Less is More – Western vs Eastern Concepts of ‘Action’? – The Cards of the Game…

Image of falling cards suspendedin mid-air
Image courtesy freepik.com – Licensed

The loud and ‘active’ are equated; the fast runner and the quick result of a ‘win’ are equated; the ‘meet and talk about it’ and reaching results are equated. Why – and since when?
Hold up something that looks like a real brick of a thing – when it’s actually ‘just’ a card in a card game, nice and solid viewed from the front, but thin and without any substance viewed from the sides.

In business especially since WWII and the advent of the ‘new economy’ some ideas have been churned around for decades now, which amount to this:
Prove your work, your results and your professionalism by making lots of nice noise, present and talk about what you do. Run around a lot, talk to people a lot. That way, everybody will be impressed by your ‘busy bee’ image of the worker bee…

Yet, when all is said and done, what is work – or business, for that matter – about? About reaching results. Creating them, changing them, ultimately selling things, and earn your salary – and the revenue.

The ‘cards of the game’ can be that: A lot of noise, not to say hot air – but when you look closely, from a different angle, it’s a rather thin substance…

Do not underestimate those who have their goals and priorities straight and focused and will reach them with the least amount of ‘noise’ and the maximum amount of output. Not all who are calm – or quiet – are ‘passive’…Not all who are loud are really active…

 

Adam Smith in World Politics? – Diplomacy Beyond Popular Images

image of a world map and a compass
Diplomacy needs among other things these very basic skills: The ability to look beyond images, propaganda and popular opinion.

Politics of peace need them too.

The Western world in my eyes is blinded in their view of the world, politics and negotiations by something almost amounting to idealism:

It‘s about money, in any shape or form, we are about it – and everyone else is too.

This is perhaps the most tragic misconception that will endanger peace in all parts of the world again and again:

Indeed certain factions of the Christian religions in the backwater of the rise of civil society around the 13th / 14th centuries claimed, in principle:

Wealth is the sign of God‘s pleasure.

Ever since an ever larger part of the world – especially rooted in the beginnings of the US society with the first actual settlers on the Mayflower representing that idea – are exactly of that frame of mind:
Be wealthy and God is with you.

Most Eastern societies from Africa, over Russia all through Asia in one way or another – in principle that is – value the community and the dignity of the individual even more.

Dignity!

I have spent most of my adult life around all manner of extremely peaceful, knowledgeable and kind people from the Near, Middle and Far East.
I have studied Persian poems and literature and have met other people from around the globe.
I have had the privilege to call books my friends in childhood and adolescence and still do. I studied languages and culture at a prestigious university and earned my M.A. degree there.

The most tragic misunderstanding between the Western world – leaning towards Adam Smith‘s ideas of economy – and the Eastern world – leaning towards trade among dignified, respected and proud tradespeople is that:

Dignity

The European literature of certain times and people as well as later stereotypes about life in the Eastern world – or the ways and means of trade and politics – is practically steeped in this painful repetitive almost ridiculous contempt:
If you know about their ‚purse‘, you know about their interests. Anyone with a contempt for money is stupid.

This is not the real driving force of mankind: Indeed, wealth was always craved, if people had gone hungry or even starved; but dignity and respect in combination with extreme poverty can be thought of in the East – not so in the West.

In the Western world, respect and the consequential dignity of a person – or a nation – are closely related, if not tightly interwoven with their monetary means.

In most parts of the Eastern world this is not the case. Dignity is a fundamental possibility that can be envisioned easily with little or no money.

Among nations dignity is crucial. Treat them with respect, dignity and regard, let them safe face.

And remember this fine part of the Christian bible that actually was originally written in that Eastern culture:

And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

(Matthew, 25:40)


Author’s Note (April 2022):

In view of the latest developments I’d like to enlarge on this, make it clearer yet. The question after motives and real reasons is not always easy to answer. But if we are really interested in successful negotiations we need to do that. Not always is the answer to ‘cui bono’? : ‘money only’ as stated above.
Usually the attributes associated with money, or more money are actually much more important:
Respect, attention and power in certain circles.
Bluntly put: If it was about taking the Ukraine, they would have taken it long ago.

The question “cui bono” needs to be researched and answered in all directions of cause or effect or impact. Basic human motivators.

The Russian Bear – War: ‘Strength’ or Weakness?

drawing of a schematic bear on green background

Russia and Ukraine – hopes have been shattered today. War has been started. I still believe that negotiation is the only long-term solution to keep the peace.

At the same time to understand motives can help. Looking at it from here in the middle of Europe the actual situation President Putin finds himself in is indeed that of a trapped bear in many ways:

  • He started his own journey down the road of dictatorship a long time ago: The first change of laws to enable his repeated candidacy and elections for him as president was the first sign that power indeed corrupts.
  • Internal affairs are at an all time low: More and more opposition has to be met with more and more arrests and violence, even political murder, also going on for some time now. A political leader who feels strong enough would not use such measures, indeed would not need them.
    • ‘Bullies’ always were like that – and will stay that way if we let them be: They feel weak and in consequence they do everything to appear strong – or what they take for strength.
  • The situation as regards NATO from a Russian point of view is less straightforward:
    The balance of power between the ‘superpowers’ always was a rather pointed one – not to say fragile –  since WW II and stayed that way after the Cold War had ended. As long as the  more verbal than actually written agreements on the limits of NATO expansion were observed there was some manner of peace.

Imagine yourself living in your house or flat attending to your own business – and suddenly a tall apparently friendly guy knocks at your door and when you open – you see him standing there with a ‘big ol’ smile’ on his face – carrying a machine gun…
Wouldn’t you become nervous, in spite of appearances?
I get the impression that for some time now Russia may have felt like that person in the flat, seeing all those friendly people – with weapons … right in front of their place…

„War and Peace“? – War is the Ultimate Failure of Diplomacy

image of map of Russia, Europe Ukraine marked
Image courtesy OpenStreetMap, France

Ukraine, Russia and the US, Europe in between – it is not really new – it is once again the fight for power and money. Gas, weapons and influence on the continent are among the most prominent features of this conflict.
The global balance of power too is at stake, to some extent. Or so it appears.

But:
War is no option. It is no solution. War is driving a knife into the ‚Gordian‘ knot that others have tied – sometimes it‘s not even really ‚Gordian‘, just made to appear that way.

War is the ultimate failure of diplomacy.

War sometimes is just a means to hide even uglier goings-on.

Sometimes it is used as a means to make more money by selling weapons to both parties.

Sometimes it may even be a means to reinstate apparently lost pride. Which is perhaps the most pitiful of all reasons for war imaginable. In my opinion that reason would be sign of a severely disturbed mind.

History is full of examples for that too: Russian opposition in any shape or form is handled so cruelly and severely, not even murder being excepted in subduing any other than the official opinion; it‘s sad, tragic and dreadful all at the same time. Putin for quite some time now has become another sorry excuse for a man.

I consider myself extremely lucky to have been born and raised in peaceful and democratic surroundings, living in such a country where I can write what I think without having to be afraid.

That the expansion of NATO is viewed with vary eyes from all – others – concerned is only natural. Having Russian influence in Cuba for decades is one of the other variants of these opposing forces.

I could go on writing and perhaps not end till after another thousands of pages, because the principles involved are very very familiar.

Lets learn! Let‘s learn again and make peace. Not war!

Which means:
Learn and start realizing if not already done so, to understand each of the parties’ involved necessities to ‘safe face’. Which is probably the most crucial aspect of international diplomacy.
After that: Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate again, and again, and again. Perhaps that kind of patience can be learned from trade:
No trade, no profit; no agreements – no trade…

War is the ultimate failure of diplomacy – and no doubt about it.

Money vs Values? – Money, Dignity and Values!

silhouette of person in yoga post on top of cliff during sunset

Money seems similar to power: It corrupts… sometimes. I think the basic principle is the same as in other parts of life:
it depends on the perspective, on how you look at it.

Someone put it very nicely with these few words:
“If you believe it, it must be true.”

For some of those that read my blog, this is not news.
But I feel this to be an essential part of human life, indeed mankind and its history depend to a great extent on money and what it represents or means to different kinds of people.

Basic Concepts

The most important concepts in regard to money to me are: power, appreciation, wealth (and what it can buy as regards luxury).
Dignity.

Appreciation and Dignity

Appreciation as well as dignity go together in this context: many people exist who will accept and even admire someone who’s got lots of money.

In turn that person feels respected and draws on this apparent respect for their sense of self-esteem. And the term that is closely connected, even a synonym, is the idea of dignity.

Dignity

The idea deserves a closer look: dignity is the sense of any person they can have of themselves as being ‘respectable’ and ‘good’, therefore respected and part of the community around them.
And so, if dignity is forfeit, or seems to be, some people can react extremely aggressive and even cruelly towards those they hold responsible for that loss.

Find Distinctions

I would like to differentiate more, to ultimately make independence easier: we may be dependent to some extent on others, for money, for respect and thus simply their support.
But the dignity we retain always also depends on how we look at ourselves.

Money and Dignity?

If we connect these two ideas in a direct relation, namely: ‘money equals dignity’ and then at the first hint of losing money are convinced we’ve lost our dignity in the eyes of the world, this will be true.

Independence in Your Mind and Your Being

Again:
“If you believe it, it must be true.”

As long as you believe that money equals dignity, this will be true.

This is another way of saying that there are always two sides to this coin:
What others think about us.
What we think about ourselves.

And if we find others to be right in this view, this perspective on us, then they will gain power over our thoughts, our reactions and ultimately we may lose our free will.

Money and Values

Self-respect or self-esteem are crucial for being aware of eternal values and living them. And the sense of our dignity translates into these two.

So, to become truly independent of all the dark sides of the want of appreciation or self-respect or dignity, such as greed, cruelty and selfishness, find out about the dignity inside.

Dignity Inside

So, I encourage again, once more, all who read this:
Look carefully into your heart – and find the dignity and appreciation in there, the part that is not dependent on anything the outside world could ever believe.
If you can do that, no one will ever ‘mess with your head’, they will not have power over you, because you have it over yourself. First and last.