Friday, May 20, 2011

A random commentary on select extracts of President Obama's May 19th speech

[Update - 23rd May '11 - President Obama does an interview with the BBC and talks to a 'Pro-Israel' group . The facts remain the same. (another update below)]

Extracts from the United States President's speech are in italics - and are from here.

Today, I want to talk about this change -- the forces that are driving it and how we can respond in a way that advances our values and strengthens our security.

President Obama begins his speech by talking about 'advancing values and strengthening security', i.e. given the changing situation in the Middle East (and thus the Muslim world) how can the US position itself so that it is safe and secure. In other words, tis speech is about adjusting to the new global balance of power situation.

It's the same kind of humiliation that takes place every day in many parts of the world -– the relentless tyranny of governments that deny their citizens dignity.

Every person just wants to live, eat and be merry. If you make it difficult for people to live you can get away with it for a while but when people have nothing to live for, no money to spend on food AND entertainment then there will eventually be a backlash. [all use of force begets resistance - all attacks on a nations/peoples sovereignty begets resistance... more on this topic in other posts]

There are times in the course of history when the actions of ordinary citizens spark movements for change because they speak to a longing for freedom that has been building up for years.

Throughout history this has been the norm unless the leader is so tyrannical that he/she is willing to massacre whole populations. Such leaders generally meet their end by being stabbed in the back by a close associate or ally as no one can maintain a sense a loyalty under such brutality and only fear can keep the followers behind a tyrant if there is no other option that involves keeping the individual alive. Unfortunately, there is a stagnancy in society that arises from resistance to change. Sometimes because it is traumatic and other times because it requires too much work. In such times change only happens when there is momentum for this change in the citizenry of the country/world. 

In too many countries, power has been concentrated in the hands of a few.

This is also a norm in many societies. In Egypt the top people were a small group and you can see this by looking at that countries distribution of wealth (i.e. when wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few, so is power). If you did the same for the US you would notice the same thing BUT the rich are larger in number...yet the distribution of wealth between the rich and poor is drifting apart which is one of the signs that the US has moving in the wrong direction.

In too many countries, a citizen like that young vendor had nowhere to turn -– no honest judiciary to hear his case; no independent media to give him voice; no credible political party to represent his views; no free and fair election where he could choose his leader.

This is the reason why repression can't last. To live in a peaceful land you must give people their self dignity.

But in a global economy based on knowledge, based on innovation, no development strategy can be based solely upon what comes out of the ground.

The global economy is growing and with it knowledge is growing and with that technology. There are so many ideas for technology and innovation that relying on one type of energy source will soon be outdated.

Those shouts of human dignity are being heard across the region. And through the moral force of nonviolence, the people of the region have achieved more change in six months than terrorists have accomplished in decades.

The Muslim world has proven to itself that it can decide its own fate in a non violent and peaceful manner. This should be a source of great pride for people of these regions.

 In some places, change will be swift; in others, gradual.

Change happens at different rates for different reasons. In some cases fast change is good and in some cases it isn't. When it comes to emotional damage (such as that caused by a traumatic event) you have to remove the emotional charge just as suddenly as it was installed. Like pulling off a bandage.

Societies held together by fear and repression may offer the illusion of stability for a time, but they are built upon fault lines that will eventually tear asunder.

I commented on this above and will again it other posts (not necessarily on this blog).

Not every country will follow our particular form of representative democracy, and there will be times when our short-term interests don't align perfectly with our long-term vision for the region.

Every country and people have their own style of behavior and societal structures. To assume that the two party system of representative democracy, that {kinda} works in the States, could be followed anywhere is folly. The second part of the statement further reaffirms the fact that the United States (and Israel) are facing a new balance of power situation and should face this situation appropriately.

We must also build on our efforts to broaden our engagement beyond elites, so that we reach the people who will shape the future -– particularly young people. We will continue to make good on the commitments that I made in Cairo -– to build networks of entrepreneurs and expand exchanges in education, to foster cooperation in science and technology, and combat disease. Across the region, we intend to provide assistance to civil society, including those that may not be officially sanctioned, and who speak uncomfortable truths.

Investment in technology, education and increasing the wealth of a nation in a way that doesn't leave most of the money in the hands of the few is the way to economic prosperity - on a global level - and the way to a global peace.

In the 21st century, information is power, the truth cannot be hidden, and the legitimacy of governments will ultimately depend on active and informed citizens.

Enough said.


Update 26 May '11 - Extracts from here. [only notes added]

Of course, all relationships have their ups and downs. Admittedly, ours got off on the wrong foot with a small scrape about tea and taxes. There may have also been some hurt feelings when the White House was set on fire during the War of 1812. But fortunately, it's been smooth sailing ever since!

Note: "tea and taxes" is a reference to the fight over a new tax on tea that led to the American revolution.

The reason for this close friendship doesn't just have to do with our shared history and heritage; our ties of language and culture; or even the strong partnership between our governments. Our relationship is special because of the values and beliefs that have united our people through the ages.

Note: Core values unite all the worlds peoples together (see this article, this one and this one)

In a world where the prosperity of all nations is now inextricably linked, a new era of cooperation is required to ensure the growth and stability of the global economy.

Note: There has always been a need for unity in any tribe or national but now the world has become so integrated the whole planet needs to learn to work together.

In other words, we live in a global economy that is largely of our own making. And today, the competition for the best jobs and industries favors countries that are free-thinking and forward-looking; countries with the most creative, innovative, entrepreneurial citizens.

Note: In todays world of advancing technology and information, being creative in ideas, innovation and business is the key to short and long term success. 

But in today's economy, such threats can no longer be contained within the borders of any one country. Market failures can go global, and go viral, and demand international responses. A financial crisis that began on Wall Street infected nearly every continent, which is why we must keep working through forums like the G20 to put in place global rules of the road to prevent future excess and abuse. 

Note: Read "Too big to fail" and this one.

Moreover, even when the free market works as it should, both our countries recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, hard times or bad luck, a crippling illness or a layoff, may strike any one of us. And so part of our common tradition has expressed itself in a conviction that every citizen deserves a basic measure of security -- health care if you get sick, unemployment insurance if you lose your job, a dignified retirement after a lifetime of hard work. 

Note: Without a support system a person/population is fearful of basic survival. No human being can be creative and productive when they are just struggling to survive. Besides social support systems, proper retraining programs need to be set up to improve labor mobility between industries (particularly when switching from an outdated system to a new system) [see any econ 101 course]

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