Friday, January 20, 2017

Preaching to the Choir!

I sucked it up and decided to watch the speech.  I recorded it so I wasn’t burdened with all the preliminaries.  And it was, thankfully, not long.  That’s a plus.

At least the speech was consistent.  It was more of the same, aimed at the same people who voted for him.  He did dance with the one who brung him, I’ll give him that.  But for the rest of us, here and around the world?  No reason to think our worst fears won’t come to pass.  No reason not to expect the worst.

I assume the pundits will analyze what was said, but really there’s not much to analyze.  It was devoid of specifics.  There was no soaring rhetoric.  They can discuss the tone – belligerent, truculent, super chauvinistic, but that too is more of the same.

I’ll let it go at that.  Stay tuned . . .

Monday, January 16, 2017

Inaugural Nausea!

Like it or not the Inauguration will happen on Friday.  I’m sorry to report that my “Head in the Sand” approach is not working.  I’ve been unable to pretend nothing is happening.  We’re being bombarded by this reality – on TV, on the Internet, in the newspapers, at the grocery store.

Inaugural Nausea is in the air.  It is the contagion of the day/week/month.  Symptoms are depression, denial, not wanting to get out of bed in the morning, disbelief and intermittent mental diarrhea and constipation.

Medication doesn’t help.  There is no cure.  It is a 24/7 nightmare that waking up won’t reverse.  Brief respites are available, like watching Alec Baldwin on SNL, or reading Charles Blow in the Times or seeing John Lewis take a stand for decency.  But the blunt truth is that this is as bad as we feared and it is going to get worse.  Hopeful signs are quickly replaced by this reality.

So what now?  When I have a good idea I’ll let you know.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

India Redux!

I lived in India for seven years in the 1960s when I was in the Foreign Service.  I returned several times in the 1970s and 1980s to lead Breakthrough Foundation programs.  After that I returned again more than once just because I liked being there.  My last such visit was in 2003.  Now, 14 years on, Sandra and I are preparing for another passage to India.

I’ve been asking myself if I have an agenda for this trip.  I don’t – other than to just be there.  I’ve kept up to date on what’s going on in India, so I’m current, at least from a distance.  I know that the India of 2017 is a very different country than the one I encountered when I stepped off a Pan Am plane in the middle of a hot, muggy night in August 1962.  It had only been 15 years of Independence at that time.

I want to have a direct experience of today’s India – to be open to what has changed and also to see what from the olden days is still in place.  Not to yearn for a long gone youth, but to see how it looks to me now.  I bring a different perspective and in that sense will see with new eyes.

We shall see how this all unfolds.  Stay tuned . . .

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Ian Bremmer!

Ian Bremmer, president of Eurasia Group, a global political risk research and consulting firm, was on Charlie Rose’s show this week, expressing his views about where we are at this moment in time.  I’ve watched Bremmer many times, and while I don’t always agree with him, I find his insights trenchant and worth listening to.

What particularly caught my attention this time was his response to a question about whether he was concerned about Trump’s upcoming presidency and if he was what concerned him.  “Three things,” he said: Incompetence, corruption and authoritarianism.

As to incompetence, he wasn’t overly concerned.  The institutional structures that are in place will be a bulwark to prevent a major disaster.

Corruption, he said, was possible, especially given the likelihood that interlocking business and administrative decisions would create opportunities for bad behavior.  But here, too, he wasn’t overly concerned.

An authoritarian president, however, is a threat to everything this country stands for.  A president willing to use his powers to get his way, the public interest be damned, is a danger to our way of life and what we hold dear.

My takeaway:  We are not immune to a dictatorship.  We are not immune to fascism.  We are not immune to having our civil rights diminished.  Democracy as we have known it up to now is not a guarantee.

Beware, my friends!

Friday, December 30, 2016

Happy New Year?

Reasons to be happy that 2016 is almost history:

Finally, we can put a terrible political year in the U.S. and elsewhere behind us.  That’s the upside.  The downside?  There’s no reason to think it’ll be different in the future.

Too many great people died this year.  Was it really worse or different than other years?  Maybe not, but it seems that it was.

We began 2016 with multiple conflicts that were wreaking death and destruction on mostly innocent people.  None were resolved.  In fact, the number of active conflicts has increased.

One result?  The number of homeless refugees is at an all-time high.

Another result?  More countries are creating barriers to prevent immigrants from coming and taking steps to deport those that are already there.

The growing disparity between rich and poor is a global phenomenon that peaked in 2016.  Back in the day this would have been a formula for revolution.  Doesn’t seem to be happening now.

Assessing the human condition is an ongoing process.  Obviously, when the calendar hits a new January 1 it is a new day, but not a miraculous cure for anything.  I am willing to acknowledge that it isn’t inevitable that everything is going to get worse.  Having said that, I can’t say I am hopeful or optimistic about the future.

However, I recognize that pessimism/cynicism is not an exalted or desirable way of being.  Therefore, I am willing to be happy that 2017 is nearly upon us and would love to look back a year from now and conclude that it really was a Happy New Year!