. "It was horrid," she recalled. "Absolutely horrid."
Reading this brought to mind other wars, where the notification of a loss was presented in a less personal way. One women during the early days of the Vietnam War stepped forward to try and lessen the blow of such a loss Julia Compton Moore wife of then Lt. Col Hal Moore, began to to intercept the notifications from the taxi drivers and make the notification herself. Things have not changed, for most Americans the sacrifice is off their radar unless it touches their family.

Read the whole article
Facebook brings the Afghan war to Fort Campbell

What do these two posts have in common? Look at Mark's definition of an "Oligarchy", and then think that we even leave it to the military to raise money for additional help for the wounded. Soldier's Angels. Where is the richest 1%? Certainly not stepping up to the plate in a show of personal responsibility or leadership that would let them reclaim the title of  an "Aristocracy" that for most of our history has been open from the bottom just enough to fuel the dreams of millions.

  Turning back to to books that I am currently reading. Both came by way of recommendations. Blog friend Critt Jarvis asked me to look at The Good Coup: The Overthrow of Manuel Zelaya In Honduras. The book is a collection of articles by Marco Caceres Di Inrio that chronicles the removal of Zelaya as the President of Honduras on the eve of his trying to change the constitution from a single term for president to one that allowed a person to run for the office of presidency as many times as they wanted. Now on the surface of wanting democracy for everyone, this seems noble. But, what happens when that path leads to just another form of dictatorship, where you end up with a presidente for life, in the vein of Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, or Zimbabwe or a dozen other quasi-democracy's where the rule is dictatorship by the 51%.

I have not finished the book, but the main idea is that the country suffered from poor governance which leads to corruption and poverty, leaving the majority of the people feeling they have no voice. President Zelaya in trying to change the constitution to allow for his continued re-election, led those who wanted to preserve democracy, to remove him from office. The silver lining of this whole event is that the plight of the vast majority of Hondurans who are poor and powerless is getting the attention of all Hondurans who now have a chance to resolve the inequities.Honduras Rising.

The second book I am reading moves the view 8,369 miles to the northwest and the view from Beijing. Tom Barnett first called my attention to a book by John Milligan-Whyte and Dai Min. Curious to read a different approach of how to build an consensus of success between the United States and China, I ordered a copy and have just begun to delve into their Sino-inspired suggestions.

Right away, the first impression landed on the contrast of China's "Permission Society," "Consensus Democracy," and a "Pre-Rule of Law Society," and America's "Rights Society," Majority Rule Democracy," and the "Rule of Law" society. They argue that in our haste to impose a majority rule democracy on China, that we may not like the results of an empowered mass of people filled with  nationalist pride that has little experience with anything but 50 centuries of central authority and direction. Do we really want that? Whyte and Min argue that China would be more nationalistic and swayed to anti-American parties than a stable one-party state, that governs from a pragmatic view. I will be reflecting more on this book as I progress through it. Their main thesis is that for either country to survive and more importantly succeed, we need to forge a strategy that allows both countries to benefit and succeed in the 21st century. They are convinced like our own first decades as a nation, "that in time, democracy with Chinese characteristics will emerge." Their views are a bit from the other side and somewhat opposite those of the average American, but well worth the read to gain insight and build bridges to the future.

Read Tom's summary
Another Mention in Peoples Daily

Well that is enough reading and pondering for a while. We just had an election that allowed the American people to voice their displeasure with the direction of the country. The next two years will either find our bearings and a way out of the shoals we find ourselves in, or we will vote for another major course correction.

1 comment:

John Milligan-Whyte said...

You could also consider and form a view on the other eight books in our America China Partnership Book Series, five of which are available from Amazon, three with look inside features, and, on which you might click on the logo of Peoples Daily and China Daily etc to see our recent columns. The announcement of our books and the "New School of US China Relations is in Foreign Affairs, Sept/Oct 2009: