Thursday, April 23, 2009

Hero or Superstar?

I have been watching the President's trips abroad and how he's handling tough domestic issues, a quote from Henry Kissinger's memoirs comes to mind:

"The great statesmen of the past saw themselves as heroes who took on the burden of their societies' painful journey from the familiar to the as yet unknown. The modern politician is less interested in being a hero than a superstar. Heroes walk alone; stars derive their status from approbation. Heroes are defined by inner values; stars by consensus. When a candidate's views are forged in focus groups and ratified by television anchorpersons, insecurity and superficiality become congenital."

You draw your own conclusions.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Venus or Mars

As I headed out to a long vacation in Arizona, hoping for some solid reading time, I grabbed two old favorites “The Rise and Fall of Great Empires”, and “Atlas Shrugged”. I’ve been bouncing back and forth between them for a week now. Not a great way to read a book, I admit, but I have read them at least twice.
I cannot help but wonder what is around the corner for America. Where is this great country headed in the next few years? Will the place my kids will grow old in, resemble the place I’m growing old(er) in?
Will we look back at 2009 at the end of the American Century? The end of Pax Americana? The year America, the nation, grew old and started looking forward to retirement.
I sure hope not.
For the life-cycle of great empires can be correlated nicely with the cycle of life. Nations are young, growing and vibrant, then they get old stodgy and caution. Then they die.
In the first half of their lives, young nations are from Mars: they are growing, vital, aggressive, willing to take chances, focused on the individual, on improving and changing. Full of vinegar, hubris and testosterone, they are messy; they break things, make a lot of noise, and are willing to crack a few eggs to make the omelet.
Then they grow older, and somehow they move to Venus. They lose their edge and their vitality. They now must insure that nothing goes wrong, that nothing is left to chance, because something bad can happen to someone somewhere. They become tame, safe, secure, nurturing. Every bad thing that happens must be someone’s fault. They drown in regulation, in lawyers, in causes (célèbre and otherwise). Everyone has the right to be protected. They give up omelets because eggs have rights too.
Until, someone from Mars moves into the neighborhood.
Women are from Venus, Men are from Mars. France is from Venus, I’m sure of that. China and Russia are from Mars, I’m sure of that too.
America was Mars. Your move America.