Recently I was watching a talk about the meaning of Chinese chopsticks. When it comes to two sticks you put in your mouth what is there to talk about? I have never seen a video about forks go viral.
It turns out that when your culture is thousands of years old, a lot of meaning gets attached to everyday objects. Everything from the length and shape of the chopsticks to the way they are held and used is underpinned by hundreds and hundreds of years of philosophy. Yes, there is an extensive philosophy connected to chopsticks.
That got me thinking about all the depth, connections, and history that can develop when a culture grows over thousands of years. Then I compared our current globally dominant modern culture which is as shallow as the wet sheen on a windshield after the wiper goes by.
For me, the evidence of this shallowness is the lack of respect for humanity, community, history, and wisdom. All of these things are being sacrificed on the altar of commerce, power, and self-interest. I have been thinking about these things as I watch Israel destroy itself. President Biden warned Israel with references to 9/11. The warnings as yet go unheeded. Tourism to Israel is down 90%. Israelis in the north and south have been evacuated from their homes, living in hotels and rented apartments for which the government is paying around $4,000 a month. Tourist areas are a ghost town and shops are on the verge of closing.
But I am not singling out Israel.
President Biden rushed to the middle east to hug a fascist and vowed to help and to continue to help paying for the bloodshed. Bad enough, but the really bad part is how the President cavalierly upped the financial support and claimed the U.S. would have no problem backing two wars. And oh yeah, defend shipping across the globe from Iran, the Houthis, AND Somali pirates. Meanwhile, the entire American leadership has its shoulders permanently around their ears from shrugging over South American immigration to the U.S.
I don’t think I need to expound on Vladimir Putin, or the leadership of countries like Venezuela, Brazil, the U.K., Hungary, North Korea, and others.
I look on bemused at the hubris and the egotistical overconfidence of leaders like these as they ignore the countless lessons of history. The dominant culture is so shallow and unmoored that cultural wisdom is in extremely short supply, and history is something only for academics and others of an insignificant social class who like to ‘read’ and ‘learn’ and sit alone in dusty rooms.
The one thing that at least should be studied by these leaders is war. But they don’t. Another is immigration. But they don’t. The same mistakes are made over and over, which is fine as long as the wealth and personal power of leadership remains unaffected. The great irony is that history clearly demonstrates that this approach is always temporary and fragile. Even if the aims of our shallow leadership were legitimate, the methods used to obtain them are objectively faulty – if you learn from history. Doesn’t Putin remember Finland?
I don’t agree with the bloodthirsty aims of the dominant culture. But if you are going to be a war-monger at least pick up (and read) a copy of The Art of War.