Haunted by the Ghosts of the 20th Century
I was amused to read that the Oxford English Dictionary now has two definitions of La-La Land. The first is “la-la land can refer either to Los Angeles (in which case its etymology is influenced by the common initialism for that city)…” I love it! If I lived in LA, I would embrace it! Take that, Big Apple!
But it’s the second definition that is relevant today, “…or to a state of being out of touch with reality”.
As an American citizen living outside the United States, I was frustrated, then disappointed, then dismayed, then angered, now disgusted as the “leadership” of the American people failed and continues to fail to explain the situation resulting from the global financial crisis, discuss the grave dangers to everyone if it goes unaddressed, and then present the painful steps that had to be taken to deal with it (the plan), followed by updates and, as almost certainly necessary, modifications to the plan.
Forget it. Didn’t happen. Isn’t happening. Election year, you know. Can’t do anything that might cost votes and, after this many years of neglect, the pain of a real plan is not a politician’s idea of a platform.
It brings to mind that old cliché, “Show me the money!” or, if you want to stick to politics and go way back, “Where’s the meat?”
Yes, indeed. Where’s the money? Where’s the meat?
Too many Americans depend on the ghosts of the 20th century. Liberals talk about the 60′s as if they weren’t half a century ago. Conservatives do the same with the 80′s. The 20th century is dead and over. It will never come back. We are well into the second decade of the 21st century and the ghosts of the 20th century are just that…ghosts. What is true in the US is even truer of Europe. For them, perhaps it is the ghosts of the 19th century, or even the 18th, but they have their ghosts too.
Those ghosts of the past are only illusions. They can’t help us and they can’t hurt us, but we can hurt ourselves if they take our attention away from what we know needs to be done. To do it successfully, Americans or Europeans alike, we need above-average, way above-average, leadership and we don’t have it.
This is not a matter of a single leader or single party or single nation, it is truly trans-Atlantic. It is not a matter of good or bad leadership so much as it is a matter of world-class mediocrity, neither good enough nor bad enough to unite us.
I live in Panama, a nation whose economy has grown steadily at rates far above those in the Old World of North America and Europe for years, straight through the global financial crisis. With a 2011 real GDP growth rate of 10.6%, it ranked 6th globally. But Panama is not alone. Nations that were once considered “basket cases” are forging ahead, ranging from Ghana (13.6% real GDP growth rate in 2011, ranking fourth globally) to Mongolia (17.3%, ranking second globally).
I looked through the CIA Factbook’s list of nations ranked by real GDP growth rate, intent on finding a nation from North America or Europe, and finally found one – Estonia at 21st. Then Lithuania at 46th. Then Latvia at 58th and I begin to wonder if a larger nation that is undeniably European is ever going to pop up and it does. Poland at 85th. As for North America, forget it. If you accept Mexico as part of North America, it comes in at 99th and Canada follows at 132nd. The US? Oh, it’s there…162nd.
One of the more pathetic jokes of the 21st century is to refer to the nations of North America and Europe as “Advanced Market Economies”. If this is “advanced”, the rest of us will settle for “emerging” and be very happy.
Now in my 46th year as an American working and living overseas, I am appalled by what I read from up north. The one good thing I can say about this “kicking the can down the road” nonsense is that it is giving everyone else in the world the opportunity to forge new partnerships with each other as their economies grow. North America and Europe will continue to be major markets, but they fade in significance each year. We outside aren’t doing it to them. They are doing it to themselves. We simply have to tear our eyes off the North Atlantic and their ghosts of “First World past”, and get on with it.
But get on with what? Your own life. If you are waiting for the self-anointed political and economic leadership to point the way, settle in for a long wait. The rest of the world isn’t waiting. They have lives worth looking forward to and they’re busy living them. They let their ghosts rest in peace. You and I need to do the same.
There is a very exciting and dynamic world out there. The North Atlantic is just a small region when you step back and take a real look. This world is full of opportunities. They don’t fall off some tree, somewhere, they have to be sought, found, and worked for. If you have an “attitude” because you’re from the US, Canada, or Europe, stay home. After years of seeing the northerners chasing their own tails, getting a bite every once in awhile, then crying in pain…again and again and again, any claim to superiority is a joke.
But if flexibility and adaptability are strong points for you and you are willing to step down from that old “First World” pedestal, suck it up, and work with everyone as equals, you have a shot at a better life and a better future. If not, stay home and keep chasing that tail! Don’t worry, you’ll sink your teeth into it eventually.
This is the first of several commentaries I will be posting on this topic. But one warning. I am not here to “sell” any nation, investment, or philosophy. You can do your own shopping, but I do hope to offer you good reasons to shop.
I write when time allows. This is as much a “personal notebook” for my use as I work on ideas than anything else, but the public is very welcome. If you wish to be notified of new posts, just enter your email address at the upper-right of this page. I have no use for email addresses. I already have too many in my “address book”. Rest assured, yours will be kept private.