Yesterday I finished a twelve-week discussion course about the book The Elephant and the Dragon, a Pulitzer Prize winning discussion of the rise of China and India as economic powers by Robyn Meridith. The book was well researched, rather ploddingly written and is already dated since it was published in 2007 and most of the research is from 2005.
This was the first time I've taken a current affairs/politics type course at the Academy for Lifelong Learning. As someone pointed out to me, the approximately 750 students fall into camps with little cross over: literary, political and science. I found this roomful of politically minded people thoughtful and some very well read. But I will not be taking another political type course. Politics of all kinds fill me with despair most of the time. In general individuals are ignored and overarching ideas prevail. People give to ideas, of which economics is a weighty one, an importance that overlooks ordinary people, that generalizes the life blood out of public life. I grew especially unhappy the day the emphasis fell on competitiveness and the room was full of people insisting American MUST maintain it's preeminence in the world. "We must dominate," said the woman next to me as military budgets were discussed.
Shakespeare said simply, "there is a tide in the affairs of men" ... In his day Spain was the richest and most powerful country in Europe. Soon England became an empire and "Britianica ruled"... Until it lost it's jewel in the crown in 1947 and America stepped up to dominate. We've seen the vast USSR crumble, we've seen the vast China puff up like a mushroom after a rain [or a mushroom cloud after an A-Bomb] and we don't want to admit that the tide has turned. I don't want to argue with my colleagues, friends and neighbors about a difference in philosophy about what is important. Oh, they'll all agree that individuals are important and the health of the globe is important, but they are distracted by the news, by their educations, by American political jingoism and think politics are of equal importance. I don't think so.
On a personal level, I loved and admired all the elephants I've encountered both in the wild and tame ones. I found India a beautiful and astonishing country. I've never run into a dragon, I did not like Chinese cities, I passionately hate the Chinese domination of Tibet, but I enjoyed seeing tribal people in Yunnan and deeply admire the Tao and Confucius's commentary on the I Ching which I consider the most useful book of ancient wisdom that exists. These obsevations would not have been appropriate in this class.
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