Why the World Matters to America
America needs the world for the same reason that individuals need other people to be healthy. Isolation distorts the personality. Without others, socialization fails, not just because there is no give and take but because there is no feedback, no reflection of the self in others for self-correct. A person who does not change as a result of interacting with others becomes a socially destructive narcissist. America learned that lesson with its 45th president.
Engagement with the world does not require a tedious study of the world’s near-200 countries. It does not call for 24/7 monitoring of news to know who’s fighting whom. That’s for professionals who like their work. For everyday Americans, it’s enough to be aware of other countries and regions so they are not floundering in a globalizing world needing group solutions to problems affecting all humanity. An optimistic note for the future of the human race is that young people are more aware of the greater world than their elders ever were.
The world was reborn in the 20 century after the Second World War. Imperialism was out and the nuclear threat was the goad to find alternative forms of governance. The United Nations was to be the forum for resolving conflicts. UN Agencies & Funds like the International Monetary Fund and World Bank were to oversee global development so the poorest countries could avert unrest. While the Western World embraced democracy, China and Russia pursued paths that bore a stunning resemblance to the imperialism that had been deposed.
China with its large population was busy building its economy. The Middle East was accomodating novelties like the newly created Israel and the Palestinians who had been displaced. Pakistan broka off of India, as did Eritrea from Ethiopia. Each of these chages along with others like them had ethnic, political and cultural conflicts to address. But the biggest change that came to the world after the Second World War was the splitting of democratic Europe with its eastern half going to Russia for a project that became known as the Iron Curtain.
While democracy flourished in healthy economies like the US, Europe, Canada and Australia, Russia then known as the Soviet Union implemented a model of government centered on satellites. Satellite countries would be granted formidable armed protection if they complied with the Soviet system of rule by terror and propganda. As to be expected, the system collapsed in 1991 after numerous failed revolts in satellite countries. As became increasingly obvious in the changes brought about by the Second World War, countries valued their identity and their freedom in deciding their destiny.
Collapse of the Soviet Union signalled a new age as former satellites regained their identities and alined themselves with democratic Europe. But as if the Russian bear had been merely hibernating, #Rissia attacked former satellite Ukraine just as the US beacon of democracy was undergoing a mid-life crisis.
These are just a few snippets of tales to be told about the near-200 countries who share a world in dire need of upgrade and repair. As is true of individuals, change can arouse defensiveness and fear. Trigger responses can escalate conflicts especilly when trigger happy players are involved. Most affected by such dynamics are transnational corporations that are key to global development. They become targets of attack in that fear of losing their identity. Internationalism celebrates global diversity against the globalism that aims to level the world and make it more profitable for market spread..
The near-200 countries of the world today were carved out of treaties signed after conflict, whether localized border disputes or major concerted campaigns at the level of two world wars. After each of those horrific showdowns as technology evolved to the point of annihilation, countries agreed to establish mediation centers to resolve conflicts through discourse instead of armed force. The first failed and led to a new world world. The Second is the United Nations and it operates as a toothless forum rife for corruption because countries are no different than people.
By now it is common knowledge that human babies are totally dependent on others for survival. They know only themselves and their needs. They are nurtured to socialize, to learn which behaviors are acceptable to others and which are not. They learn to moderate emotions, to learn self-control in favor of social gain. The variations in nurture, learning and social acceptance are astronomical. Multiply the single child’s experience by a factor of a hundred gazillion for a hint of how complex is the human dominated planet earth.
Internationalism aims to create bridges at all levels to promote cooperative interaction that promotes the aims, welfare and values of all those involved. The scope of that effort ranges from the personal, social and economic arena to the greater institutional and transnational corporate levels. Like all individual humans, those entities have personalities influenced by historic precedents and modern-day temperaments. Internationalism is an attitude that that they can all all peacefully coexist and mutually prosper.
“All men are created equal” is an amazing puzzle explained away by casting it is an ideal to be achieved. Like all lofty aims, the thought clases with reality on earth.
Written about 250 years ago, the US Constituion was a legal document intended to evolve over time. The bill of rights set down the first 10 amendments that started the adaptation to the times. Those were rights reserved for the narrow definition of men at the time. Those were landownibg white men. It took nearly 100 years for blacks to be recognized as humans, and another 50 years until women were liberated from the category of chattel by being granted the right to vote. Obviously, change does not come easily however equal are the social benefits of change. The benefits, however, are often slow to be acknowledged, particularly by those who lost status as decision makers for others.
Control of others began in the cave days when men looted women by braining them with cudgels. Wars came next with concomittent enslavement of losers. As industious Europeans colonized parts of the world likly to develop into prime real estate, America broke off from world leader Great Britain and simultaneously became the seat of democracy and prime cash cow for the slave trade. That dual role continues to do battle in the 21st century alongside other major status rankers like ethnicity, gender, education and wealth.
Unlike older cultures that stretch back 1,000 years or more, the United States never had the traditional western grounding in hereditary royalty. Status in the US was determined by a sliding scale of factors easily manipulated in the land of opportunity. While money, lineage and social standing played a major role in status, the judgment of America on one of its own was based on surmounting obstacles like Horatio Alger did or the winners of the reality show Survivor. Both of those are fiction. Real life is harder.
An old saying states that behind every successful man is a woman who helped him. In Fogarassy’s experience, behind every successful woman is a slew of people and circumstances that tried to stop her.
The times they are a-changing, sang Bob Dylan, the Nobel Laureate rock legend. But for every member of a current power minority, which includes white men who are not invested in a standing entitlement as a birthright, the times are changing at a snail’s pace.
Like everyone, Fogarassy was born into a given situation at a particular time. She was born into a post-war communist Hungary and transported across Europe to a happy America. Her mother supported the family and as the only daughter during childhood, Fogarassy took up the domestic slack. Housework has been abhorrent to her ever since.
Combined with a fierce need to be independent, an intrinsic drive to express herself in words, a dogged insistence on honesty and a vulnerability due to the experience that high expectations would not be met, she has learned to be grateful for all the good that came her wa, which came in a bounty that enabled her to remain open to whatever life offered. That was particularly true when it came to love, the most status quo emotion among the vast majority of people not afflicted with hate, a destructive emotion also described by many as anger or rage.
According to child psychiatrist Margaret Mahler, all people start off as newborns who have no sense of self separate from that of the mother. Mahler theorizes that it takes three years for the child to become a truly separate person. During that process, development occurs by virtue of two drives. Boredom in the confining comfort of Mom rouses curiosity and causes the child to venture forth and reach for what it wants. When fear strikes, the child runs back to Mom until comforted enough to venture forth and indulge curiosity again.
Security and the urge to transcend limitations are two basic drives throughout life at every level from personal to social to global. They are the push and pull principles, the tension between entropy and enthalpy, the physical forces that impel an object to stay at rest until propelled into movement. With apologies to scientists for those gross characterizations, the principles pertain. Humans are filled with boundless energy that explodes when repressed or curtailed. When harnessed, that energy makes transformative art or transforms the world.
In the first two decades of the 21st century, the global world saw an enormous explosion of stored entropic energy into chaotic enthalpic action. A global pandemic raged to fuel social divides. Coups erupted and threatened in the most stable of the world’s near-200 countries. Autocracies kept an iron-fisted control over subjects while technology connected both the people hungering to go forward and those who wanted to stay with the well-known but stale world of the circumscribed past.
The status quo that was upended by the 9/11 attack on the US superpower pitted the western industrialized world against terrorists based in the Islamic east. The ensuing military-based mix of the two cultures opened an avenue for change. That was not in the direction of entropy or retreat to old methods but to enthalpy, the determination to have freedom, especially by those who’d had the least power.
By the 21st century, great strides were made in the western industrialized world to empower women. But women who grew up empowered by the circumstance of conflict as In much of the Islamic east, it was an affront to be deemed in need of empowerment. In the age of the internet, the women who went through a war protecting their children and taking up arms when husbands died knew there was support for them somewhere out in the world.
Men who knew they could rely on women to be their partners would never turn into the Taliban who had to steal wives to keep their way of life going along in entropy. Likewise, leaders at any level of government were secure only when they knew they were acting to move their people forward instead of keeping them suppressed into old ways.
Poets, Writer, Tweeters
Writers are a breed apart from other folks. Like those who practice any art, writers are a charmed subspecies. They are forever children. They see the world as a gestalt whole while other adults learn to segment their lives to be socially useful. Artists find new ways of looking at life to make life more meaningful for others. Writers do this with the precision of words.
The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the diffrence between lightening and a lightening bug, the American humorist Mark Twain reportedly said. He made that observation while recording his impressions of the age in which he lived.
Twain was born in the border state of Missouri as the young America was liberating slaves through a civil war. With that question settled, Twain turned his attention to the new American identity forming apart from its European roots. In a global world 150 years later, those roots are newly entwining to insure world security with the democracy Amerca adapted from forebears.
Like Twain, Fogarassy records her view of the tumultuous world in which she lives. The surprising factor is the degree to which elements remain the same the more that conditions change.
Fogarassy was born into post WWII Communist Hungary. The family was forced to flee after a 1956 revolution against oppression was put down by Russian Soviet tanks. The Iron Curtain across half Europe came down in 1989 and the Soviet Union itself collapsed two years after that. Yet 30 years later, Russia began rebuilding its evil empire by invading Ukraine. A new American president united European allies in aid of Ukraine’s fight against invasion, but a new form of tyranny had those countries in its grip.
As in Fogarassy’s case, forced migrations were not new in the 21st century. The novelty was the added complexity of racial distinction. In the threatening age of globalization, the racial factor became highly politicized.
From the Euro-American perspective, it seemed the rich western industrialized powers were hell bent on creating gated communities to protect themselves. Through a broader lens, all cultures are proud and protective of their heritage.
Economic dominence, military might & industrial strength are critical factors in a country’s global standing. But good will & willingness to cooperate are equally important for success in tackling global challenges like climate, health, food and freedom to live and communicate.
Enduring values are the ones that interest internatiolist writer Fogarassy. With good will as the umbrella virtue, immense changes are manageable if honor, ritual and respect are part of the
Career practitioners of any art are the lucky ones in a society. They are free spirits, dedicated to self expression. Unfortunately at present, society does not recognize artists as central to its soul. The Covid pandemic may have sparked a revolution in the direction of art.
Isolated in a series of shutdowns, people deprived of routine distractions found life empty. Pre-pandemic jobs were boring and not worth the security that servitude offered. The creative seed had seemingly found fertile ground but society had to till the soil if the flower was to flourish.
A Google search shows creativity as synonymous with innovation and its value is measured by income. A search for social and cultural creativity brings up a whole slate of different countries, half of them with emerging economies. Perhaps this current divergence in values points to a happy future world with art having a central role in the soul of each country.
For such a change to occur, the west would venture forth from its current tech comfort zone. The United States in particular would drop its disdain for intellectual pusuits. Liberal arts degrees would be promoted as much as MBAs and they would be mainstreamed so as to free the intelligent from their current Ivory Tower prisons. Most importantly from the perspective of a writer, the current social media dumpsite would take on meaning.
Mark Twain and Ernest Hemingway were just two of the many writers throughout the ages who stressed the importance of experience to writing. “Write what you know,” Twain advised. In today’s highly structured society, independent experience is a hair-raising venture.
Churchhill once said that success is the ability to go from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm. By that measure, a writer becomes good at the craft by chasing daily success in the form of faith in the process despite the lack of external acknowledgment. Writing a tweet can take little or much effort. Only the writer knows whether the words conveyed the idea intended. Number of follows, retweets or responses bear little or no relevance to the writing.
As an expression of thoughts and feelings. writing is iniquely poised for precision. A writer knows when the sweet spot has been hit. When it hits that same spot in thr reader, eureka!
In the social media age, words fight through jungles before that mutual sweet spot is hit. By then, those wordsa have already made the laborious trek from mind and heart to the screen. Alas, evidence is scant that many writers brave the rigors of honing words to great precision. Yet the classics prove the value of the effort, however tedius the reading by modern standards. “To be or not to be” is as relevant as ever.
Scholars, students and esoterics read the classics. They are a joy to know. Those who write in the classic mode are in for a hard struggle. Posting on social media calls for suspending all the the rules that help a writer express deep thoughts and feelings.