June 21st, 2024

Guest Column: Global ‘china shop’ teetering

By Medicine Hat News Opinon on June 16, 2018.

A bull in a china shop. I’ve puzzled over that phrase for years. Why would someone bring a bull into a china shop? What is a china shop anyway? And how would you ever get that bull into or out of that shop?

In recent days I’ve come to understand the concept of the china shop — a delicately balanced, intricately interwoven display of glittering glass, silky ceramics and filigreed fineries on frail shelving not to be bumped into. Like a row of dominos, if one shelf begins to waver, the entire shop is in danger of catastrophic collapse. And the work of hundreds of artisans and caretakers is reduced to tears.

I’ve also come to a closer understanding of the bull in that china shop. Uncomfortably bulky, fatally short-sighted, narrowly single-minded, easily confused, and unable to adjust to his new reality — the china shop rather than the breeding pen. What could go wrong?

It is not a stretch to see the post-Second World War world as this china shop. Delicately balanced alliances between superpowers led to nuclear non-proliferation treaties. Other arms control/reduction measures, trade agreements and international attempts at cooperation have all been recognized features of a post-war world designed to improve the lives of earthlings and ensure a lasting future for this rock we call earth.

By and large, leaders of nations and empires have respected this fragile and beautiful balance, this global china shop. But there have occasionally been untended dogs or adventurous raccoons who have careened through the aisles of the shop. The Korean and Vietnam Wars, crises in the Middle East and South and Central America, all shook the shelves.

The present crises in the Islamic world, Russian adventurism, Chinese economic ascendency and the refugee issues further threaten the structures in the china shop. But little by little, crises have been and are being managed. Agreements and compromises and established protocol are in place to deal with dogs and raccoons and to protect our fragile international structures.

But now, out of the darkness of the American Heartland, comes a raging bull, slouching towards Armageddon. He is cheered on by angry voters, the “religious right,” myopic populism and belly-button nationalism. And his handlers, the Republican senators, have dropped the reins. The bull now stands at the door.

Follow the hoofprints of this bull. The Paris Accord abandoned; the NAFTA talks stalled by unpalatable demands, lies and exaggerations; the G7 Summit derailed, and the prime minister of Canada undiplomatically called “weak and dishonest,” accused of “bad faith diplomacy”; unjustified tariffs on steel and aluminum imposed on the basis of national security; the Singapore Summit with Kim Jong Un, a pointless show of camaraderie between two egomaniacs, one of whom gave up nothing but gained his dream to be seen as human on the international stage. The other gained nothing except the worry of his allies in the Pacific — South Korea, Japan, Australia, and others.

Isn’t it odd that this leader plays footsy with his new best pals, two unprincipled and dangerous dictators, while vigorously attacking his long-term economic, military and political allies?

The only apparent good coming out of G7 is that, for the first time in a generation, the House of Commons momentarily stopped its partisan bickering and unanimously passed a motion supporting our prime minister against crude and ignorant bullying by the world’s most unstable and intellectually challenged bull.

An historian, Miranda Carter, recently wrote a book about the single most important person responsible for causing the First World War in 1914, Kaiser Wilhelm II. Writing in The New Yorker, June 6, 2018, she said, “The Kaiser viewed other people in instrumental terms, was a compulsive liar, and seemed to have a limited understanding of cause and effectÉHe cultivated a special severe facial expression for public occasions and photographs.” She quoted him as saying, “There is only one person who is master in this empire and I am not going to tolerate any other.”

The similarities are interesting. And frightening. This president of the U.S. has been quotedas saying, “I’m the only one that matters”and clearly he believes it. Miranda Carter concludes by saying, “If international conflict is around the corner, it would seem that you really don’t want a narcissist in control of a global power.”

Two different time periods, two similar bulls, and only one fragile china shop. Heaven help us.

Peter Mueller is a long-time resident of Medicine Hat who, in spite of all the evidence, continues to believe we can build a better world.

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