Tag Archives: Inclusion

We’re Not in Kansas Anymore

photo credit: iStock.com/skodonnell


Author Gary Moreau, aka Avam Hale in fiction

Exactly one year ago, President Xi Jinping delivered a speech to the United Nations office in Geneva, entitled, Work Together to Build a Community with a Shared Future for Mankind. It was collective in its vision: “China is ready to work with all the other UN member states as well as international organizations and agencies to advance the great cause of building a community with a shared future for mankind.” And it was long term in its perspective: “Building a community with a shared future is an exciting goal, and it requires efforts from generation after generation.” The sentiment would later be enshrined in a formal resolution at the 55th UN Commission for Social Development, as “a human community with shared destiny”

Jump ahead one year to January 26, 2018, and United States President Donald Trump spoke to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, at its annual conference of the heaviest of the heavy hitters in global politics and business. The man elected on the simple platform of “Make America Great Again” (MAGA), like Xi Jinping before him, delivered his vision for the future of the world.

Trump opened with the warning that “I’m here to represent the interests of the American people…” And, as expected, most of the speech was devoted to his personal contribution to “helping every American find their path to the American dream.” Specifically he spoke to the surging stock market, job creation, small business confidence, deregulation, and, of course, “…the most significant tax cuts and reform in American history.” (Which, on a side note, is not true.) As you would expect from the MAGA president, it was all about America, and, not surprisingly, him. After all, MAGA has everything to do with individuals, he being the biggest and most powerful “I” among them, and almost nothing to do with “human community,” as President Xi described it.

Trump’s would have been the perfect speech had it been delivered by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, a fellow Republican, in the 1950s. It would have been even more appropriate, in fact, given Eisenhower’s military fame, and the fact that the only references Trump made to the US’ role in the world had to do with our self-appointed role as the world’s policeman, and “making historic investments in the American military”, already the world’s largest, costing $1,900 per year for every man, woman, and child in America, at a time when 80 million Americans have little or no health insurance.

Other accomplishments noted by Trump were “eliminating 22 burdensome regulations for every new one,” “…no longer turning a blind eye to unfair economic practices overseas,” and “lifting self-imposed restrictions on energy production,” even though all restrictions are self-imposed and according to the laws of the universe energy is not produced, but merely transformed (and thus fixed in quantity). And, of course, insuring that all nations “contribute their fair share” to the cost of the American agenda.

All told, Trump’s individualist agenda was summed up by this simple claim: “When the United States grows, so does the world.” Perhaps unconsciously, it was the exact same sentiment that Charles Wilson (1890-1961), the CEO of General Motors, made during his confirmation hearings as Secretary of Defense under Eisenhower. When asked about a potential conflict of interest between the interests of the US and GM, he is rumored to have said, “What is good for GM is good for the country.”

The world of today, however, is not the world of the 1950s. The world’s population has expanded three fold, from 2.5 billion people at the end of World War II to 7.5 billion people today, even thought the world’s land mass and its inherent ability to sustain life have not changed at all. As a result, the earth’s climate is changing, in less than desirable ways, and clean air and clean water are among the world’s most precious resources, and disappearing fast.

Technology has made the world smaller and virtually eliminated the concept of local communication and debate. Information flows to a far wider audience but is transmitted by global super-monopolies like Facebook and Google, who rule the world by algorithms that are developed with their own inevitable bias but remain virtually unregulated.

In short, this is not the 1950s. And any desire to turn back the world clock in search of that era is sure to fail. People and technology cannot simply be put back in the bottle. That would require the type of totalitarian dystopia that Orwell wrote about and the Great Generation had just sacrificed countless lives to vanquish.


The author’s new book will be released on February 15, 2018. Reserve your copy now.

The U.S. Constitution, one of the most famous documents in global political history, begins with the words, “We the people.” Yet it is “Me the individual,” that Donald Trump embodies and best represents the America of 2018. My identity, my rights, my tax cut, my income, my freedom—whether it’s my freedom to own assault weapons or my freedom to marry who I like—are at the heart of both the conservative and liberal political agendas.

The conservatives want to pull the rest of us along through individual exceptionalism. The progressives want to push us along through the acceptance and inclusion of all micro-group identity. Neither, however, will work, because both are built on the notion of an individualized world that simply doesn’t exist any more. Both would have been legitimate competing worldviews in the 1950s. Both are obsolete today.

Whether we want it or not, we will face the “shared future” that President Xi Jinping referenced more than one year ago. We will not have the option to choose who will be a part of that community. We all will. Whether you are a Dreamer, a Tea Party supporter, a member of the Rainbow Coalition, a misogynist or a feminist, a white supremacist or a believer that Black Lives Matter, will not matter in the end. We will be forced to live as a single, global community, consuming resources that are fixed by the laws of the universe.

We really only have two choices: 1. We can kill each other. (Or die trying.) 2. We can turn “Me” into “We.”

We have, of course, been here before. Eisenhower and the Great Generation faced the very same dilemma. And, unfortunately, following the great tragedy of World War I and the even greater human tragedy that followed, as the victors sought revenge on the losers, the “we” side of the option ultimately morphed into brutal forms of fascism and communism. They, in turn, gave us the Nazis, the Holocaust, the gulags of the Soviet Union, and the killing fields of the Khmer Rouge.

As a result, many of today’s most ardent individualists believe that any form of collectivism is, as the 20th Century seemed to show, inherently flawed and will only lead to brutal totalitarianism. That, however, is simply not true.

More importantly, however, it doesn’t matter if it is or not. Whatever form of individualism we pursue, the elite, however that is defined, will be forced to squash the many in the fight for limited resources. One percent of the world’s population already controls more than half of the world’s wealth. What will happen when it controls 90%? (And it will, if nothing changes.)

What will happen, in contrast, if the coalition of oppressed micro-identities overthrows the oppressors? All will be well, of course, if the former oppressors all accept a new micro-identity. But what if they don’t? And what about human psychology suggests that they will?

We may not agree with Presdient Xi Jinping’s politics. We can’t, however, plausibly deny his vision of a shared future. An economically and militarily elite America will not and can not pull the world along. A progressively elite America, even if elected, and even if it is truly inclusive, cannot push the world along.

We’re not in Kansas anymore. And the sooner we realize that the less pain we will be forced to endure.

Note: Author Gary Moreau was recognized by the World Economic Forum as a Global Leader for Tomorrow in its inaugural class of 1993.

You may contact the author at gary@gmoreau.com
Visit my personal blog at www.gmoreau.com

Follow on Twitter @gmoreaubooks

Summary for We, Ourselves, and Us:

In this new guide to American politics and economics, Gary Moreau wants to turn the “I” into “We.” As he argues in We, Ourselves, and Us, Americans’ cultural sense of individualism is hindering rather than helping the country. Moreau instead argues for a change to political, economic, and social systems to refocus them on the collective good. As he proposes this important change, Moreau argues that

  • both major political parties are offering ineffective solutions to the problem,
  • the model America was based on is no longer realistic for a modern society,
  • both communism and socialism fail because they are still based on the idea of individuality,
  • the unequal flow of power is responsible for a prejudiced and unbalanced society,
  • the concepts of obligation and self-interest are intrinsically connected,
  • individual advancement means nothing without collective advancement, and
  • all of society is interconnected in nuanced and important ways.

Moreau does not equate collectivism with communism or other political movements. He isn’t arguing for the elimination of private property or other drastic changes. Instead, he simply gives you a new way of viewing systems of power and important suggestions that could lead to satisfactory results for the entire nation.

 

Ukraine & The Chinese Model of Diversity

One of the more notable aspects of the recent events in Ukraine is the near total lack of Chinese involvement.  This is a classic West vs ‘them’ issue and if anyone is in a position to play power-broker it would seem to be the Chinese.

And yet they apparently sit on the sidelines.  By all appearances, at least, just watching.

Or not.  While some Western policy pundits may attribute the lack of Chinese involvement to a calculated strategy of waiting until the dust settles, I actually sense that the Chinese simply aren’t interested.  The media coverage here in China has been complete but minimal; less, it would seem, than the unrest in Thailand (China’s neighbor) or Alibaba’s U.S. IPO (China’s pride).

To me this is entirely fitting with the Chinese worldview.  First of all, life is rough so a little friction is to be expected in these types of neighborly affairs.  (See my post Foreign Policy – Friction is to be Expected; Current Events; March 28, 2014) This just isn’t the kind of skirmish that’s going to be all that newsworthy to the Chinese, who are, coincidentally or not, having their own neighborly dispute with Vietnam over territorial boundaries in the South China Sea.

Secondly, the Ukraine is a long way away both figuratively and literally.  It’s outside their field of vision.  They know it’s there, of course.  The Chinese government follows world events just as closely as any other government.

But as noted before I really believe the Chinese have no aspirations for world influence.  They merely want to be left alone.

Yes, they want the protection of a wide and deep moat around them.  They want both peace and respect in the neighborhood and they’re not at all happy with the idea of the American military pivot, despite the U.S. assertion that it merely seeks to ‘uphold international law.’

And who can blame them in the end?  This is a country that has not been historically well-served by foreign governments promoting trade or enabling opium addiction or otherwise pursuing their self-interest in the name of international law and order.

There are 55 ethnic minorities in China whose rights are guaranteed by the Chinese constitution.
There are 55 ethnic minorities in China whose rights are guaranteed by the Chinese constitution.

As much as anything else, however, I believe that the Chinese lack of desire to insert themselves into the Ukrainian drama is further proof of what I believe to be one of the great strengths and redeeming qualities of Chinese culture and one of its more intriguing ironies – a culture that is non-assimilative in every way but which accepts ethnic and cultural diversity in a way few other cultures do.  (There are 56 officially recognized ethnic groups in China whose cultural rights are explicitly protected by the Chinese constitution.)

None of the ethnic groups involved – the Ukranians, the Crimeans, or the Russians – are Chinese.  And they never will be.  To the Chinese they are all foreigners.  But because they are not Chinese and aren’t in any way doing anything that potentially threatens China or Chinese people I don’t believe the Chinese feel any sense of right to tell the parties involved what to do.

To the United States the concept of universal law, or international law, is both definable and absolute.  To China it’s not.  Like every aspect of the Chinese worldview, universal law – an impersonal institution if ever there was one – is largely relative, a balance of opposing forces seeking simple harmony.  So while I have yet to hear any Chinese colleague take a position as to who is right and who is wrong in all of this secession and annexation business, they seem to universally agree that it’s not for them – or the U.S. – to say.

The West's deductive diversity is based on shared values and absolute truths.
The West’s deductive diversity is based on shared values and absolute truths.

And here, I think, we see one of the fundamental differences between the American geo-political worldview and the Chinese geo-political worldview.  American culture is built on inclusion and absolutes, as is expected in a culture whose philosophical foundation is deductively logical.  Chinese culture, on the other hand, is not assimilative, but relative, as is logical for a culture built on a philosophical foundation of inductive reason.

And that difference plays out in very different ways when it comes to ethnic and racial diversity – as in ‘we and they’.

The U.S. is the very picture of diversity and absolutes.  Everyone other than the relatively small minority of Native Americans is from someplace else.   And its entire political system is built around the simple and absolute idea that all men are created equal.

Yet it struggles, as the firestorm surrounding one NBA owner currently reminds us, to actually embrace diversity.  We’ve talked about it; we’ve legislated it; and many a leader has thrown his or her moral support behind it.  Yet we still, by anyone’s measure, fall short.

And I’ve come to believe that part of the reason is that we cling to a version of diversity that emphasizes, first and foremost, assimilation.  We embrace diversity, in other words, if it shares an acceptance of certain linear absolutes.  It doesn’t have to look like us; it doesn’t even have to act like us; but we do want it to accept the deductive and absolute Western worldview – or at least critical elements of that worldview – as its own.

The East's inductive diversity is built on the ideal of harmonious coexistence.
The East’s inductive diversity is built on the ideal of harmonious coexistence.

The Chinese, on the other hand, have no such expectations.  To them I am a foreigner.  I will always be a foreigner.  I can live here for the rest of my life and learn to speak the language without an accent.  I will still be a foreigner.

But somehow, I’ve come to realize, that’s okay to the Chinese I live among.  They don’t expect me to look like them, act like them, or even accept their worldview.  They expect me to be who I am – a foreigner.

The Western observer, of course, might conclude that because Chines culture is not assimilative, it is not inclusive, a conclusion that to the deductive mind might lead to the presumption of arrogance, even racism.  They would be wrong.  If you are willing to drop the presumption of linear cause and effect, non-assimilative and inclusive are not mutually exclusive.

If I don’t judge you I can still include you without the expectation that you will assimilate my belief system or worldview.  I have only to accept that not every effect has a linear cause.  If I can simply accept that you are you and I am me, we can get along just fine, even collaborate, without presumption of eventual homogeneity.

If you abandon the presumption of linear cause and effect non-assimilation and inclusion are not mutually exclusive.
If you abandon the presumption of linear cause and effect non-assimilation and inclusion are not mutually exclusive.

In essence, there are two conditions in which diversity works to unleash potential.  The first is the condition of assimilation where differences are effectively prioritized and the willingness to homogenize those deemed fundamental and critical unleashes the power of collaborative effort.  This is ‘The Great Melting Pot,’ a world in which ethnic minorities came together, pooled their talents, homogenized their worldview, and created the American Century.

And there is the diversity of acceptance; the acceptance that our differences can’t be assimilated or are not critical to our getting along or collaborating for mutual benefit; allowing us an equal chance to collaborate in the productive pursuit of mutual interest.  This, I believe, is the diversity that will define, should it come to be, the Chinese Century.

I make no attempt to declare one framework superior to the other.  As Confucius would surely note, “Wherever you go, there you are.”

I have to wonder, however, if the Chinese worldview isn’t ideally suited to the truly global village.  While the Western powers have been busy wagging their collective fingers at President Putin for unilaterally moving the property line with his neighbor, the Chinese media was filled with images of Premier Li Keqiang traversing the continent of Africa, offering not the Chinese way of life or culture, nor to provide the military might to uphold international law in the region, but money and know-how in the simple but honest quest for harmonious economic development in the name of mutual self-interest.

Following President Obama's Pacific pivot, China's Premier Li Keqiang traversed the African continent promising not military protection but investment and know-how to drive economic development and the shared benefits that come with it.
Following President Obama’s Pacific pivot, China’s Premier Li Keqiang traversed the African continent promising not military protection but investment and know-how to drive economic development and the harmonious benefits it will bring both parties.

Contact:  You may contact the author at glassmakerinchina@gmail.com

Copyright © 2014 Glassmaker in China

Notice:  The views expressed in this post are strictly those of the writer acting in a personal capacity.  They are not in any way endorsed or sanctioned by his employer or any other individual with which he may be personally or professionally affiliated.