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…

Make Peace Not War – Korea, Vietnam, Irak – Ukraine?

Vietnam woman swatting beside coal fire
Image courtesy unsplash.com – Free license (Woman in Vietnam)

The recent US American history since WW II is fraught with wars and interventions practically all over the world. I have posted about their last but one president almost too often in some ways; not naming names can be important.

President Joe Biden is a representative of sanity and goodwill in the Oval Office and millions of people there and elsewhere are grateful, altogether.

Mr Putin may have just lost his way temporarily… or is seriously lost to the good cause.
Yet, even he knows what war means, one part being a dreadfully bitter truth about it: In the short run weapon arsenals and storage spaces will be cleared by it – to make room for new ones…

But one thing is true too:

Soldiers, armies, naval forces – they are not nameless masses – they are people!

Each and every one of them is the son to a mother and father, perhaps a brother or nephew, maybe uncle – and father himself some day; these days also often daughters and nieces, aunts and sisters, in many parts of the wold; beloved, cherished – and remembered for their smiles, their laughs, jokes, games and even arguments or fights.

Wars kill people!

Wars ‘create‘ enemies.
The Russian arts and crafts are sometimes just wonderful, think of Tolstoi, Dostoevsky, or in music, Tchaikovsky, to name only a very few.
There are things that are quite special about the US culture:
Although a very young culture yet, they have artists, writers, painters, poets, musicians: Ernest Hemingway, Mark Twain, Emily Wharton, George Gershwin, to also name just a very few; and a huge movie industry; their laws even allow major, high-budget movies be made that criticize their system and culture.

This is my own trailer version of the movie „Good Morning Vietnam“ that makes the bold move to show both sides of the story of a war and telling it from the only real perspective there is: the human one, the story of people, smart, kind, good or bad.

The Great Relief: Return to Sanity in the Oval Office!

sunrise behind cityscape

Finally, a couple of days ago, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have been inaugurated, a combination of sense, reason and humanity, so their actual background let us surmise.

There is sun behind the clouds, more than a glimmer of better things and thoughts to come in one of the most powerful nations of the world today.

And now, inside of days, Biden, Harris and their government already started to retrace steps, to get the ‘ocean liner’ that is called the USA back on the route they always called their ultimate goal: freedom, equality and peace for as many as possible. Not just make the rich even richer.

Yes, Biden and Harris will face the history, and they know it too – the country is divided by trenches almost as in war, due to the completely irresponsible and downright bad messages online and offline Biden’s predecessor delivered until a few ‘minutes’ before his step down from office. Also unprecedented, not being present at the inauguration, which would be called extremely ‘bad form’, at least.

Let us beware, the difficult times are not over yet. Watch out for the forces behind people like Trump: their greed should not be underestimated.

Yet, after years of fear and distress for no reason except an apparent madman in the seat of the president of the US, now comes relief, even if by degrees…

Let’s celebrate!

Democracy in Danger – The “Banality of Evil”

lady justice with books on table

Anyone who has followed the court of law sessions against the criminals responsible for war, torture and death of millions in Germany and Israel after the Third Reich of the Nazis had ended in 1945, knows this title:
it is the title of Hannah Arendt’s clear analysis of what can be so shockingly ‘mundane’. The evil that can be part of mankind, in the guise of everyday people with faces of bookkeepers, such as that of Adolf Eichmann.

Donald Trump these days when talking into the cameras seems dreadfully familiar in his ‘banal’ and complete denial of reality – or sense of responsibility for the community at large.

For many months I refused to write about him anymore, to take any official notice in order to reduce any public effect he craves for with such utter disregard of all that is good or beautiful – or human – or right.

His disregard for law and order in their good sense, for equality or goodness, for better chances for all, and in turn his love for public recognition at any price are shameful to watch in a country such as the USA, who for decades, if not centuries claimed to be saviour of democracy and watcher over the application of human rights around the world.

That Trump still dares to stand in public claiming without showing any remorse or shame that he refuses violence, is only true to  the ‘form’ he has shown ever since he started running for office.

In their Pledge of Allegiance among other things, the US have included the phrase “..and justice for all”.
Let justice be served with all the force the legal system has to offer in the US on Donald Trump, now. It is high time for this impeachment.

Trump, War, Weapons … Money

Although one might not think it right away: Trump all through his presidency has acted true to character. Driven by the need to make more and more money and prove himself to be the tough guy who will not – apparently – consider anyone else’s ideas or pleasure:

He really is the greedy creature he’s always been. A few corrections in his behaviour when cameras are around; some travels around the globe so he can create the image of the diplomatic and reliable person he should have been from day one, as an added ‘polish to the image’ – they cannot fool anyone who’s followed his ‘career’ just a little more closely:

With him and his ‘train’, who are rather the puppet masters in the background, it is not about anything, but gaining money, by hook or by crook, if necessary, by both.
A shame actually to think that such a pitiful excuse for a man who often is downright ridiculous, should get so much attention. But of course, with people such as him, that is the second weakness: the craving for attention. Any kind.

I still wonder how it was possible that North Korea so comparatively easily changed tune in such a short time… what funds were transferred from where to whom…

I hope and even pray that Iran for all it’s worth will keep it’s diplomatic cool and not be drawn into any of the antics Trump so far has used with other countries and which amount to what is again common in global politics:
bribery and extortion.

Hoping that Iran in politics will one day turn out to be a country where something like the Declaration and International Bill of Human Rights will be political principal inside as well as out, in accordance as well with age old traditions; I still do not believe for a moment in the rights the US have claimed at least since WWII around the world: do anything they can, literally any thing, to keep or expand their power over natural resources in any shape or form.

Do not let them fool you! Media, the best especially, are crucial for knowing about what is being said in front of cameras. But to know people and politics, look for the underlying principle and beware. Behind the cameras, a lot goes on that sometimes is only found out decades or even centuries later.

Know them by their deeds. Resist war and manipulation with all peaceful, nonviolent might.
Make peace, not war!

Greed, Poverty and War – or: How to Be Truly Noble Again

Trump: lies, selfishness and rudeness as well as greed rolled into one, combined with a high sense of self-representation in a world where more money superficially makes the person more ‘priceless’.

The golden calf… although originally the first settlers of the US fled from Europe to avoid that – they created it again: the first manifestation of human society: every man fights on his own, wealth and power being the only yardstick for distinction.

This is in a way a wonderful example of political and historical repetition: as Job had it in his famous biblical monologue: nothing is new under the sun – or words to that effect. Because here we see, what the ‘Adel’, the aristocracy of former centuries in Europe, too often was made of.
The same principle applies, again: cruelty, the greed for wealth above all others, being looked up to – and reign, in order to feel even more distinguished and – appreciated.

The German word for aristocracy, ‘Adel’ makes it clear nicely: in those times, someone who distinguished himself – usually in warfare – was made ‘special’: ‘edel’, which is the modern form of the word ‘Adel’ which translates into ‘noble’.

Yet, all this is good for nothing if we don’t learn from it: in our history books we look with disgust on those that distinguished themselves as rulers by cruelty and selfishness, by greed and the general poverty and starvation of the people they ruled.
But today’s similar leaders are cheered at?

Let’s learn that to live greed will create more greed.
That to live cruelty creates more cruelty.
That war will cause more war.
That inequality will cause more inequality.

Live love and you will create love.
Live equality and you will create equality.
Live peace and you will create peace.

As an African saying has it: if lots of small people in lots of small places do lots of small things – they will change the face of the earth.

Live all these – and be shrewd too, as the bible, another wealthy source of wisdom if you know how to use it, also has it: be like the snakes and the doves.
Which is to say, live all these noble ideas, but don’t let others fool you.
Learn, educate and – know them – by their deeds.