Thursday, June 04, 2009

omnimpotence, and a new man-crush.

so, it's been an...enlightening few days. in order of the most recent, i wanted to share 3 pretty interesting things i've been exposed to:

#1: Obama's very recent speech in Cairo (to the Middle East), entitled "A New Beginning." the video of the speech is below, but save yourself ~55 mins and just read the transcript (which is always faster/easier/better for me).

other than being a great, long-overdue (by America) speech on America's involvement with the Muslim world, i could not help but here some common themes (of President Barry's, as well as just the common-sense goodness i have come to expect by the POTUS).

#2: at the same time, i JUST finished reading Fareed Zakaria's book, the Post American World. in a second, i'll capture some of my favorite excerpts from the book. but before i do that i want to share something else i found as i was Googling for the book image to place here (seen right):

other than President Barry looking super-cool, what's that you see the POTUS reading? perhaps the Indian-American that needs to be brought into advise the current administration is NOT CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta (who recently turned down his nomination/appointment to Surgeon General), but rather Newsweek's (& now CNN's) Fareed Zakaria, who happens to also be one of my favorite Daily Show guests. speaking of, here's an interview with Zakaria from June 2007 (just after his book came out):

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
Fareed Zakaria
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if it's not obvious enough from the above interview, here's what i like about the book. it's not a downer. if anything, the book has a very optimistic, energetic tone. it's basically a LOT of common-sense thinking (told thru an economic lens) on the role America needs to realize + play in the new emerging world. while only a few of my excerpts below deal with this, it's also a more interesting account for the "rise of the rest" - specifically China and India, including some deeper background on them which i think many are unaware. so for me, the book was a lot of common-sense (given my particular points of view), articulated in a very compelling way. sadly it is not one shared with Middle America. i hope some kids in 9th/12th grade "Current Events" classes are being asked to read this book. it's neither liberal nor conservative - but rather worldly and pragmatic.

so let me share some interesting excerpts from my now dog-earred pages:
Ch2: the Cup Runneth Over
The Rise of Nationalism (p.48)
"The irony is that the rise of the rest is a consequence of American ideas and actions. For sixty years, American politicians and diplomats have traveled around the world pushing countries to open their markets, free up their politics, and embrace trade and technology. We have urged peoples in distant lands to take up the challenge of competing in the global economy, freeing up their currencies, and developing new industries. We counseled them to be unafraid of change and learn the secrets of our success. And it worked: the natives have gotten good at capitalism. But now we are becoming suspicious of the very things we have long celebrated – free markets, trade, immigration, and technological change. And all this is happening when the tide is going our way. Just as the world is opening up, America is closing down.

Generations from now, when historians write about these times, they might note that, in the early decades of the twenty-first century, the United States succeeded in its great and historic mission – it globalized the world. But along the way, they might write, it forgot to globalize itself."


Ch3: A Non-Western World
The Death of the Old Order (p.78)
"What is vanishing in developing countries is an old high culture and traditional order. It is being eroded by the rise of a mass public, empowered by capitalism and democracy. This is often associated with Westernization because what replaces the old – the new dominant culture – looks Western, and specifically American. McDonald’s, blue jeans, and rock music have become universal, crowding out older, more distinctive forms of eating, dressing, and singing. But the story here is about catering to a much larger public than the small elite who used to definite a country’s mores. It all looks American, because American, the country that invented mass capitalism and consumerism, got there first. The impact of mass capitalism is now universal. The French have been decrying the loss of their culture for centuries, when, in fact, all that has happened is the decline of a certain old and hierarchical order. Did the majority of French people, most of whom were poor peasants, eat at authentic bistros – or anywhere outside their homes – in the nineteenth century? Chinese opera is said to be dying. But is that because of Westernization or because of the rise of China’s mass culture? How many Chinese peasants listened to opera in their villages decades ago? The new mass culture has become the most important culture because, in a democratic age, quantity trumps quality. How many listen matters more than who listens."


Ch4: the Challenger [China]
God and Foreign Policy (p.111)
"Early Enlightenment thinkers celebrated Confucianism for its reliance on reason rather than on divinity as a guide to human affairs. A thesis developed: while Europe might be far ahead in scientific and technological progress, China had ‘a more advanced ethics,’ a ‘superior civil organization’ (based on merit, not patronage), and a ‘practical philosophy,’ all of which ‘successfully produced a social peace and a well-organized social hierarchy. The ‘climax’ of Enlightenment sinophilia came with Voltaire’s 1759
Essai sur les moeurs, in which, according to the German scholar Thomas Fuchs, he ‘transformed China into a political utopia and the ideal state of an enlightened absolutism; he helped up the mirror of China to provoke self-critical reflection among European monarchs.’ In the following year, the most enlightened of monarchs, Frederick the Great, wrote his Report of Phihihu, a series of letters from a fictitious Chinese ambassador in Europe to the emperor of China. Frederick’s purpose was to contrast the bigotry of the Catholic Church with Chinese rationality."


Ch.5: the Ally [India]
A Geographic Expression (p.162)
"India is Thomas (Tip) O’Neill’s dreamland. ‘all politics is local,’ the former Speaker of the House of Representatives famously said. In India, that principle can be carved in stone. India’s elections are not really national elections at all. They are rather simultaneous regional and local elections that have no common theme.

India’s diversity is four thousand year old and deeply rooted in culture, language, and tradition. This is a country with seventeen languages and 22,000 dialects that was for entries a collection of hundreds of separate principalities, kingdoms and states. When the British were leaving Indian, in 1947, the new government had to negotiate individual ascension agreements with over five hundred rulers – bribing them, threatening them ,and, in some cases, militarily coercing them into joining the Indian union. Since the decline of the Indian National Congress in the 1970s, no party in India has had a national footprint. Every government formed for the last two decades has been a coalition, comprising an accumulation of regional parties with little in common. Ruchir Sharma, who runs Morgan Stanley’s $35 billion emerging-markets portfolio, points out that a majority of the country’s twenty-eight state have voted for a dominant regional party at the expense of a so-called national party.

…What work[s] in U.P. [Uttar Pradesh] might not work in the south, or even in Mumbai. The Hindu-Muslim divide might be crucially important in one set of states, but it is absent in others. Political leaders who are strong in Tamil Nadu have no flowing whatsoever in the north. Punjab has its own distinct political culture that relates to Sikh issues and the history of Hindu-Sikh relations. Politicians from Rajasthan have no appeal in Karnataka. They cannot speak each other’s language – literally. It would be like holding elections across Europe and trying to talk about the same issues with voters in Poland, Greece, France, and Ireland. Winston Churchill once said that India was ‘just a geographic term, with no more political personality than Europe.' Churchill was usually wrong about India, but on this issue, he had a point.

This diversity and division has many advantages. It adds to India’s variety and societal energy, and it prevents the country from succumbing to dictatorship. When Indira Gandhi tried to run the government in an authoritarian and centralized manner in the 1970s, it simply didn’t work, provoking violent revolts in six of its regions. Over the last two decades, Indian regionalism has flourished, and the country has found its natural order. Even hypernationalism becomes difficult in a diverse land. When the BJP tries to unleash Hindu chauvinism as a political weapon against India’s Muslim minority, it often finds that lower-caste Hindus, as well as south Indians, are alienated and rattled by the rhetoric, which sounds exclusionary and upper-caste to them."


Ch.7: American Purpose
Fear & Loathing (p.252)
"In his book Courage Matters, Senator John McCain took a far more sensible approach and wrote, ‘Get on the damn elevator! Calculate the odds of being harmed by a terrorist. It’s still about as likely as being swept out to sea by a tidal wave.’ Writing in late 2003, he added what seemed like a sound rule of thumb: ‘Watch the terrorist alert and when it falls below yellow, go outside again.’ Unfortunately, since 9/11 the alert has never dropped below yellow (which means an “elevated” level of risk from a terrorist attack). At airports it has been almost permanently at orange – “high risk,” the second highest level of alertness. Yet the Department of Homeland Security admits that “there continues to be no credible information at the time warning of an imminent thread to the homeland.’ Since 9/11, only two or three extremely minor terrorist plots have been uncovered in the entire country, and there is no example of an Al Qaeda sleeper cell having been found in America."

"For America to thrive in this new and challenging era, for it to succeed amid the rise of the rest, it need fulfill only one test. It should be a place that is as inviting and exciting to the young students who enter the country today as it was for this awkward eighteen-year-old a generation ago."

separately, it was also interesting to find + see Zakaria's first appearance on the Daily Show way back when (Oct 2001), just a month after the events of Sept.11, when he had just written a
Newsweek cover article entitled "Why they Hate Us." NET - Fareed Zakaria is a smart guy, and i like what he has to say (mostly).

#3: AND FINALLY, just so you don't walk away with the impression that i'm actually a mature and knowledgeable adult (i'm not), let me share a funny commercial the CMO of Intel recently shared at a great conference i recently attended here in NY. you might have already seen it on television:

...i realize this is probably the life i avoided by choosing to not pursue the career of my Bachelor's Degree (Computer Engineering). though i would argue that i have a few friends who are indeed living this dream (Hamid, Damon, etc)

1 comment:

  1. i have people throwing flower petals in my walk way as i enter the building


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