Thursday, April 07, 2016

Superpowers and Perspective

**Sorry if you clicked on this looking for an in-depth analysis of Deadpool. I just haven't seen it yet. Again, my apologies.**

One of the things that doesn't really come up in this election cycle (outside of soundbytes, anyway) is the rise of China. It's not something I'm super interested in - and maybe that's telling in itself. There are some good article out there recently about the consolidation of power the current Chinese President is working towards within the country and how an emerging middle class and increasingly world responsibility are changing China. I find those interesting, but it seems a lot of people (especially people 15+ years older than me) take much more interest.

Now I have no living memory of a competing super power. I was born in 1981, when the USSR was at the beginning of its slide to irrelevance and certainly I wasn't paying attention to global politics during the 80's. One of my earliest "public" memories is watching the Berlin Wall come down on television and following the "Unified Team" at the 1992 Olympics. Just by virtue of age, I'm going to have a different perspective on China than someone who lived through the Cold War. The notion of a competing super power just isn't part of my intellectual vocabulary. Even though I have a history degree and I'm certain I know a lot more about the Cold War than most people of my generation, the lack of lived experience changes my perspective. Even if my impressions of China are absolutely correct, they're going to be lacking something that I can never recover.

There are arguments to be made that using experience with the USSR hurts one's impressions of China because you might read into this situation something that exists only in ghost memories of the past. It's hard to say if one is better than the other.

That's the real rub - because it's not always about China either. I suspect current, actual, real, up-front discussion of socialism and what extent it plays a part in a functional democracy works on the same spectrum. Those without experience are missing a key part of the puzzle, while those with experience may retain a part of the puzzle that just isn't useful - and there are myriad positions in between.

I'm not sure what to do with that - other than to simply be aware. No one, unless they are some kind of anti-emotional, brain-dysfunctional logic robo-god, is going to discount their own experience and perspective in favor of another. Hopefully - and I think it's probably the most we can expect - is that we'll allow the shared perspective of others to influence how we look at the world and the various situations to which we put our mind. The very existence of someone with a different perspective should shift and change our own.

That's something we don't see much of in our current political climate. We tend to double down on defense, playing a zero-sum game of perspective - wherein we see clearly and everyone else must be tricked or broken or blinded in some way to see things differently. That doesn't mean we agree or even treat every perspective as equally valid or important, but we also can't completely marginalize anyone. Every perspective exists because the people who hold it exist. Our political engagement must be more about listening and inclusion and less about power games and marginalization.

This is perhaps why Donald Trump is bringing such an intense reaction. Yes, he's opportunistic and unpredictable and wildly irresponsible, but it seems more scary to most is his unconscionable willingness to destroy detractors, to insult and demean and bulldoze people who have a different perspective. What people fear far more than losing an argument is not being heard and acknowledged in the process.

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