• People Talk and My Ear Bleeds


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    Tuesday, June 26, 2007

    Societal Maturity

    In today's world, the elephant in the middle of the room is Mature Responsibility. There it sits, huge, unmoving, affecting everything and everyone that moves into and out of the room -- and nobody will address it.

    People clamor from both sides, "Let me live my own life! Let us govern ourselves!" but little importance is placed on actions.

    Look at soccer. Across the world, hooliganism infects and destroys perfectly good matches like a virulent virus. The latest example of such stupid immaturity happened yesterday in Argentina. Fans unhappy with a referee's call in the 2-1 Tigre win over Nueva Chicago, stormed the field. People threw rocks, swung metal pipes, and torched a bus. One man died, fourteen were injured, and 78 people arrested. Security was overwhelmed and had to be backed up by police shooting rubber bullets and tear gas.

    This should go without saying, but soccer is a SPORT! Sure we all love to watch it--the artistry and power that accompany truly great soccer is a beauty to behold--but ultimately, win or lose, we all go home and live our lives. We go back to work, love, play, and live. Never has soccer reached the importance that we must kill over it, and definitely not at some small game merely deciding the relegation of a team to the second league. If people can't control themselves watching a match, they shouldn't be given the luxury of watching it. Italy did this a couple months ago. If fans are going to act like children, then governing bodies will have to treat them as such.

    But this incident is just a harbinger of larger manifestations of the elephant in our world room. Iraqis want control of their own destiny, yet they continue to kill each other. More innocent Iraqis are killed every day than American troops or terrorists. The country has split in two in many places, Shi'a against Sunni, because people can't maturely put down their weapons of war, quell their emotions, put aside their differences and work for a peaceful compromise and future.

    The situation is similar in Palestine. After Palestine achieves semi-recognition in the international community, and Hamas wins a general election and gains a stake in the democratic future of their country, they throw it away, killing people, stomping on Yasser Arafat's picture, and controlling the Gaza strip--effectively splitting the small Palestinian state in half. Why? Because they didn't have the patience to continue gaining political power through democratic means, they didn't believe in the ability of the people to choose for themselves, they didn't believe in a joint West Bank-Gaza Palestine?

    America's idealistic view doesn't help. We seem to think that every child is perfectly capable of obeying those most basic sandbox rules--the ones your mother taught you while you played in the sandbox at the park: have patience, share, and no hitting/biting. However, children who know no education, no discipline, seen no prior example, find it hard to share toys when the situation arises. So too Americans think Palestine and Iraq should be able to govern themselves, yet the more autonomy they are given, the less they seem to be able to manage it.

    In both Iraq and Palestine, as in Argentine soccer yesterday, people have shown an paucity of those most basic sandbox rules. If you didn't follow those rules, mom took away the privilege to play with your toys in the sandbox until you could show you were fit to play again. Since people in Argentina, Iraq, and Palestine can't seem to follow the rules either, perhaps they need their toys and sandbox taken away too.


    xanghevn said...

    Whoa, I can't believe you just hinted that soccer should be taken away from anyone at all, let alone Argentina. I know you love the sport like crazy.

    I agree that those peoples that lack societal maturity need to grow up, or maybe take a forty-year time out in the wilderness, but the question is, who administers this consequence? When a child needs learning or discipline, it's obvious who must do the teaching: the parents. But what about a whole group of people, ethnicity or nation? There are natural consequences to their actions (in all the above examples, people died), but why are these consequences not effectively fulfilling their purpose in teaching the people a lesson? When will those people learn? Or are they ready to learn? Maybe 40 years isn't long enough any more.

    I'm looking forward to your recommended places of eating. I'll be back in Saigon in a week, if all goes well. We've already missed a train Hue. :( Take care.

    ps Co Phuong and Chu Dat say hello.

    Triet said...

    I will respond to the eateries on your blog or in another post.

    I love your question -- it hits to the heart of the stumbling block.

    "Who administers this consequence?"

    Because international politics is a multi-layered affair, the answer is: too many people, and everyone wants a piece of the pie. With Argentina, there are two answers:

    1. The group who controls soccer in Argentina
    2. FIFA

    If 1 can't do it then 2 must. Clearly they have jurisdiction and nobody else need enter.

    But Iraq and Palestine are different. Again there are two answers:

    1. UN
    2. USA

    You could argue a third--any other country--but we'll start here. Most countries would like to see the UN lead. Since they are not strong enough to be the #2 option, they want to use their positions and influence in the United Nations to determine the outcome.

    This is a good option because it gives everyone a say, minimizing backlash on any one particular country if reconstruction moves in path it supported but others opposed. It also allows the weight of the world's wealth and resources to be used (theoretically) to tackle the situation.

    However, the United Nations is far too large to achieve any meaningful results. Never, in the history of the world, has the UN successfully rebuilt a country. Even the Balkans fight was mostly NATO, not UN.

    The second option is the United States. This option is favorable because you have a single country directing rebuilding efforts, which makes things move quicker. You also have the spread of core American values --importance of life, liberty, pursuit of happiness--including respect for the individual and support of a free market economy.

    However, if the US takes the lead, it makes the US a lightning rod for any mistakes made during the effort, which damages US credibility. It also taxes the resources of a country that has large problems with its socialized systems (medicare/medicaid, social security), medical system, and budget.

    Finally, perhaps the true reason is the third reason: Vacuums. Because world politics is an open system, there can be no power vacuum in the world. Any absence of power will be immediately filled. Lawlessness in Iraq and Palestine demonstrate an absence of power on a macro level. If the US doesn't fill that space, it will be filled by the next fastest and strongest player. This could be China, Iran, Russia, France, Hamas, Al Qaeda, or India (to name a few).

    The Middle East offers a strategic location for projection of power throughout Asia, holds large fuel reserves, and is a hotbed for anti-western thought and terror training. The ability to do the first, control the second, and eliminate the third are reasons enough for any country to fill the vacuum. If that will happen, I'd much rather have one with America's ideals than China/Iran/Russia.

    Will people like it? No. No kid ever likes his/her toys taken away. Will it make America look good? Not in the short run. No kid likes his/her parent when the toy is taken. It's only years later, as an adult, that the former child realizes the wisdom of the parent. Will it be painless? No. Any child who loses a toy cries, throws a temper tantrum, etc.

    Why are the consequences not effectively teaching people a lesson? Because the child has such little experience and memory that prior unhappy results are pridefully determined to be aberrations.

    Is 40 years long enough? Probably. Once a child's childhood is behind him, and he's had proper education, the new adult is usually able to make informed, intelligent decisions. Just like in the Bible, where it took 40 years to purge the Israelites before they could enter Israel, after 40 years, the generation leading a country is one brought up and educated in the leader's ideals, and those who know and believe the old tenets are marginalized.