Thursday, August 14, 2008

Lemon Yellow Light

The news is bad, kids. BAD. Russia is pulling a sneaky-pete with South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and yours truly is frankly worried.

Some of you know I tend to be a bit of a Cassandra. Or, Chicken Little, if you will. I will preface this comment with that excuse: I am concerned that Medvedev and Putin have a plan to try out some Soviet-era domination schemes. I'm concerned that this will happen during a time when the prevailing global police force (i.e. the U.S.) is too overextended, over-compromised and overwhelmed with domestic issues to possibly consider any sort of grand army march over bad intentions. Then I'm concerned that I'm even thinking this way, because I'm ALSO concerned that we (the U.S.) play police too frequently. And THEN I think about all the bad jokes I've heard involving European nations, and the reasons they are all still conducting their governments in their native tongues and not German....and I wonder.

Fear mongering works, as you can see. I'm conducting my own self-experiment to determine just how successful fear-mongering is in America. To date, here are the suspect behaviors I have that, I feel, are influenced by fear-mongering:
  1. I have rental insurance. And yes, I paid extra for electronics coverage, even though I've never been a victim of a fire, flood or break-in. And no, I will not cancel it, despite clearly seeing the apparatus that makes the insurance machine tick hard at work. Because I'm afraid of what if.
  2. I quit smoking. Years ago. And I bug S. to quit smoking, because I'm convinced he will die. This is not an irrational fear--I watched my grandmother die of lung cancer. It's not good, and the research doesn't (always) lie. However, I cannot control what my darling does. I can only sigh ponderously and make weepy doe-eyes at him every time he lights up, hoping this will persuade him to think about what if.
  3. I'm unhappy if I do not have vegetables or fruit in a meal. Because MY GOD people, do you REALIZE what havoc that can cause?
  4. When I travel abroad, I spend more time planning out safety than planning our itineraries. This to me is a shameful, shameful admission. What a waste of time and energy! I still manage to slice off a finger, bruise a muscle crucial to the walking process or catch a cold everywhere we go. The fact that I cannot accept that it is my destiny to be clumsy abroad is like something out of Beckett. I spend hours searching for collapsible finger splints and slip-safe shoes only to twist an ankle randomly in a sidewalk crack. But.....what if that penicillin prescription were necessary?
  5. I notice bags left unattended. EVERYWHERE. Thank you, MTA.
Because, indeed: what if.

Now, I'm not about to come full circle and suggest that we should all ignore Russian hijinks and fear-mongering, that we should throw insurance policies and vegetables to the wind (though I do think insurance is the oddest invention yet for controlling the middle class) and take to the streets for ice cream. No. But I do think a little reflection is warranted.

I don't feel we can ignore history while contemplating skirmishes such as the one emerging in Georgia's provinces, or the ones (oops!) we're up to our necks in in the Middle East. Too much has been ignored already, and I fear that we are setting ourselves up for some colossal troubles as a nation and as a world. (There's that word fear again....)

World War I was started by the death of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. I remember that from World History class in high school. I also remember what my history teacher repeated ad infinitum about every conflict we studied: tensions had been mounting. TENSIONS HAD BEEN MOUNTING. Is it just me, or have tensions been mounting for years?

Okay, that seems self-serving, doesn't it? Just because the U.S. has been involved in a war for six years doesn't necessarily mean that global tensions have been mounting. So is it just my paranoia speaking? Is it the comic-book-caper in my mind that whispers, "Watch out for Russia...they're waiting until you're weak so they can strike!"

It's not Russia...particularly. It's world politics at large. Paul Krugman's editorial today summed up what I'm trying to articulate, in a way that an econ professor at Princeton can do way better than moi. He gives a fruitful (if abbreviated) reading of J.M. Keyenes' 1919 comments regarding the state of the British economy and the resulting psychology of the urban British citizen, who firmly believed the world around him could not come crumbling down. He makes the following point toward the end of the essay:
"So are the foundations of the second global economy any more solid than those of the first? In some ways, yes. For example, war among the nations of Western Europe really does seem inconceivable now, not so much because of economic ties as because of shared democratic values.

Much of the world, however, including nations that play a key role in the global economy, doesn’t share those values. Most of us have proceeded on the belief that, at least as far as economics goes, this doesn’t matter — that we can count on world trade continuing to flow freely simply because it’s so profitable. But that’s not a safe assumption."
Word to your mother, peeps. I've been thinking this for years (albeit in less eloquent form) and am privately convinced that my diligent contributions to my 401K are really less important than my ability to forage for edible greens.

Of course, now I'm curious whether his striking a chord with me makes him a Chicken Little, too. Fortunately or unfortunately, I've never been one to ignore my gut sense of things. I suppose we'll see.

And what does this have to do with lemon yellow light? Nothing directly. But isn't it a nice way to ice a terrible situation? Repeat that phrase to yourself a few times and see if you don't feel a tad better. It's like a linguistic cupcake.

Good night, and....well, you know. Good luck.

No comments: