What Are People NOT Discussing? / by Kendall R


Chess tutorial
Originally uploaded by Ali Tse
Most of the in depth information I accumulate in the world comes through various podcasts I listen to while running. The rest comes from life experience or the Internets. I discovered a synthesis of all three while listening to Bob Edwards interview George Friedman, founder of STRATFOR. For whatever choreography of coincidences, listening to this interview felt like stepping out of a barrage, a rain storm into a momentary alcove of Big Picture perspective.

I have been a subscriber in some shape or form to Friedman’s STRATFOR for a few years. In essence, it is intelligence reports for the private citizen. They write global analysis of nearly any international incident or hotspot, and they are scary accurate. When you read what STRATFOR has to say about the latest tensions in Israel and compare it to what little hyped-up info blitz you get from any of the news networks on the same subject, you start seeing just how much a waste of time most news really is. The usual news outlets tend to focus on the hype, whereas an intelligence report looks at all the moving pieces in any given situation. The cable/network news tends to focus on what’s happening right now and hardly ever gives thought to whether or not “Now” matters in the context of what’s come before and what will come later. STRATFOR seems to always ask “what does this latest incident have to do with the bigger picture on the regional and global scale, and with the future?”

So, running along listening to Friedman talk about his new book, ”The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century,” I was already in for the long haul when Edwards quoted this from his book: ”Geopolitics teaches us that there are a few things that are unprecedented, and few opportunities for changing the game. Presidents and recessions come and go, but the long processes that truly change our lives are still there and they are not always the things that people are expecting or discussing.”

Which provokes the question: What are the things that I am not expecting? What are the things that people are NOT discussing?

Throughout the interview, Friedman gives his educated guess (and a highly educated one at that) as to what and where things will matter in the years to come – be it economically, geopolitically, and even where the next big wars might be. It’s not some wingnut’s speculation. It’s more like a chess-pro who sees the world as a chessboard, thinking numerous moves ahead of the “Next” move.

For instance, is China the threat that our current fever pitch would like us to think it is? ”China’s not a very serious country…according to Chinese figures 600 million Chinese out of 1.3 billion live on $3/day per household; another 440 million live in households earning between $3-$6/day. In other words, China on the whole is a country that has a standard of living equivalent to that of sub-Sahara Africa. There is a part of China where people earn more than $20,000/year and that is 60 million people… less than 6% of China. We obsess over those 60 million… when we think of China it is very important to think of the 95% which is an extraordinarily poor country and where unemployment means starvation – not that your 401k plan is in trouble.” And that is just one part of the few pieces in play with regards to China. A big part and probably something you nor I never really consider when we think of China and its impact on our lives.

It is a bit clinical in approach – looking at data and making speculations based off such data. It is mostly absent of any moral response or considerations – as in, why are we not appalled and moved to “do something” about the fact that most of China is starving? It’s complicated. Far more complicated than we would like to give it time to be. And this is just one country out of the whole world, regardless of how big it is.

By the end of my run, and well after the interview ended, it was as if someone smacked me across the head and reminded me that there is far, far more going on than I know, that we live in a large world that has numerous pieces that make up the whole – entities that I have no control over no matter how much I would like to delude myself into thinking I do. And it’s not so much an abdication and surrender to the powers that be, but a chance to breathe easy, remember my place and part and keep asking the questions about what no one seems to be discussing.

In case you missed the link, you can hear the interview: HERE