Politics is a means to getting what you want. It is also the imposition of ideas on others. But as the psychiatrist Irvin Yalom has suggested, “hyper-intention” produces an outcome that is opposite to the one that is sought. It is often better to take a laissez faire approach to life instead of intervening and making matters worse. As the saying goes: “Let go, and let God.”
One of my professors in college who taught economics made an interesting closing argument to his lectures. Even though I was a freshman at the time, his argument stuck in my mind ever since that lecture, and it is a focal point of this particular essay. His argument was that the difference between the economics of heaven and the economics of earth is that the former is based on abundance, whereas the latter is based on scarcity.
Everything we were ever taught in political theory, economic theory, and international relations theory is based on a zero-sum psychosocial paradigm and a model based on scarcity. In turn, the zero-sum paradigm and the scarcity model is driving all of our thoughts, words, and actions. Are we in fact fated to a zero-sum paradigm based on the condition of scarcity or can abundance really be achieved on earth? Eastern thought paradigms and spiritual traditions argue that there is abundance amidst scarcity and that there is a positive-sum paradigm amidst the illusion of a zero-sum paradigm in politics and international relations that manifests into a “clash of clans” scenario based on scarcity.
It is believed that if the zero-sum paradigm based on scarcity changes within the subconscious mind through education, so does reality. The idea that reality changes along with a change in the subconscious paradigm is the basic premise of the famous book titled “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill. What undergirded Hill’s basic argument was the idea that one can simply imagine and think their way into success and wealth. Moreover, the basic rationale behind education is to be self-critical and to change the subconscious paradigm, as suggested by Canadian businessman Bob Proctor.
One can argue that the zero-sum paradigm and the scarcity model is a lie, and this point can be inferred from the never-ending supply of oil and water in the Arabian Peninsula. Ultimately, the freshwater industry will be one of the most lucrative, if not the most lucrative, industries in the world, and Saudi Arabia stands to gain from it in the end. It is believed that the city of Sana’a, Yemen’s capital, might be the first world capital to run out of freshwater in approximately twenty years. Without regional cooperation in the Arabian Peninsula, humanitarian crises like the one in Yemen will only get worse. Basically, everything we were ever taught in the Dewey mass education system and in universities was based on a faulty paradigm. As Epicurus said, self-education is the best education.
The difference between a zero-sum paradigm based on scarcity and a paradigm based on abundance stems from the contrast between a deterministic and mechanistic view of the world versus an existential and spiritual view of the world. The former is the majority view of the world, and the latter is a minority view. But it does not mean that the majority is correct. Samuel Huntington, in “The Clash of Civilizations,” suggested that there are five theories as to how the world operates.
For one, there is the theory that the world is in harmony and that one day all countries will become liberal democracies, thus ushering in a global democratic peace as espoused by Fukuyama. Second, there is the orientalist theory where the West is superior to all other regions of the world and as a result other parts of the world are dependent on the West. Third is realist theory where the juxtaposition of armed and independent states means all states are vying for power on a level playing field. Fourth is the civilizational theory of the world where various civilizations such as the West, Russia, Islam, and China are all seeking global eminence. Finally, there is chaos theory where the world is in a chaotic state due to the anarchic nature of the world and in turn renders the need for order.
Neither of the theories are fully valid. Huntington himself espoused the civilizational view of the world, but as Kissinger wrote in a somewhat prophetic manner in a book titled “Diplomacy,” the world is no longer shaped by East-West relations but instead is dependent on what he called the “natural evolution” of the world in the 21st century. In fact, the clash between the East and the West has now been replaced with the clash between humans and the coronavirus. The civilizational theory of the world that Huntington espoused is due to the West’s impulse to start a fight that no one else wants.
Defense contractors have also cooked up pretexts for regime change in various countries which in turn leads to a power vacuum that can only be filled by mafia groups and terror syndicates. Now, however, is not the right time to start fights due to the economic plight of people inside of the United States as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. In realist theory, the inward focus of strengthening oneself before going back out into the world is known as “internal balancing.” Focusing inward is not only a pragmatic choice, but it is also a national security imperative.
There are three core national security objectives that must be accomplished by all countries, and unfortunately, the United States is failing on all three fronts. The first is to preserve one’s political independence, which is now compromised due to the influence of lobbying and special interests largely through the mechanism set up by the Supreme Court case known as Citizens United. Second, it is imperative to secure the territorial integrity of the United States through the enforcement of what is known as the “Monroe Doctrine.”
Yet, Russian and Chinese security forces are swarming all over the Western Hemisphere, particularly in Cuba and Venezuela, thus jeopardizing American national security. And third is the maintenance of economic viability, which is under assault by the coronavirus pandemic. The worship of charts, graphs, and “data” will not help unless it is backed by innovative thinking and the re-shaping of the paradigm that is driving the current global situation.
Yet, despite the chaos, George Bernard Shaw had proclaimed that everything is settled, except for the weather. As Jean-Paul Sartre proclaimed, everything is settled except for the question of how to live. The lack of an answer is what prompts curiosity and rational inquiry. According to Odd Arne Westad, the battle of the 21st century is between what he called “the haves” versus “the have-nots.”
What the prominent entrepreneur and philanthropist Ray Dalio called “the economic machine” is now broken down and the question is how will it be fixed. As suggested in a previous essay, governments and elites will have to devise a global safety net to absorb future shocks like the one we are facing today. Whether we are propounding a priori concepts and ideas or whether these are ideas gained through experience does not mitigate the need for these ideas. The free flow of ideas and creativity will be the means to overcoming conventional wisdom and thinking that has gotten us into such a dire situation.
America is a country that is largely isolated from the old world and is not accustomed nor acclimated to old world corruption. But to make an impact on the old world and to prevent the spillover of old-world chaos, lies, and corruption into America, there is a need for someone with immense cultural and emotional intelligence who is also “spiritually connected” with Eurasia in the words of Kissinger. Although George Kennan was a nativist and an American to the bone, he studied the Russian mind and had intuitive knowledge as to what constitutes the Russian psyche, thus enabling Kennan to leave a mark on the history of U.S. foreign policy. Cornel West attributed the downturn in global stability to what he called a “love deficit.”
Emerson wrote the following about the lover: “The lover has no talent, no skill, which passes for quite nothing with his enamored maiden, however little she may possess of related faculty.” Emerson also wrote that revelation is the disclosure of the soul, thus necessitating a serious focus on philosophical and spiritual thinking linked to Eastern discourse to get out of an empirical crisis. As Carl Jung wrote: “We seek the effective images, the thought-forms that satisfy the restlessness of the heart and mind, and we find the treasures of the East.” The ink of a scholar is worth a thousand times more than the blood of a martyr.
Leadership is where wisdom ought to reside, but leaders are also misled by the aforementioned thought paradigm that is based on a lie. For one, development is an endemic process guided by a nation’s leaders, and it is not something that can be exported to other countries from the West. Foreign aid leads to corruption as we learned from our experience in Afghanistan, not development. Also, the intent behind foreign aid is perhaps to weaken the recipient state through a corrupting influence such as aid in order to render the recipient state subservient to the donor state. These actions are prompted by a subconscious state of insecurity and decline.
As Kissinger wrote in “Diplomacy,” an empire in decline will clash with adversaries that seek to take advantage of weakness in the “imperial center” in addition to reasserting authority over the periphery. With Israel undergoing a negative migration rate under Netanyahu that will render Judaism a global community rather than a local community as well as the rising tensions between the United States and China resulting from the “Asia Pivot” in the South China Sea, the United States is very much displaying symptoms of an empire in decline.
Michael Lind suggested that American history will undergo a total of five epochs: green environmentalism, isolationism, globalism, populism, and social democracy. With the incurred costs of global empire that led to today’s populism, social democracy may rise in America sometime in the near future. Decline is also the result of deviating from a basic criterion of policymaking outlined by Kissinger:
- Diplomacy based on honor and ethics
- Balancing competing definitions of national interests and creating a power equilibrium
- Principled leadership
- Defining and then balancing against common threats, which can never be done unilaterally
- Developing individual energies, arguments, and opinions that eventually lead to world peace
Diplomacy is thus contingent upon multilateral efforts towards peace. As Sir Winston Churchill once admonished: “The only hope for the world is the agreement of the Great Powers. If they quarrel, our children are undone.” The United States has tried to incorporate diplomacy as a function of its expansive military establishment, only to fail.
Militaries trigger what is known as a “security dilemma.” Militaries do not foster an environment for diplomacy. Effective diplomacy is in conjunction with gradual disarmament and de-nuclearization efforts. The issue with the biggest global implications that remains unresolved is the role of China in the international community as well as the status of Taiwan, which can only be resolved through compromise and diplomacy. As Kissinger said, you must do away with emotions in politics and make difficult decisions for the sake of a broader outcome aimed at global stability.
Nevertheless, global transformation is occurring at a rapid pace due to “creative destruction” and the unleashing of what is known as “Schumpeter’s Gale” by Adam Smith’s “Invisible Hand.” It is the mystery of existence that will prompt significant changes to our world in due time. Many people cannot convey the truth because of a paycheck, but as the Holy Quran tells us, those who tell the truth will in the end have all that they wish for. Truth is not only important, but it is in fact vital, given the fact that the entire universe was built on a singular truth. If the universe was based on a lie, everything would fall apart. Most people settle for a state of moral relativism instead of engaging in a persistent search for the truth, but it is in fact this complacency that is arguably the cause of today’s problems.
Opinions can be relative. But the truth cannot be relative because the relativity of truth would mean nothing true exists when in fact existence and the historical process is based on a particular truth. Without truth, there would be no purpose to rational inquiry and intellectualism would be a sham. Due to the prevailing state of moral relativism, it is becoming difficult to expect people to abide by a basic modicum of goodness. It is difficult to ask folks to simply do good and be good. This is why the inner struggle of being good is tougher than the outer struggle of changing the world. You have to be the change that you seek in the world.
The world does not need us in order for change and progress to occur. Nature can simply wipe us out of existence. However, when truth becomes a sacrificial lamb for material gain, the world begins to fall apart as has been the case over the past twenty years. We are in this current pandemic because of a lack of truth. To make matters worse, the mainstream media is based on a single operational model, which is to miss the woods for the trees and to avoid the big picture by perpetuating muckraking and the practice of yellow journalism. As a result, most people are misled and they lack the most basic form of sustenance for humanity, which is the truth. As the Christian prayer commands: “Forgive them Father, for they do not know.”
Yet, everything is just right and everything is the way that it is supposed to be. If things were not the way they are supposed to be, the situation would be exponentially worse than it is currently. “Cognitive restructuring” is in essence adaptation, in the sense that one accepts the fact that things are the way they are supposed to be rather than maintaining a normative and subjective approach to reality. Adaptation is the primary means to survival, and it is now more important than ever to adapt to our new reality. The world has to be reimagined in order for the human race to persist. As Einstein said, imagination is greater than knowledge, because knowledge is limited whereas imagination has no bounds and it is the main determinant of one’s reality.
Furthermore, our era of poststructuralism means nothing is original. Everything is a reconstruction of past texts and words that is put forth in novel ways. What matters is persuasion, and according to Cicero, there are four elements of persuasion: memory, arrangement, style, and delivery. If you say something, it means it has been said before. Thus, the theory of diminishing marginal utility is at play and is mitigating the attraction of books and literature now being proliferated on a massive scale.
Our only salvation is through what Kierkegaard called “a leap of faith.” As Rumi wrote: “I did what Muhammad did – I closed my eyes to both the world and the hereafter.” The purpose then becomes one of “seeking the face of God” as put forth by the Islamic tradition. This is the moral and ethical standard we expect our leaders to meet. Knowledge and information are important as long as they are converted to wisdom through contemplation and prayer.
Knowledge and information without contemplation and prayer can serve as the instruments of evil. Wisdom leads to a sort of detachment from the world, which in turn leads to the attainment of what the Chinese call “Tao.” Everything one desires is attainable through the attainment of “Tao.” The world is merely a testing ground aimed at distinguishing those who believe in the truth from those who do not. Without this insight, the lament described in this poem will persist:
“Oh! If only all men were wise,
And all of them meant well!
The earth to them would be paradise,
But now it is mostly hell.”
The antidote to this hellish state, according to the poet Khalilullah Khalili, is nothing but belief:
“The heart of the Believer,
Disdains fear of stormy events.
The Believer’s heart knows
Only one ship captain: God.”