In the end of A Christmas Holiday, our Somerset Maugham‘s character went back to his middle-class comfort zone but quite aware of his “plastic” existence. This was right after he had spent a week in Paris, meeting Lydia, a Russian gypsy whose suffering life was nothing Charlie had ever imagined.
I couldn’t help think of a parallel to what America was going through: having involved with a suffering Europe and came home with a G.I Bill, went through a life-altering experience and education. Then we got a Kerry who once testified before Congress as an anti-war camouflage-wearing activist (John Lennon-like) , just to find himself decades later on the other side of the mike.
Softer side of Soft Power.
War-weary country, post-industrial America no longer wants to play global cop, regardless of the nature of mass weapon violation.
We truly are entering the Post-American era whose first phase leaves a huge void to be filled by a host of BRIC countries.
(NATO now stands for No Action, Talk Only).
In short, when the world calls 911, there is no answer.
Only a recording that says “we are short of resources and too compassion-fatigued to be involved, please call back at another time. Sorry for the inconvenience this may have caused”.
And that recording might be generated from a pre-recorded upload from India.
Syria or India, to an average American in this post-Recession era, is the same.
Kids need shoes, need to be dropped off and picked up. Groceries in the freezer and fast food at the second drive-through window.
That’s about it.
Please don’t bother us Please do not show us any photo of mass massacre, or influx of refugees to Lebanon and Turkey.
We might enjoy a vacation or a movie set in Istanbul (Taken 2), but we prefer marginal exposure, not deep engagement.
Yet, there has been a significant rise in NGO’s treasure chest during this Recession.
Where is our sense of priority?
Back from our Christmas Holiday, to same old La-Z-Boy chair , feeling life returns to normalcy.
We might have met a few real-life characters whose suffering we could only imagine. But then, it’s better to let sleeping dog lie.
Even Soft Power has its limits (we no longer talk about Hard Power). State is leading Pentagon, but then Russia is now in center stage. Where are Britain, Germany and France?
The so-called Lords of Finance?
In a Post-American World, the power vacuum is up for grabs But no one is big enough and “naive” enough to step up to the plate.
Perhaps there will be a new “NATO”, one that acts only, and no talk at all.
Our Somerset Maugham’s character did give Lydia some money. He felt good about giving. He had a wonderful Christmas Holiday in Paris, the Louvre and the London’s status-quo existence. Will life ever be the same after each human encounter?
The answer lies in whether there is a softer side of Soft Power. I believe American at heart are people with a softer side.
It is finding its footing and balance after a period of growing pain. Mr Kerry wasn’t shunned by first turning into an anti-war, then a pro-war and finally the Geneva deal. Maybe someone will pick up the 911 call after all. It’s called a change of heart. That call can be routed anywhere in the world, It’s called follow-the- sun technology and follow-your-heart ecology.