PROPHECIES, HEROIC ACTIONS, MEMORIES & VISIONS – an Opinionated Autobiographical Movie Review by Gary S. Smolker of “Kon-Tiki”, “The Reluctant Fundamentalist”, “Midnight’s Children”, “Hannah Arendt” and “The Gatekeepers” (September 4, 2013 Version)
Posted by Gary S. Smolker
To watch the movies mentioned in this review without reflecting would be like eating without digesting.
In this review I discuss issues raised in my mind as I was watching the movies and after reflecting upon scenes shown in those movies.
Not only do I discuss the production values and the stories told, but I also discuss how these movies help me understand economic, political, social and cultural issues in industrialized and industrializing countries and what is going on in the Middle East.
FIRST HALF TO TWO THIRDS OF THIS REVIEW
In the first half to two thirds of this review I discuss issues raised in my mind as I was watching the movies discussed in this review.
- I present my interpretation of the powerful messages presented in the movies mentioned and the action implications of those lessons.
- I discuss the culture, character, mentality, world-view, and psychology of outstanding people and the history and historical trajectory of civilizations presented in those movies.
- I discuss the social, cultural, and economic guidance presented in those movies.
- I also discuss the predictive value of the stories.
Movies provide messages about what is happening now in the world and what will happen next.
With respect to understanding current events and predicting what will happen in the future:
- Cultural mindsets and social truths portrayed in the stories told in “The Reluctant Fundamentalist”, “Midnight’s Children”, “Hannah Arendt” and “The Gatekeepers” shed light on what is happening in world economies today and what will happen next in Syria, Egypt and the rest of the Middle East.
- Personal mind sets depicted in the stories told in “Kon-Tiki” are templates which illuminate what goes on in the real lives of founders of modern world changing companies.
- Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple Computer Company, and Thor Heyerdahl, the main character in the movie “Kon-Tiki”, had the same exact personality and mindset.
THE LAST THIRD OF THIS REVIEW
In the last third or half of this review I discuss the stories told in each movie and rate the quality of the movie makers and their movies.
PEOPLE WHO RISE TO THE OCCASION
Each movie mentioned in this review tells a historically important story about how people thought and acted under circumstances similar to those reported in the “news” today.
THE OLD NORMAL AND THE NEW NORMAL
Movies and books provide information about what came before us, how people think, the world we live in, and what is likely to follow by shining a light on the interplay of social, historical, cultural, geographical, demographic, religious, political, financial, economic, and technological factors that are responsible for the glaring differences between the “old normal” and the “new normal.”
There have been points in history when the harsh realities of many people’s lives led some people to believe violence, revenge and allegiance to fractions provided the “best” alternatives to “failed” political institutions and at the same time led other people to invent and develop techniques which benefited the world at large, improved many people’s lives, created new fortunes and created a new class of wealthy people.
Heroic people with a vision have changed the world for the better. They have made this a better world.
Pessimists, who of late have been in a slough of despond and who are in danger of being in a permanent state of nothing-can-be-done negativism, should reflect upon the lives of those heroic people with a vision who have made this a better world and at the same time made fortunes for themselves.
Recently, former U.S. President George W. Bush said, “One of the key lessons [of September 11] is the human condition elsewhere matters to the security of the United States.”
I completely agree with that statement.
Many people have reached the following conclusions, formed the following opinions and have made the following predictions about what is happening today and what will happen next.
I invite you to post your comments and to send me an email addressed to GSmolker@aol.com regarding the following statements.
- Recent history teaches that a regime change in a Muslim country invariably sets off internecine fighting supercharged with religious passion which acts like a cancer spreading through the inner workings of a previously cohesive state.
- More than 50% of the world’s oil reserves reside under the sands of the Middle East.
- More chaos in the Middle Eat will result in higher oil prices.
- On-going violence in Muslim countries in the Middle East makes the price of oil go up, as the price of oil increases the dollar amount of national trade imbalances will increase and the U.S. dollar will become stronger relative to other currencies.
- The Indian rupee has collapsed 24% against the dollar this year.
- Trade deficits in recent years have ballooned in India, Indonesia, Brazil, Turkey and South Africa. Imports jumped on domestic demand while exports to Europe shrank.
- The U.S. Federal Reserve injected trillions of dollars into the U.S. economy over the past five years. Much of that money flowed into emerging markets because when yields in the U.S. were extremely low, investors went in search of higher yields in other regions of the globe, including emerging markets. Now with U.S. Treasury yields rising and the threat of U.S. Federal Reserve bond buying easing that capital has been rushing out of those emerging economies, and is coming back to the U.S. That money is called a “hot-money” exodus.
- Increasing trade imbalances and weaker national currencies will cause loan defaults by companies in emerging economies (i.e., in India, Turkey, Thailand, Indonesia and Brazil) who must pay back money borrowed in U.S. dollars instead of in their own national currency.
- Emerging market success stories in countries such as India, Indonesia, Brazil and Turkey were based on and depended on “cheap” money/low interest rate loans that financed speculative ventures and national debt.
- The emerging market edifice has come crashing down in developing countries as the balance of payment weakness in those countries – whose loans must be paid by back in US dollars – has been exposed as the value of their currencies have plummeted. As the external capital they relied on to finance investments in their countries, including their national debt, has dried up they have experienced capital outflows.
- Indonesia, India, Ukraine, Brazil, Turkey, Venezuela, South Africa, Thailand and Kazakhstan are trying to shore up their currencies due to debts denominated in currencies other than their own.
- When the price of oil goes up their economies will plummet even more.
- Some argue that the turmoil in emerging markets hasn’t affected the U.S. economy. However, it is clear that the global economy cannot handle higher yields.
- For many reasons, some of which are outlined above, people all over the world have concluded that the United States is the place they want to live, the place where they want to own property, the place where they want to own businesses, the place where they want to have investments, the place where they want to work, the place where they want their children to live, the place where they want their children to work, and the place where they want their children to receive their education.
- People in foreign countries who have the ability to do so will continue to purchase real estate in the United States, will continue to start and to buy businesses in the United States, will continue to try to immigrate to the United States and to send their children to live in the United States.
- Civil unrest in Arab-Muslim countries in the Middle East will become more and more violent for at least the next ten to twenty-five years.
- More than one million people will kill each other over the next ten to twenty-five years in Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.
- The United Nations has recently said Syria’s civil war has created 2 million refugees, and there will be 3.5 million fleeing the country by year-end if the conflict continues.
- If you don’t believe that is going to happen I suggest you watch “Midnight’s Children” and read about what happened after British India was partitioned into two countries (the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and India) in August, 1947.
- The world financial system, national financial systems, national economies, the value of gold and other precious metals, interest rates and the relative value of national currencies will be impacted by increasing violence in the Middle East.
- On-going violence in Muslim countries in the Middle East has already resulted in related increases in oil prices. It will increasingly impact living conditions, political conditions and the life and life-style of everyone living in industrialized nations.
- An ugly troubling question of the day for most people is what should be done to build a nest egg.
Civil Disorders, Violence, Destruction of Property and Economies and the Human Misery Which Follows When There Is A Breakdown in Law and Order
The Partition of India in 1947
The movie “Midnight’s Children” is a dramatization of what happened after India became an independent country on August 15, 1947.
In India, within months after India and Pakistan became independent states, free from British Rule, fighting between Muslims and Hindus left over one million dead after British armed forces left the former British Indian Empire.
Mohandas Gandhi believed that Hindus and Muslims could and should live together in amity. Gandhi opposed the partition, saying “My whole soul rebels against the idea that Hinduism and Islam represent two antagonist cultures and doctrines. To assent to such a doctrine is for me a denial of God.”
Gandhi was assassinated soon after Partition by Hindu extremist Nathuram Godse, who believed Gandhi was appeasing Muslims at the expense of Hindus.
Law and order had broken down many times before Partition, with much bloodshed on both sides. A massive civil war was looming at the time the British left, at the time Partition came into effect.
Massive population exchanges occurred between the two newly formed states in the months immediately following Partition.
What ensued was one of the largest population movements in recorded history.
About 14.5 million people crossed the borders to what they hoped was the relative safety of religious majority: 7,226,000 Muslims went to Pakistan from India while 7,250,000 Sikhs and Hindus went to India immediately after the partition.
There was a complete break down in law and order; many (between one million and three million) died in riots and massacres and during refugee migrations or just from the hardship of their flight to safety.
It was up to the new governments of India and Pakistan to keep public order, but the newly formed governments were completely unequipped to deal with migrations of such staggering magnitude; and, massive violence and slaughter occurred on both sides of the border. At the lowest estimate twelve million people became homeless.
Before independence, Hindus and Sikhs had formed 20 per cent of the population of the areas now forming Pakistan. Presently the percentage has whittled down to one and a half percent.
Despite the huge migrations during and after Partition, India is still home to the third largest Muslim population in the world, after Indonesia and Pakistan.
In 2006 it was estimated that 13.1% of the 1,095 million population of India – 143 million people – were Muslims; 80.5% of the population – 839 million people – were Hindus.
In 2005 it was estimated that 98.0% of the 162 million population of Pakistan – 159 million people – were Muslims; 1.0% of the population – 20 million people – were Hindus, Sikh and others.
In 1971, the Bangladesh Liberation War and the subsequent Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, led to the further partition of Pakistan into Pakistan and Bangladesh.
In 2005 it was estimated that 86% of the 144 million population of Bangladesh – 124 million people were Muslim; 13.0% of the population – 18 million people – were Hindus.
Algeria in 1991
In Algeria, two decades back, when the country’s generals cancelled a 1991 election after Islamists won the first round, a decade-long civil war ensued that left somewhere between 50,000 to 200,000 dead.
HISTORY KEEPS REPEATING ITSELF
Historical Parallels To Current On-Going Horrors in Syria, Egypt, Iraq – “Mass Hate Crimes” – “Crimes Against Humanity” – “Horrific Violence” – and “Ethnic Cleansing” – Related to Deep Rooted Ethnic and Racial Hatreds Are To Be Found In Films Premiered at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival (2012 TIFF).
(What Is Going On Today in Syria, Egypt and Iraq Is a Repeat of the Human Nature in Action Depicted In Films Shown in 2012 at 2012 TIFF, Is A Natural Consequence of the Inherent Nature of Mankind and Is the Inevitable Result of Devout Muslims Having A Religious Duty to Wage War Against Unbelievers)
During the 2012 TIFF I met the descendents of those Ukrainian families who had escaped death at the hands of the Nazis by hiding in underground caves for 511 days one night by happenstance while all of us happened to be in the same bar at the same time during the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival.
They were in town to see the World Premier of “No Place to Hide” the story of their families’ escape from death by the Nazis in World War II. A brief description of “No Place to Hide” follows.
We know the phenomena of one group of people setting out to kill another group is repeating itself again in towns and villages in the Middle East.
During the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival I saw films which had the theme of a gang or pack of people purposefully killing another group – composed of civilians just minding their own business. I also listened to film makers who cam on stage after their films had been shown to discuss their film and answer questions from the audience.
Below is a partial list and brief description of films shown with that message. I saw each of the films listed below except the film “Just the Wind” and the film “No Where to Hide.”
- German film maker Margarethe von Trotta’s 2012 film “Hannah Arendt” deals with the Nazis’ Genocidal “Final Solution” which resulted in the death of six million Jews. The story told in this film focuses on Hannah Arendt’s report on the trial of of Adolph Eichmann in Jerusalem. During the film scenes are shown in which trial witnesses recounted (testified about) the round up and gassing of Jews in concentration camps by the Nazis. The film has scenes of testimony by survivors about Jewish leaders facilitating the round up of the Jews sent to their death in concentration camps. Hannah Arendt’s comments about the trial particularly about Jewish community leaders actions as collaboration in the Nazi “Final Solution” created an international scandal.
- American film maker Janet Tobias’ 2012 film “No Place on Earth” tells the story of 38 members of a Jewish families in the Ukraine who hid from the Nazis in underground caves to evade capture and escape death at the hands of the Nazis for 511 days during World War II, until the region was liberated by the Soviet Army. Over 95% of the Jews in this region of Ukraine perished in the Holocaust.
- Indian film maker Deepa Mehta’s 2012 film “Midnight’s Children” recreates a time in India during which never ending hate and violence was unleashed immediately upon the creation of Pakistan. The partition of British India (in August 1947) created a “Muslim Majority” Pakistan and “Muslim Minority” India. Race riots and massacres followed which resulted in the death of more than one million Muslims and Hindus.
- Israeli film maker Dror Moreh’s 2012 film “the Gatekeepers” is a film about the never ending war against terror waged by Israel. It chronicles the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from the point of view of the Shin Bet, Israel’s primary intelligence and counterterrorism agency.
- Italian film maker Sergio Castellitto’s 2012 film “Twice Born” depicts ethnically inspired violence – killing and rape – taking place during the war in Bosnia in 1984, when Yugoslavia disintegrated.
- New Zealand film maker Andrew Adamson’s 2012 film “Mr. Pip” shows violence – rape and other unspeakably horribly gruesome acts – that took place during Papua New Guinea’s Civil War in the early 1990s. In one scene, an invading band of soldiers from the New Guinea Army rape a native woman on the Island of Bougainville, then hacks her body to pieces, then throws the hacked pieces of her hacked up body to pigs in a pig pen; the pigs, then proceed to eat the broken hacked cut up pieces of her body.
- Indian film maker Mira Nair’s 2012 film “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” is about cultural divides between Muslims and Americans experienced by a young Pakistani during the time period 2001 through 2011, and shows what happened in his life from the time during which he begins a business career in America through the first couple years of his life during which he has switched careers and a college teacher at a Pakistani University in Lahore, Pakistan . The first scene of the film begins with a scene of an American C.I.A. agent being abducted, kidnapped, in Lahore, Pakistan by a group of anti-American Pakistanis.
- Hungarian film maker Bence Fliegauf’s 2012 film “Just the Wind” is about deep rooted racism in Hungary. The film is based on the racially motivated murders of six Romani families that took place between 2008 and 2009 in Hungary: the families’ homes were firebombed with Molotov cocktails. When they ran out of their homes to escape the flames they were shot by a band of unknown killers.
Great film makers are seers who anticipate what is going to happen in the future.
They show their vision of what is going to happen in the future in the messages they present in their films.
In 2012, at the Toronto International Film Festival, film makers from all over the world showed films focused on racially/ethnically motivated killings.
Take Away Messages
- The common characteristic of men who roam about as members of a band of men in a “pack” is a state of excitement.
- The first thing that strikes one about a pack is its unswerving direction; everyone in the pack is obsessed by the same goal.
- The truest and most natural pack is that from which our word derives, it is the hunting pack.
- The hunting pack moves with all its force towards a living object which it wants to kill.
- Its end is always to kill.
- The excitement and thirst for blood mounts during the hunt.
- It is natural for men to hunt in packs.
- The second most natural form of packs is the war pack. In earlier times its object was often a single life, one man on whom it had to take revenge. In the certainty with which it knows its victim in comes particularly close to the hunting pack.
- However, if the hunted man belongs to a second group that does not want to abandon him, if rapidly becomes a case of a pack against a pack.
- The factor determining the war pack is that there are two packs, both of them out to do exactly the same thing to each other.
- The “true” goal of a war pack is the annihilation of the hostile pack so that nothing, literally nothing, of it should remain. The victors describe their own action with relish; it was the others who were, and remained, murderers.
- It is natural for men to kill in packs.
- Packs are always there and ready for use.
- Packs always have the same goals over and over again.
- The “pack” is as endlessly repetitive as all other life-processes of man.
- Islam exhibits all the unmistakeable traits that characterize packs.
- Devout Mohammedans assemble in packs in four different ways: (1) They assemble several times a day for prayer. (2) They assemble for the Holy War against unbelievers. (3) They assemble in Mecca, during the great Pilgrimage. (4) They assemble at the Last Judgment.
- Mohammed proclaimed himself to be the prophet of fighting and war.
- What matters to the fighters for Islam is not so much the conversion as the subjection of infidels. The fight against the infidels is a fight for expansion, not so much of the faith of Islam as of its sphere of power, which is the sphere of power of Allah. See “Crowds and Power” by Elias Canetti originally published in German as Masse und Macht in 1960 by Claassen Verlag, Hamburg; English translation first published in London by V. Gollancz in 1962; English translation first published in the United States by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in 1984.
- At its root, Islam is a religion of war.
- When conditions in any country, in any place in the world, lead to a break down in law and order, inevitably a break down in law and order will lead to one group or crowd or pack of men killing another group or crowd or pack of people living in the same country.
My Thoughts About the Middle East
The movies and books mentioned in this review have influenced my assessment of the probability that the Middle East will “blow-up.”
My familiarity with history and what is shown in the movies referred to above indicates to me a high scary probability of the likelihood that the Middle East will “blow-up.”
People living in Muslim countries in the Middle East are living in a nightmare time.
The rest of the world will become more directly part of that nightmare when traumatic social disruptions in all industrialized nations occur when delivery of oil produced in the Middle East is seriously disrupted. If, and when, that happens the price of everything related to fuel will sky-rocket.
Keep George Santayana’s immortal warning in mind: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Of historical, social, cultural and religious note:
- The chronicle of humankind’s cruelty to fellow humans is a long and sorry tale.
- History indicates there is no limit as to how many people will kill each other for a cause.
- In December 1937, the Japanese army swept into the ancient Chinese imperial city of Nanking.
- An orgy of violence followed.
- Within weeks, more than 300,000 Chinese civilians and soldiers were systematically raped, tortured, and murdered – a death toll exceeding that of the atomic blasts of Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined.
- More people died in Nanking than in the British raids on Dresden and the fire storm that followed.
- The deaths at Nanking far exceeded the deaths from the American raids on Tokyo.
- The Japanese sack of China’s capital (Nanking) was a horrific event. The mass execution of soldiers and the slaughter and raping of tens of thousands of civilians took place in contravention of all rules of warfare. It was carried out in full view of international observers.
- It was not a temporary lapse of military discipline, for it lasted for seven weeks.
- Chinese men were used for bayonet practice and in decapitation contests.
- An estimated 20,000 to 80,000 Chinese women were raped.
- Many soldiers went beyond rape to disembowel women, slice off their breasts, nail them live to walls.
- Fathers were forced to rape their daughters and sons their mothers, as other family members watched.
- Live burials, castration, the carving of organs and the roasting of people were routine.
- More diabolical tortures were practiced such as hanging people by their tongues on hooks or burying people to their waists and watching them getting torn apart by German shepherds.
- The Japanese sliced babies not in half but in thirds and fourths. The Yangtze River ran red with blood for days.
- Japanese soldiers had a master-race mentality.
- The Japanese soldier’s identity had been forged in a militaristic culture, in a thousand-year-old system in which social hierarchy was established and sustained through martial competition that fostered in the Japanese soldiers a total disregard for human life.
- So harsh was their code that its most notable characteristic was the moral imperative that adherents commit suicide if they ever failed to meet honorably the obligations of military service – often with the highly ceremonial and extremely painful ritual of hara-kiri, in which the warrior met death by unflinchingly disemboweling himself in front of witnesses.
- When you think about Muslim terrorists blowing themselves up in buses, in places of worship, flying into the Twin Towers in New York, etc. etc. in order to kill their enemies, remember the infamous kamikaze suicide missions in World War II, in which Japanese pilots trained to fly their planes directly into American ships did so.
- Young Muslims in the Middle East who have a terrifying disrespect for the death and dying of people who do not share their religious views represent a reversal in what people in the West consider human evolution. If they truly believe it is their duty to sacrifice their lives for their religious belief when they blow themselves up, or when they mutilate themselves during religious ceremonies, then that respect they have less to lose, perhaps, than any generation in any country in modern times except for Japanese soldiers.
- When evaluating what everyone is up against when dealing with so called Arab-Muslim Islamist terrorists it is striking to note that in World War II while the Allied forces surrendered at the rate of 1 prisoner for every 3 dead, the Japanese surrendered at the rate of only 1 per 120 dead.
- America has had its own self-inflicted blood-bath: Thirty percent of Southern men of military age in the American Civil War were killed.
- So many were killed that the Confederate Army collapsed for lack of manpower. That is the way that war ended.
- Compared to the young Arabs, Muslims, Persians and Pakistanis of today, American Southerners of 1861 – during the American Civil War – who fought to “be free” of “Northern Influence” were models of middle-class rectitude, with the world’s highest living standards and bright prospects for the future.
- Keep in mind Shi’ites consider it a religious duty to mutilate themselves during the Muharram Festival — which is a festival remembrance, of mourning the death of their spiritual leader Husain, the prophet’s grandson, on the tenth day of the month of Muharram in the year 680 of our era.
- On that day, a troop of horsemen demanded Husain’s surrender. Husain refused to surrender.
- Husain and his small band were surrounded. Husain and his men, defending themselves bravely were attacked and cut down.
- Thirty-three lance thrusts were counted on his body, and thirty-four gashes from swords.
- The commander of the hostile troop ordered his men to trample the body of Husain under the feet of their horses.
- The head of the prophet’s grandson Husain was cut off and sent to the Khalif in Damascus.
- Emotionally the contemplation of the personality and fate of Husain stands in the center of the Shi’ite faith. His death is interpreted as self-immolation.
- Wherever Shi’ites live their Festival of Muharram is those days of the month Muharram on which Husain suffered his passion.
- On the first of Muharram, which is also the beginning of the year, the festival proper begins. The passion of Husain is recounted.
- During the first nine days of the month, groups (packs) of men wander through the streets, their half naked bodies painted red or black. They tear out their hair, wound themselves, drag chains behind them and perform wild dances.
- Fights, resulting in bloodshed and even in death, frequently develop between them and others of a different persuasion.
- On the tenth day of Muharram the festival culminates in a great procession, a funerary parade.
- The frenzy which seizes the mourning crowds during this festival is almost inconceivable. See “The Muharram Festival of Shi’ites” below.
Westerners who are not familiar with the psychology of the Japanese soldier during World War II will obtain an eye opening view of how people who are culturally different from themselves view death with honor by watching Australian Film Maker Peter Weber’s “Emperor” which describes and explains the thinking, mindset, psychology and actions of the Japanese soldier during World War II and also explains the mindset of the Japanese people with respect to their reverence for the “emperor” during and immediately after World War II.
In “Emperor” Film Maker Peter Weber also explains the geo-political pressures that led the United States to “rebuild” Japan.
Scale of Number of Deaths Associated with Recent Riots, Conflicts and Massacres & Geopolitical and Economic Realities
The partition of British India into the current state of India and the current state of Pakistan and the associated riots and massacres during the huge (14.5 million people) refugee migration of Muslims to Pakistan and of Hindus to India resulted in the death of between one to three million Hindus and Muslims.
Russian Communists killed about 20 million people.
Russia is the Syria Government’s (President Assad’s) ally in the on-going civil war being raged in Syria.
In 2012 the Russian national oil company Gazprom was the second largest oil producing company in the world.
Chinese Communists killed about 70 million people.
China is Syria’s largest trading partner.
China is about to become the top oil importing country in the world.
The emergency of China as the world’s largest oil importer has been driven by steady growth in Chinese demand.
The Saudi Arabian oil company Saudi Aramco is the second largest oil producing company in the world.
Saudi Arabia is on the side of the rebels in the on-going civil war in Syria and also backs the al-Sisi Military government that ousted Egyptian President and leader of the Muslim Brotherhood Morsi.
The Syrian government (the Assad government) has a long history of bloody rivalry with the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist movement.
However, the Syrian government bears no love for Saudi Arabia even through Saudi Arabia supports General Sisi’s ouster of Mohamed Morsi and crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood.
In recent conversations with President Assad, President Assad has derided his regional rivals as “half men” and when someone referred to Mohamed Morsi, the deposed president of Egypt and Muslim Brotherhood leader, as a donkey, President Assad derided interjected that remark insulted the animal.
A spokesman for the Assad (Syrian) government has recently said Syria is prepared to bomb Mecca.
Mecca is the holiest city in the Muslim religion.
Islam requires Muslims to make a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their lives.
Mecca is located in Saudi Arabia.
Syria, a once proudly secular society is now engaged in a largely secretariat conflict between the majority Sunni Muslims and the small minority of Alawites, which is a branch of Shi’ite Islam.
The United States is the second largest net importer of oil in the world.
World demand for oil is rising as more cars hit the roads, more trade crosses the oceans, and more aircraft take to the skies.
Oil is mostly a transportation fuel: 60% of it is used to move things. The rest is used for power generation, petrochemical productions and other industrial uses.
It has been estimated that if Saudi Arabia’s oil production were to stop the spot price of oil would immediately go up to US$ 200 or more per barrel from its recent price of approximately $100 per barrel.
The Power of Cultural Forces To Make Devils of Us All, To Strip Away That Thin Veneer of Social Restraint that Makes Humans Humane, Or To Reinforce It
Islamist fundamentalist religious leaders do not call upon their congregations to promote respect for the religions of others, or respect for places of worship of others.
Islamist fundamentalist theocrats do not promote respect for the lives, dignity, property or cultural identity of others.
Recent news reports emphasize that Islamist fundamentalist theocrats glorify intolerance of others and violence against all who disagree.
They urge their followers in Egypt and in Syria to kill people who do not share their religious beliefs and their coreligionists to join in the fighting in Egypt and Syria.
A recent YouTube clip showed an Al-Qa’eda checkpoint manned by Arabic speaking Chechens (Sunni Muslims from Chechnya) grilling truck drivers whom they suspected of being Alawites in the fine points of the Sunni version of the morning and evening prayers. When the drivers could not correctly answer how many times one prostrates himself in morning and evening prayers, they were promptly shot in the head.
Liberty Means Living in Safety, Living Without Fear of Other Men
From a Western person’s cultural point of view, in order for a person to have “political liberty”, as Montesquieu so brilliantly put it in 1748 in “The Spirit of the Laws”, a subject must have tranquility of mind, arising from the opinion that each person has of his safety.
In order to have his liberty, a Western thinking person requires the government be so constituted that one man need not be afraid of another.
It is the cultural opinion of Westerners that mutual respect is fundamental to any human relationship, especially among people who profess religious belief. Only in this way can sincere and lasting friendships grow.
Historical, cultural, religious and political lack of mutual respect in the Muslim world is portrayed in “Midnight’s Children”, “The Reluctant Fundamentalist”, “Zaytoun” and “The Gatekeepers.”
In “Midnight’s Children” lack of mutual respect leads Hindus to kill Muslims and Muslims to kill Hindus.
In “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” lack of mutual respect leads Pakistanis to abduct, kidnap and murder a C.I.A. spy , to C.I.A. agents trashing a Pakistani college professor’s home, and to a random shoot-out initiated by C.I.A. agents at a local cafe in Lahore, Pakistan.
In “Zaytoun” lack of mutual respect leads to Lebanese Arabs randomly killing Palestinian refugees in Beirut, Lebanon.
In “The Gatekeepers” lack of mutual respect leads to never-ending round of terrorist attacks terror and assassination.
In “Hannah Arendt” lack of all respect for others (the banality of evil) leads to the round-up and gassing of 6 million Jews during the Nazi reign.
At certain points in history: (a) at the partition of India in “Midnight’s Children, after 9/11 in the United States and Pakistan in “The Reluctant Fundamentalist”, (b) during the 1982 war between Lebanon and Israel in “Zaytoun”, (c) during the 65 years of Israel’s existence with a focus on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in “The Gatekeepers”, and (d) throughout the Nazi era in “Hannah Arendt” many people believed violence, revenge, hate of people of different ethnicity and allegiance to factions was normal.
At those points in time, due to that mind set: “hot blood stirred”, “red blood spilled” and “common blood of kinship was shared.”
Each one of those movies provides a nuanced view of the war in the Muslim world in the Middle East which is now being waged in the name of religion.
In order to understand current events and to be able to predict world impact future events it is necessary to understand the psychology of people living in different cultures in their part of the world who are going to make the world a different place.
Movies are entertaining dramatic learning tools, especially about the cultures of other people.
For example, Film Maker Peter Weber, in Peter Weber’s movie “Emperor” explains the psychology of the Japanese soldier in World War II.
The psychology of the Japanese soldier in World War II led to kamikaze pilots proudly crashing their planes into American warships.
In today’s world, it is dramatically necessary to explain the lack of respect for human life which is an ingrained part of the Shi’ite religion if one wants to understand what is currently going on in the Middle East and what will happen next as a result of the civil war raging in Syria.
It is necessary to understand the ingrained mindset, psychology and hunting pack/ religion and war pack mentality of the religiously enraged Jihadist warriors currently waging wars of terror in a multitude of countries in the Middle East today.
The Muharram Festival of the Shi’ites
The “blood thirst”/lack of respect of life that Western’s consider an inversion of the evolution of mankind is even more extreme among the behavior of Shi’ites’ during the Muharram Festival.
During the Muharram Festival Shi’ites joyfully disfigure and kill themselves.
Below is a partial brief description of what took place at one such Muharram Festival in Tehran:
“Those who lack courage for massacre offer kola to others, inciting them with the drug and curses.
“The martyrs take off their shirts, which are now regarded as blessed, and give them to those who carry them. Others who were not at first among the voluntary victims, suddenly in the general commotion, discover their thirst for blood, They ask for weapons, tear their clothes off, and wound themselves haphazardly.
“Sometimes there is a gap in the procession when one of the participants falls down exhausted. But the gap is only momentary. The crowd immediately closes over the wounded man and kicks him and tramples on him. No destiny is accounted more beautiful than to die on the feast-day of Ashura, when the gates of all eight paradises stand wide open for the saints and everyone seeks to enter there.
“Soldiers on duty, who are supposed to take charge of the wounded and maintain order, are infected with the frenzy of the crowd and tear off their uniforms and join in the bloodshed.
“The madness seizes the children, even very young ones. Besides a fountain, a mother, drunk with pride, hugs a child who has just mutilated himself. ‘He has just gouged out an eye. In a few minutes he will put out the other.’ The parents watch with delight.”
However, not every single Muslim has that mentality of every Muslim.
People have different degrees of devoutness.
It is human nature, that as with any other group, the Muslims will assimilate and become more western than middle eastern over time.
In “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” the main character Changez, a Muslim, does not become a Jihadist even though he was mistreated by Americans, nor does he participate in the Muharram Festival of the Shi’ites. To the contrary, he and his friends wear western clothes, watch western movies, dance to western music. In one scene, at a social event in Pakistan, the Pakistani woman he is talking to tells him she wants to have “a boob job” so she can have large breasts like the western women in movies.
In “Midnight’s Children” the main character Saleem, a Muslim, does not mutilate himself nor does he become a Jihadist, even though he lived through the massacres and persecution of fellow Muslims by Hindus that occurred shortly after partition of British India.
Saleem was tortured during the time Muslims were persecuted under the direction of Hindu Premier Indira Gandhi.
Premier Indira Gandhi, a Hindu, was assassinated while serving as Premier of India.
Her son, also a Hindu, was also assassinated while he was serving as Premier of India.
Mahatma Gandhi, also a Hindu, was assassinated.
In Praise of Serious Movies
I can’t praise the film makers who made “Midnight’s Children”, “The Gatekeepers”, “Hannah Arendt”, “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” and “Zaytoun” enough for making movies that have a moral theme, and cultural depictions of the state of mind and of the mentality of Muslims in different parts of the world under various conditions.
Each of those movies has intellectual substance.
Each movie stimulated my curiosity.
I can’t praise the movie makers who made those movies enough for introducing me to very important violent historical events and historical perspectives and for stimulating me to learn more about the subjects touched upon in their movies.
To understand what Westerners now call the “banality of evil” watch the movie “Hannah Arendt,” read Hannah Arendt’s books “Eichmann in Jerusalem – A Report on the Banality of Evil” and “The Origins of Totalitarianism” and also read General Stanley McChrystal’s memoir “My Share of the Task” and Iris Chang’s “The Rape of Nanking”, also watch the movies “The Emperor”, “Zaytoun”, “Twice Born”, “Mr. Pip” and “Jut the Wind.”
I use perspectives I gained from what I learned while researching issued raised and events portrayed in those movies.
When thinking about what is happening in Egypt and Syria, I keep in mind that the 20th century provides proof that majorities can be just as brutal and vicious as tyrants.
- Jim Crow laws in the South of the United States were supported by the majority — see the recently released movie “The Butler.”
- Adolph Hitler was supported by the majority — see the movie “Hannah Arendt.”
- Joseph Stalin was revered by the majority of the Russian people during his lifetime.
- According to an 2012 poll in Russia by the Carnegie Endowment, Stalin is first among the great figures of Russian history.
- See the soon to be released epic and inspiring movie “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.”
- The World Premier of “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” will take place in Toronto on Saturday, September 7, 2013, at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival.
When thinking about what is going on in Egypt and Syria keep in mind that the Muslim Brotherhood is not a majority in Egypt.
More than 20 million Egyptians signed a petition asking Morsi to hold a referendum on Morsi’s presidency, a new election, prior to Morsi being ousted by the Egyptian Military.
The majority of Egyptians did not and do not want the Muslim Brotherhood to Islamize Egypt.
The coup which brought General al-Sisi to power was cheered by most Egyptians.
Most Egyptians rejected the apparatus of the theocratic police state being erected by President Morsi.
Muslims, (like Changez – the main character in “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” – and Saleem – the main character in “Midnight’s Children”) do not want other Muslims telling them what to do or how to do it. They do not want to be bossed around.
Many Muslims do not want to be Islamitized.
Despite the unpopularity of Assad’s regime in Syria, it is apparent that the population of Syria has not been won over to the idea of a Syrian Islamist Emirate.
Many financial and political interests are at stake in the Middle East.
The Egyptian Army take over of Egypt – General Sisi’s outer of President Morsi – is blessed by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States.
Saudi Arabia is supporting the “rebels” in Syria.
Iran, Russia and China are supporting the Assad government in Syria.
Turkey is deeply involved in Syria in a conflicted way. The Prime Minister of Turkey supports the “rebels” in Syria. But, the Intelligence Service of Turkey supports the Assad government of Syria.
The Middle East is the current geopolitical center of the world.
Syria is a testing ground which will determine who will win control the Middle East.
Sharia Law is often viewed in the Western and Secular world as immutable and inalterably regressive, as being the primary obstacle to Islamic integration into a more modern society.
This is based on the false premise that there is a universal Sharia law that applies to all Muslims.
However, the true facts are that Sharia law is a “human construct,” based not only on the Qur’an, but also on many other sources of Islamic doctrine.
If current conflicts in Muslim countries in the Middle East are viewed as a contest between Islamists and anti-Islamists, between theocrats and anti-theocrats analogous to the struggle within Christendom’s transition from the Inquisition to the Cold War, it promises to be as long as the 500 year old conflict within the Christian world and just as violent.
Nelson Mandela’s “Long Walk to Freedom”
“Long Walk to Freedom – the Autobiography of Nelson Mandela” is a must read book.
It is both a brilliant description of a diabolical system and a testament to the power of the spirit to transcend it.
Every once in a while an amazing person appears.
In a world hungry for heroes and role models, the life of Nelson Mandela serves as an inspiration and a touchstone.
Nelson Mandela is South Africa’s combined Washington, Lincoln and Gandhi.
To call the Syrian violence merely a civil war that is entirely an internal affair of the Syrian people is simply untrue.
Rather, the Syrian war has developed into a clash between Shi’ite and Sunni Muslims and involves multiple states and multiple world powers.
Iran and Lebanon have provided military support and training, arms and contributed their fighters to the Shi’ites. Russia and China have provided diplomatic support and a guaranteed Security Council Veto to allow Assad a free hand in confronting the (primary) Sunni forces arrayed against him.
Qatar and Saudi Arabia are the prime backers of the Sunni rebellion. Al-Qa’eda and al-Qa’eda inspired operatives from around the Muslim world have joined the fight against Assad on the side of the Sunni rebels.
Assad’s regime has also attacked the Kurds of Northeastern Syria, massacring Kurdish civilians.
Not surprisingly, the Kurds of Iraq and Iran have vowed support of their Syrian Kurdish brethren.
Note what this means:
- Iraqi Kurds (Sunni) are voicing a foreign policy which differs from that of Baghdad, controlled by Shi’ite.
- Iranian Kurds (also Sunni) are taking a position against Assad which is at odds with Tehran’s official policy.
- Turkey – which occupies a good chunk of Kurdistan – does not want to see Kurds establishing a state and definitely does not want to see cross-border Kurdish solidarity, as this implicitly threatens Turkey’s control of the heavily Kurdish eastern third of that country.
In a recent television interview, a spokesman for the Assad regime accused Saudi Arabia of being behind the chemical attack on rebel troops and threatened Syria would retaliate by bombing Riyadh, Jedda and Mecca. When questioned about the bombing of the Muslim holy city of Mecca – the spokesman responded — “Yeah, Mecca, so what?!”
Wives and children of the elite in Syria have been sent hastily abroad, while Mr. Assad and his wife keep up appearances at home. “He is not hiding,” a Syrian journalist has noted.
Think about this possibility: If Jews did not fight up hill in the Golan and win in 1967 and 1973, Assad – the man who is murdering his own people – would be in control of the Holy Land.
The 1973 Yom Kippur War was an unprovoked, sneak attack war deliberately started by Egypt and Syria against Israel on Israel’s holiest day (Yom Kippur) in order to undo the failures of previous wars against Israel started by Arabs.
The total number of Israelis killed in the 1973 Yom Kippur War was about 3,000 or 1/10 of one percent of the population. The equivalent number of war casualties suffered by the United States would be on the order of 320,000 dead.
Internal Economic Consequences
The gory civil war that has been taking place for a little more than two and a half years has laid waste to Syria.
Mr. Assad has declared his determination to wipe out the opposition.
He has steadfastly rejected calling it a civil war.
He has never wavered from his position that the uprising is a foreign plot.
It is Mr. Assad’s position that 90% of the opposition fighters are terrorist affiliated with Al Qaeda.
Mr. Assad has declared: “the only way to cope with them is to liquidate them.”
Syrian and Egyptian economies have been badly buffeted by two plus years of civil unrest and are less likely than ever to find a respite.
Egypt and Syria are now suffering their bloodiest internal disorder in modern history.
According to some accounts the Syrian economy has virtually ceased function.
One analyst has said that Mr. Assad cannot compromise. “He must see this through. He cannot reconcile. He is stuck. He can rule over a pile of rubble – that is the best he can do.”
Syria and Egypt were major tourist destinations before civil unrest broke out. Today, similar numbers of tourists are not likely to visit either country.
International tourist do not want to visit because of ongoing religious based ethnic cleaning. Forty Coptic Christian churches have been burned by Morsi supporters.
Tourist do not wish to visit places where people are shooting each other, bombing each other’s neighborhoods, kidnapping people, burning churches and/or waging chemical warfare..
The Syrian Economy
With low costs, abundant resources and subsidized healthcare, Syria was widely regarded as an economic haven, even for those with modest incomes.
It boasted a thriving middle class and a solid industrial and agricultural base.
Oil was a major export.
The allure of Roman ruins, Crusader castles, Ottoman souks and sandy Mediterranean beaches once drew a huge tourist trade.
After two years of “conflict” that is all in the past.
The Syrian pound traded at about 47 to the U.S. dollar when the conflict broke out in March 2011.
In July 2013 the Syrian pound traded at 300 to the dollar.
On August 4, 2013 the government of Syria issued a decree banning the the use of foreign currencies for commercial purposes. That move is ment to prevent the dollarization of the economy.
Violators face fines and jail terms.
The Egyptian Economy and Tourism Business
Fees collected from ships passing through the Suez Canal is the second largest source of foreign currency income in the Egyptian economy.
Tourism is Egypt’s biggest non farm employer and earner of foreign currency.
At one time tourism was more than 30% of the Egyptian Gross Domestic Product.
Under the leadership of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi the tourism industry dropped 90% from its peak and foreign reserves to 32 days of foreign reserves.
Egypt needs foreign reserves to pay for imports of food and other necessities.
The economy was on the verge of collapse when the Egyptian Military under the leadership of General al Sisi took over.
The Global Tourism Business
A huge economic battle is going on between the world’s tourism destinations.
Fifteen years ago, there were about 60 major tourism destinations; today there are about 600.
According to the most recent United Nations Global World Tourism Report over a trillion dollars were spent on international tourism last year.
As a result of Islamist Jihadism, intolerance of others and glorification of violence against all who disagree with the religious-political views which have led to civil unrest and civil war, including their own women and children, Syria and Egypt are no longer major tourism destinations.
The battle for tourist dollars is so intense the French tourism board has ramped up a charm offensive to burnish the image of France, and of Paris in particular as a kinder place for tourists.
Paris has 30 million tourists a year.
However, in August the French Federation of Hotels and Restaurants reported a 10% fall in tourism this year compared to last year.
Last year, according to the United Nations Global World Tourism Report, France earned $54 billion in international tourism receipts, which was less than China and Spain, the report said.
Last year more than 20% of the world’s vacationers visited an Asian city; that region earned $324 billion in international tourism receipts – a full 30% of the global total, according to United Nations Global World Tourism Report.
By contrast, the U.S. earned $126 billion from tourism, while France earned $54 billion.
The French tourism board has taken action to burnish the image of France and Paris: The Board recently passed out 55,000 copies of a manual on how to make travelers feel more welcome, titled “Do You Speak Touriste?” to cab drivers, restaurants, hotels, etc.
Availability of Public Services & Related Economic Consequences of Fiscal and Monetary Policies
In addition to anxiety – scary uncertainty – about whether the Sunni and Shiite fundamentalist will kill each other off in the Middle East and/or whether a fascistic and totalitarian tyranny packaged in God’s name will take over Syria, including myself, worry about (a) the financial condition of our local, state and federal governments, (b) the ripple effects of so called quantitative easing by the U.S. Federal Reserve which has created “cheap money”, (c) the condition of our streets and public services including the status of our police and fire forces, the status of our justice systems, and (d) the status of our school systems. We also worry about protecting the culture of our own country and our own physical safety. People in other parts of the world have similar worries.
Many people, myself included, believe that governmental fiscal, monetary and regulatory policies effect our standard of living, including (a) the level of employment and unemployment in our economy, (b) the value of our savings, (c) the value of our property, (d) the value of our labor, (e) the cost of food, shelter, clothing, fuel, (f) the cost of obtaining an education, (e) the quality and availability of public education and (f) our physical security. We also worry that fiscal and monetary policies have created an “credit financed asset bubble” due to use of “cheap loans”/leveraging in the purchase and development of real estate assets, the creation of excess manufacturing capacity and the financing used to pay costs related to exploration for oil and gas and minerals.
Many people in the world believe Central Bank economic policies do not reward being frugal but instead discourage saving and that nothing in their national economy rewards fiscal responsibility or being disposed to save.
Many people believe that the wide spread use of “pay-as-you-go” pension plans are a pyramid scheme that stays solvent only as long as payers comfortably out number beneficiaries. Many people believe unfunded pension plans will not be able to pay out promised benefits in the future.
Saving seems so uncertain. It seems that:
- If you save money you lose it without enjoying it.
- There are not any good choices for making money work for you.
People in the United States and the rest of the world are afraid that the educational system has reached a point where, with few exceptions, the cost of going to school does not seem to be worth it.
Educated young college graduates are supposed to be people in the best shape. But,
- The cost of getting a college education in the United States keeps going up and up and the amount of money a new college graduate can earn keeps going down and down.
- The jobs situation in the United States is such that the job a new college graduate can get with a college degree in the United States won’t pay for the degree.
- A great number of college graduates in the United States will only able to get a job that does not require a college education.
- By the time a “young” person graduates from college that person’s debt burden is so large person won’t have enough money to buy a house or furniture for many years and might never make enough money to be able to buy a house or furniture.
- In the United States, the amount of college debt now exceeds the amount of credit card debt in the U.S. economy.
- This means that young college educated people are not going to pump up the U.S. economy, or any other economy in the world.
China’s college graduates are also ill-matched for jobs. By some accounts, the unemployment rate for Chinese college graduates age 21 to 25, in China, is 16%, nearly four times that of blue collar workers. In Beijing, an estimated 98,000 jobs are available for the 229,000 new graduates, a city education committee found.
Many college graduates in major cities in China are ending up taking poorly paid jobs in areas such as telemarketing and real estate sales; often they are working for wages lower than a factory worker in Shenzhen.
The average wage for college graduates in China in 2012 was $461 a month, which is barely 20% higher than the $381 figure for migrant workers, as calculated by the National Bureau of Statistics.
State run media have published articles about college diploma holders working as nannies, maids, clowns, masseurs, butchers, cattle ranchers, noodle makers, furniture movers and cleaners of public toilets.
The following joke is told about what an American citizen seeking to get into college in the United States has to do:
- How to get into college in 1983: Get good grades.
- How to get into college in 2013: Get Good Grades. Speak 6 languages. Be a rocket scientist. End world hunger.
- How to pay for college in 1983: Work part time and summers. Maybe take out minimal loans.
- How to pay for college in 2013: Which one of your organs is most valuable?
What does it take to get a better life?
Many people want to get a better life.
Each of the movies mentioned in this review is about people who wanted to obtain a better life, the challenges they faced, and their heroic actions.
The prospects for Muslims portrayed in “The Reluctant Fundamentalist”, “Midnight’s Children” and “The Gatekeepers” was grim.
The prospects for Palestinians living in Lebanon portrayed in the Israeli film “Zaytoun” is extremely grim.
The prospects for Palestinians living in the Palestinian Territories portrayed in the Israeli film “The Gatekeepers” is extraordinarily grim.
Today’s Middle Eastern and South African Muslims have grim future prospects. The world economy left them behind.
Watching “The Reluctant Fundamentalist”, “Midnight’s Children”, “Hannah Arendt” and “The Gate Keepers” makes clear that they will not catch up in the next twenty-five years, if ever. The news about Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Lebanon makes it appear that Syria, Egypt and Lebanon are a world overcome with violence and hatred.
XXX Is what happens in the Middle East of importance to people who live outside the Middle East? Why?
What is the impact of oil and big oil companies (a) on you, (b) on the rest of the world, (c) on world economies?
Is what is going on in Egypt, Syria or Lebanon important to you or to the rest of the world or to world economies? Why?
How do governmental monetary and fiscal policies impact you, impact other people, impact world economies?
News made for general public consumption “makes” it seem that nothing is normal. Has there ever been a “normal?”
Is becoming/being an entrepreneur the way to make the best of current circumstances?
Below is a copy of my list of questions facts and opinions constantly on my mind which I use to orient my thinking when evaluating what to do.
I use the list set forth below when I make predictions about what is going to happen in the future.
Questions, Facts and Opinions Constantly on My Mind
- People must make a “living” in order to live. Sitting around doing nothing is not the way to go.
- What does it take to be a successful entrepreneur? What attitude and attributes do you have to have in order to be a success? What price do you have to be willing to pay to be a success?
- How did it come about that Steve Jobs was worth $7 billion when he died in October 2011?
- Do the following three quotes answer the above questions? Thomas Carlyle on Adversity: “Permanence, perseverance, and persistence in spite of all obstacles, discouragements and impossibilities: It is this that in all things distinguishes the strong soul from the weak.” Donna Karan on Passion: “Everything I do is a matter of heart, body and soul.” Steve Jobs on Performance: “Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.”
- What are the implications of the fact that in 2013 Apple’s App Store hit 50 billion downloads and total app sales across all platforms may surpass $25 billion?
- How did it come about that Steve Job’s company (Apple) had more cash in-hand than the U.S. Treasury when he (Steve jobs) died in October 2011?
- Why is it that 10 of the world’s 29 billionaire’s under 40 years old come from the tech sector? Four work for Facebook; two work for Google.
- Why are Sergey Brin and Larry Page, the founders of Google, each worth more than $20 billion?
- Google controls 80 % of search. Google and Apple provide the operating software for almost 90% of smart phones.
- Why was Mark Zukerberg, the founder of Facebook, worth $16 billion on July 25, 2013.
- More than 50% of Americans and 60 % of Europeans use Facebook.
- Facebook is the world’s dominant social media site.
- Why is Larry Ellison, the founder of Oracle, worth $41 billion?
- Why is Bill Gates, co-founder founder of Microsoft, worth $66 billion?
- Is the biggest change in the world today that the young don’t learn from the old; they teach the old how to use new electronic gadgets?
- Here is my answer to the foregoing questions about success: The keys to successful entrepreneurship are (1) secure your product – have a product or service everyone wants, (2) make the sale – of your product or service, and (3) get the money.
- Steve Jobs and the other billionaires listed above were able to accomplish what they accomplished in life because they had a “Babe Ruth attitude.” In life and in baseball, said Babe Ruth, “It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.”
- At one point in time, Steve Jobs lost his job at Apple Computer. Before losing his job at Apple, Jobs lost his authority to develop and sell the Mac they way he wanted to.
- Jobs lost his job at Apple because the Board of Directors did not share Jobs’ vision for Apple.
- Jobs did not want Apple’s products to be like anyone else’s products.
- Jobs didn’t want to have “me-too products.”
- Jobs wanted to constantly innovate, to make things that people had never seen before but would want to once they saw them.
- Jobs had to touch anything and everything having to do with a product.
- Jobs couldn’t work for other people.
- Jobs was not able to handle jobs where someone else could tell Jobs what to do.
- Jobs had an unbounded new product development creative belief: Jobs believed that he knew what other people wanted even if other people didn’t know it yet.
- Jobs perfected new products in terms of the service he conceived his products would give to others.
- Jobs figured out what the world needs, then went about and invented it.
- Jobs didn’t stop at inspiration. His activities ranged across the entire life cycle of a new idea, driving it through production and commercialization.
- Jobs asked the question: “How can people know what they want, how can people tell if they will want a product if people have never seen something like it before?
- Jobs had complete confidence that people would want new products that Jobs made, albeit they had never seen such a product before.
- Jobs had super-charged “can-do” entrepreneurial spirit.
- Jobs was so successful as an inventor and developer of new products because he also took on an entrepreneurial role in terms of manufacturing production and the commercial introduction of his/Apple’s products.
- Jobs had the ability to market his/Apple’s new products.
- Without the ability to market his/Apple’s new products, they might have remained sideshow curiosities.
- Jobs’ abilities enabled Jobs to create new businesses.
- However, after a while, Jobs’ entrepreneurial spirit was quashed by CEO John Scully, and Chairman of the Board Venture Capitalist Arthur Rock.
- Jobs had brought John Scully in to run his company Apple after Apple had become a big successful company.
- Apple became a big successful company by successfully creating, designing, manufacturing and commercializing innovative products under Jobs’ leadership, before Jobs hired John Scully to “run” Apple.
- Eventually, “corporation men” on the Board of Directors Rock and Scully, et al. made it impossible for Jobs to fulfill Jobs’ vision of what Apple should be doing. They forced Jobs out of Apple.
- John Scully (CEO of Apple) was a “professional manager” who was brought in by Jobs to “run” Apple after Apple had become a big highly successful company.
- “Company culture” establishes the integrity, passion and dedication of an organization. It governs not only how the employees perform but also customers’ perception of a company’s values and integrity. Jobs found out, the hard way, that he couldn’t delegate setting the culture of Apple to anyone else.
- After Jobs was fired, the Board of Directors, under the leadership of Venture Capitalist Arthur Rock and CEO John Scully, while utilizing “bean counting corporatist culture” business operating principles, ran Apple into the ground.
- When Apple was on the verge of becoming insolvent a new Board of Directors begged Jobs to come back to run Apple.
- At that time Apple was losing money and was about four months away from becoming insolvent.
- Jobs came back, saved Apple by creating great new products his way – products that had never been made before that everyone now uses and loves.
- Jobs’ business story fully supports the argument that entrepreneurial risk taking capitalism based on innovation is NOT compatible with don’t rock the boat don’t do anything new minimize risk corporatism. They are two different business enterprise cultures, they have two different ways of thinking, have two different ways of making decisions. They are two different cultures in which two different types of people will flourish.
- Jobs was strategically and tactically aggressive, had extraordinary initiative , was brave and had an extraordinary knack for improvisation.
- Jobs’ business success supports the theory that entrepreneurial capitalism thrives on innovation, on taking outrageous risks, on being innovative and aggressive.
- Successful capitalists who manage companies that make a positive difference by changing the world are people like Jobs, people who are round pegs that don’t fit into square holes.
- Jobs once profoundly claimed: “The people who are crazy enough to think they are going to change the world are the people who change the world.”
- Those people put everything they have “on the line”; they believe so strongly about what they are doing, care so deeply about what they are trying to achieve, and are so passionate about their vision that they develop a “damn the torpedoes” approach which energizes them, which in turn enables them to persevere, enables them to tenaciously overcome all set backs and obstacles.
- The recently released (released on August 16, 2013) film “Jobs” captures who Jobs was and what he did and what happened to him in his life.
- In the movie, and in real life, Jobs was an energetic passionate self-starter, brimming with initiative.
- Jobs lived a “seize the day” life with passion, conviction, courage and determination.
- The “Jobs” movie shows that Jobs’ business life was a success story centered around how grass-roots innovation and initiative flourished for Jobs.
- The true life story of Steven Jobs told in”Jobs” is a story about the rise of Apple Computer Company, the hatching of a successful business idea.
- The movie “Jobs” tells the parallel life stories of Steve Jobs and Apple Computer: At its beginning, Apple was a grass-roots, underfunded business devoted to an innovation dreamed up by Steve Jobs and his “partner” Stephen Wozniak.
- After Jobs and Wozniak (Apple) thought up created and brought to life and profitably sold one innovative product after another – after Apple became more and more financially successful through the creation development manufacture and sale of innovative products – Apple was taken over by a venture capitalist (Arthur Rock) and professional managers (led by John Scully as Chief Executive Officer) who didn’t get Steve Jobs’ vision.
- After they established management control of Apple, Rock and Scully masterminded the ouster of Steve Jobs.
- During the time they opposed Jobs’ initiatives, Rock and Scully caused the decline of the Apple Computer Company to a point where Apple was about to become insolvent.
- In the end, Apple was successful. Apple became successful under Jobs leadership, after Jobs was brought back to run Apple.
- The movie vividly shows how Arthur Rock and John Scully, corporatist to the core, ran Apple into the ground.
- The movie “Jobs” makes it clear that had Apple not gotten rid of Rock and Scully and brought back Jobs, Apple would have gone out of business.
- After Rock and Scully were ousted and Jobs put back in charge, Apple came back, revolutionized several industries and re-emerged as one of the most successful companies in history.
- Steven Jobs’ life story, Apple’s life story, and the movie “Jobs” ought to convince everyone that committees of experts, even at smart venture capital firms, will often not recognize real innovation.
- Apple succeeded because Jobs and Wozniak – people with specialized knowledge, drive, vision, passion, courage and conviction – were willing to put their money, time and resources on the line for ideas that couldn’t be proved to a committee.
- Jobs’ new product ideas couldn’t be proved to a committee. Jobs’ new product ideas and creations were proved in the business world. Products Jobs created were sold at a high profit.
- Jobs had the ability and drive to make innovative new products which he could sell.
- Jobs found happiness in life by having goals which he tried to achieve.
- Like other self-made billionaires Steve Jobs had a roller-coaster life which included many failures. But, Steve Jobs never gave up.
- Steve Jobs had a passion for perfection, ferocious drive and a clear vision of what he wanted to achieve.
- Steve Jobs, and other self-made billionaires, created things people wanted.
- Steve Jobs once said his sense of what was important was, “creating great things instead of making money, putting things back into the stream of history and of human consciousness as much as I could.” He belied, that “you should never start a company with the goal of getting rich. Your goal should be making something you believe in and making a company that will last.”
- Steve Jobs followed three marketing principles – condensed into a three word marketing philosophy. The first was empathy, an intimate connection with the feelings of the customer: “We will truly understand their needs better than any other company.” The second was focus: “In order to do a good job of those things we decide to do, we must eliminate all of the unimportant opportunities.” The third was impute. Jobs believed people do form an opinion about a company or a product based on the signals it conveys. “People DO judge a book by its cover. We may have the best product, the highest quality, the most useful software, etc; if we present them in a slipshod manner, they will be perceived as being slipshod; if we present them in a creative, professional manner, we will impute the desired qualities.”
- During his successful career, Jobs understood the needs and desires of his customers better than any other business leader. He focused on a handful of core products, and he cared obsessively about marketing and image, even the details of packaging. Everything about his products had to look and feel right to him. Each product had to be something that once you saw it you had to have it.
- Steve Jobs secured the products he created by being a perfectionist. Every part of the products he created had to be perfect. Everything about the product had to perfectly fit his vision, even the packaging and the case the product came in. Those products sold themselves. Those products have bravado.
- Jobs once famously said, “We don’t do fine. We never stop innovating.” “Our computers are a tool you can use to make your dreams come true.”
- The money making formula Steve Jobs followed was: Have something people want. Take care of what you do best. Do one thing, but do it well. Be all-out. Have passion about doing what you are doing, doing it well will be natural.
- At the plate, said Babe Ruth, “I swing as hard as I can, and I try to swing right through the ball…I swing big, with everything I got. I hit big or I miss big. I like to live as big as I can.”
- Steve Job swung with all his might too. Steve Jobs was never afraid of striking out. Steve Jobs followed Babe Ruth’s advice, “Never let the fear of striking out keep you from coming up to bat.”
- Jobs was driven to constantly make better and better and more and more innovative products.
- Jobs passionately believed in taking risks to accomplish his goals – he believed in doing whatever had to be done to make a new product he had envisioned.
- A pressing issue for Jobs was whether his employees cared “enough” about bringing Jobs’ vision to fruition. If Jobs thought an employee didn’t care about Jobs’ vision enough he fired that employee.
- During his lifetime, Jobs revolutionized six industries: personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing and digital publishing.
- He did it by knowing more than his customer about his products and services.
- Jobs made products that had never been made before, revolutionary products. By listening to himself about what he wanted Jobs was able to divine what his customers would want.
- Jobs focused on creating a product that he personally knew his customers would want once they saw it.
- Jobs was able to help his customers, guide his customers to what was right or wrong for them.
- The end result of Steve Jobs’ attention to detail and vision is what every customer experiences in every Apple Store.
- When we go into an Apple Store, we are all looking for the truth. We all want to learn something new. If the Apple Store has the right product or service, Apple doesn’t have to sell it. It is already sold.
- You can find out more about Steve Jobs in “Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaac, published by Simon & Schuster, in 2011.
- Edmund S. Phelps, a professor of economics at Columbia University and a Nobel laureate has written a new book on the topic of entrepreneurial culture – “the spirit of capitalism.” It is “Mass Flourishing: How Grassroots Innovation Created Jobs, Challenge and Change”, published by Princeton University Press.
- Professor Phelps says once corporatism takes hold in society people don’t adequately appreciate the contributions and travails of individuals who create and innovate. “An economy with a corporatist culture can copy and ever outgrow others for a while, he says, but in the end, it will always be left behind. Only an entrepreneurial culture can lead.”
- There are other theories of why capitalism is successful, what capitalism thrives on.
- Another theory of what capitalism thrives on is that capitalism was founded on and thrives on increasing supplies of cheap fossil fuels and a free license to pollute.
- Oil is the pinnacle fuel in terms of energy content, transportability and storability, crucial to the smooth running of modern transport systems.
- A severe disruption in crude oil availability will lead to social disruption.
- A high price must be paid to maintain oil supplies at current levels because the supply of oil that flows freely from the ground – light sweet crude – is decreasing and marginal supply that is replacing it (i.e., from shale and tar sands) is much more expensive.
- Furthermore, the US gas industry is losing its shirt on shale. US natural gas prices are still below the price needed to turn a profit.
- To maintain oil supplies at current levels a high price must be paid. What does this mean for a complex, growth based, global economy?
- How will the increasing price of oil impact economic growth? What will/would be the economic impact of oil prices being in the $100 to $150/bbl bracket?
- What does it mean to be in a resource constrained future?
- Despite record high oil prices international oil companies have not been able to grow production of oil that flows freely from the ground.
- Oil production of the five major international oil companies is down 26% since 2004 despite record high prices.
- The rate of production in oil fields per year declines over time owing to pressure depletion of the reservoir of oil, the production of oil and the ingress of water and gas into the formerly oil bearing strata.
- Absent new oil field developments, one set of experts (CERA) predicts oil production would decline every year about 4.5 %, or 6.7% according to another expert (IEA). This means new oil fields must be found and developed equivalent to a province like the North Sea, every year to stand still, to maintain the same level of global oil production.
- Regular oil production is being replaced by shale oil production Shale oil production by comparison requires enormous effort to develop and declines much more rapidly.
- Energy security is a serious issue for Europe. European oil and gas production is in free fall, in sharp contrast to North America. Europe is becoming increasingly dependent upon Russia, Africa and the Middle East with every passing day.
- Most new supplies lies in the hands of national governments out side of the OECD. Certain oil experts argue this presents a very serious threat to energy security and on-going trade imbalances that lie at the heart of on-going financial system stress.
- Some people believe the end of cheap fossil fuels and license to pollute will sound the death knell for capitalism.
- Interest rates have gone from 17% in 1982 to figuratively close to 0% in 2012, yet dropping interest rates and printing $2 trillion a year isn’t kick-starting the economy? What does that mean?
- Virtually all of America’s deficit is currently being funded by the Fed’s debt monetarization. Even with $1trillion a year in freshly printed dollars, the 10 year Treasury yield has risen 1% over the last few months. In barely two days this past week, the yield on the US 30-year Treasury bond surged as much as 176 basis points, jumping from a low of 3.60% to as high as 3.76%. That is a 4.4% move higher in just two days. A 4.4% move higher would be like the Dow Industrials soared roughly 666 points in just 48 hours. Does this mean the Federal Reserve is on the verge of losing control over interest rates? Is this a clear warning that we are on the brink of a “total” financial collapse taking place within the next 12 months?
- While people like Steve Jobs are making new products that change the world, newspapers and broadcasters are bombarding us with stories, reports and opinions about people killing other people and destroying property in the Middle East. We are told this killing is going on as a result of religion, religious intolerance, as part of a religious struggle which is a struggle for dominion and control as well as a struggle for power.
- Ask yourself: Historically, is there anything new about the ethnic cleansing? Is there anything new about the ethnic cleansing now taking place in the Middle East?
- There are currently 21 Arab states.
- Which, if any of the 21 Arab states, in your opinion, has a normal functioning stable society?
- Would it be important to you if there does not exist a normal functioning stable society in any Arab state?
- Do you consider Turkey, Jordan, Morocco Kuwait and Indonesia to have normal functioning stable societies?
- Is it fair to state that in each Arab state today there is a sizable minority of people who belong to a different group than the group in “power” who feel oppressed by the group in power; a significant portion of the population doesn’t want to live under Sharia law; a significant number of people in each Arab country want to have “freedom of religion” and “individual rights”?
- Would it be accurate to say that Jordan, Morocco, Indonesia and/or Turkey has a normal functioning stable society?
- What percentage of the adult American population know any thing about the so-called Armenian Genocide that took place in 1915?
- What percentage of educated Americans know where Armenia is? What percentage of Americans have heard anything about Armenia?
- Armenia was the first country to have Christianity as its official religion.
- Armenia was declared a Christian country in the Third Century by its King.
- Armenians claim the Armenian genocide/holocaust was the first genocide/holocaust/ethnic cleaning in 1915.
- Is it important to know that the Ottoman Turkish Empire killed 1.5 million Armenians in 1915 on a “death march? The Armenians were a numerically large group of Christians living in Ottoman Turkey, which was a country ruled by Muslims.
- The Cristian Armenians were lined up by the Muslim Ottoman Turks. After they were rounded up in their villages, they were forced to march to their death in the desert.
- The Ottoman Turks have another take on that story, an elaborate justification for why the 1.5 million Armenians living in Turkey were killed by the Ottoman Turks.
- Is it important to know about the 1.5 million Christians (Armenians) killed by the Ottoman Turks (Muslims) in 1915 today?
- In the 1930s Adolph Hitler said, “Who remembers the Armenians.”
- Is it important to remember that Hitler said that about the murder of 1.5 million Muslims by the Turks today?
- Is it important to know that millions of other ethnic groups were killed in genocidal ethnic cleanings in the 20th century – in Kosovo, Nigeria, Cambodia, Russia and Nazi Germany – when deciding what the U.S. should do with regards to what is going on in Syria and Egypt today?
- Would the loss of any American soldier in Syria or Egypt be for a useless purpose?
- The unfortunate reality is that had the U.S. delayed entering the European World War II for even six months, we all would be speaking German now, except or those of us with Jewish or Slavic or Black forefathers and “other inferior races, who would all be dead. How, if at all, does that effect your opinion on whether the U.S. ought to be involved in what is going on in Syria and/or involved in what is going on in Egypt?
- Is Political Islamism a world wide totalitarian movement, like communism and fascism? If so, should the United States have to take affirmative action to defeat Political Islam? What should the United States do with respect to Political Islam?
- Is there anything “new” happening in Syria or Egypt that hasn’t happened over and over again throughout world history?
- Is it accurate to describe the Islamic fundamentalist fighting in Syria and Egypt as members of cultural tribes who the same attitude towards other people as tribal stone age people had towards people in other tribes?
- What does Jared Diamond’s newest book “The World Until Yesterday” tell us about the experiences of people in societies, the nature of human beings, the problems of today and our destiny as a species?
- How does what Jared Diamond tells us in “The World Until Yesterday” relate to what is going on in Syria today and to what is going on in Egypt today?
- How is U.S. financial aid to Egypt being spent?
- If the U.S. withdraws financial aid to Egypt would that result in the Egyptian soldiers not getting paid, most and maybe all Egyptian soldiers and their families starving? Would that lead to Egyptian soldiers refusing to obey orders from their officers?
- What would happen if Egyptian soldiers failed to obey orders given by their officers?
- Would that result in “all hell breaking out” in the Middle East?
- Would that result in Russia or Iran gaining influence in Egypt and/or Syria?
- Would the result of the withdrawal of financial aid to the military regime in Egypt lead to the State of Israel being destroyed by the armies and arms of its hostile Arab Muslim neighbors?
- If the U.S. continues to give $1.5 billion a year in Egypt will that eventually result in the creation of a military dictatorship?
- Would absolute control by the military eventually become a despotic rule – a rule in which people in the public at large were being tortured by the military and the police and being jailed for being dissenters or suspected dissenters?
- When you have a country of 80 million people fanatic about their beliefs (i.e., Egypt) will that inevitably result in the issue being settled by one group winning and the winner imposing the winner’s will on everyone?
- Is it possible that Egypt or Syria will be ruled by secular laws in the near future?
- What would happen to American civilization if Islamist Fundamentalists took over Syria or Egypt?
- What can the U.S. do in Syria today?
- What would be the cost and benefit of any action taken by the U.S. in Syria today?
- Are you are willing to die for whatever you believe the U.S. should do in Syria? Are you willing for your compatriots and members of your family to die for what you believe should be done in Syria or Egypt?
- What can the U.S. do in Egypt today?
- What would be the cost and benefit of any action taken by the U.S. in Egypt today?
- What is to be expected when a political or religious group considers itself to be a “True Religion”, inherently superior to all other belief systems (whether racially or divinely), and both destined and required by God to rule the World and convert the heathen, when such a group believes that all other belief systems are unworthy and must change or be eliminated?
- Why doesn’t the U.S. take over the Suez Canal by military force?
- Is guaranteeing the free flow of oil tankers in the Suez Canal all about the flow of oil to countries outside of the Middle East? All about money?
- What was the reason Saudi Arabia offered Russia over a billion dollars to stop supporting Assad in Syria?
- What were the reasons Putin (Russia) turned down Saudi Arabia’s offer?
- Did Russia turn down the Saudi’s offer (a) because Russia doesn’t need Saudi oil, Russia has enough oil for its own needs and exports oil and/or, (b) because Russia sees Assad’s regime as a bulwark against its own restless Sunni Muslim population?
- Russia’s population is shrinking. Life expectancy for males is 59 years and shrinking. Slavic, non-Muslim, women are having very few children and a great many abortions. Russia’s Muslims – almost exclusively Sunni, are having many more children. If present trends continue Russia might end up having a Muslim majority long before the end of this century. A Sunni victory in Syria might encourage Muslim dissent and terrorism in Russia.
- China has a similar reason for backing Assad. China’s northwestern Province – Xinjiang – is populated by a restive Sunni Turkic Muslim group, the Uyghurs. Many Uyghurs want independence from China. Form China’s point of view, a Sunni victory over non-Sunnis could embolden the Uyghurs and threaten the stability of China.
- What is at stake for the United States, Russia, China, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey with respect to what is going on in Syria and Egypt today?
- About 85% of the world’s approximately 1.4 billion Muslims are Sunni.
- Any Sunni-fundamentalist victory could give its cohorts throughout the world a strong shot in the arm. Should that be of concern to anyone who is not a Sunni-fundamentalist?
- Should the U.S. contain the conflict in Syria by strengthening its support for Jordan, Iraq and Israel?
- Is Turkey a U.S. ally in the Middle East?
- Does Turkey have the same interests as the U.S. in the Middle East?
- Do Turkey’s and the U.S.’s interests in the Middle East coincide?
- Is what is going on in Egypt and Syria today an attempt by General al-Sisi and the military in Egypt and by President Assad and his government in Syria to prevent ethnic cleaning by Sunni Islamic Jihadist?
- Should the US support General al-Sisi?
- Should the US support President Assad?
- Is the Middle East important because the Middle East is the geopolitical center of the world?
- We have to go round or fly over it.
- Egypt is seven hours away by plane from the United States.
- As a result of modern technical advancement our societies have achieved non-locality – whispers in the shadowy back alleys of Karachi and Gaza are literally echoed in Westwood (Los Angeles, California), where FBI anti-terrorism operations on the West Coast are located.
- Gangsta rap-style music recorded by some black kid in his bedroom in north Long Beach gets played back at concerts in Tel Aviv where Jewish and Palestinian crowds gather together and gleefully repeat American slang profanities in unison.
- THE TAKEAWAY: In all literal reality, the Middle East is now as close to Ventura and Wilshire Blvd. in Los Angeles, California as each as Ventura Blvd. is to Wilshire Blvd.
- Is what is going on in Egypt an existentialist struggle between ordinary Muslims, represented by the Army, and the Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood who want to radically Islamize Egypt?
- Egypt is not ready for Jeffersonian democracy.
- Egypt is now in a state of virtual martial law.
- Egypt has immense influence throughout the Arab world and the African world though films, media and their export of workers.
- Should the U.S. President, U.S. Secretary of State, U.S. Ambassador to Egypt and other U.S. officials shut up about democracy when talking about Egypt?
- Is the position Western countries are taking regarding what is going on in Egypt all about money, all about the flow of tankers transporting oil through the Suez Canal and/or the need of the United States for quick passage from the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean?
- Is the position of Western countries on what is happening in the Middle East based on the fact that oil and gas can be gotten out of the ground cheaper in the Middle East than anywhere else? That oil can be refined cheaper in the Middle East than anywhere else?
- Can the “West” dispense with oil from the Middle East, do without oil from the Middle East?
- Political Islamist Muslims want “our” Western culture to be like “their” culture?
- Muslims have never made a secret of their mission to eradicate infidels.
- What can people in Western Society (i.e. in the United States, Great Britain, Denmark, Norway) do while Shiria law gains a foothold in their justice system, and chips away at progress that has been made in areas such as women’s equality, racial equality, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly and free speech?
- Do you foresee the possibility of what is happening in Egypt and/or Syria happening in the United States?
- Does the U.S. have a stake in the outcome of anything happening in Egypt or Syria?
- Do you foresee a collapse of American civilization resulting from anything happening in the Middle East?
- In terms of the “Global Village” we are interconnected people to people, community to community, sect to sect.
- Has the globalized world polarized the world, not brought it together?
- If once the “Genie” is out of the bottle, the “Genie” is out of the bottle, why is what happens in the Middle East important?
- Can one evaluate the rise of American power without taking into account the flood of immigrants from the Old World – fleeing the the wars, conflicts and sectarian hatreds, and economic stagnation entrenched in European Monarchical societies?
- Can one evaluate present American economic and military power without taking into account the flood of immigrants since 1900 seeking a better life in America?
- Can anyone in any country shut themselves off from the rest of the world?
- Each main character in the movies mentioned in this review is an interesting character study in how to succeed in life.
- Each movie provides historical and psychological information that can be used as a guide to understanding what is likely to happen in the future.
- Predictions and forecasts and “accepted truths” are often worthless because they are based on incomplete information, or false information, or a partial truth and the conclusions drawn from that information and advice based on that information given is worthless because the advice doesn’t provide a full picture of whatever is being predicted or forecast and the basic premise on which the conclusion, prediction or forecast is based is false.
- Predictions based on “partial truths” are inherently flawed because they don’t accurately describe the existing state of affairs.
- Have you ever tried to plot (plan) your future? If so, what facts do you base your plan on?
- Movie Director Brian de Palm claims a person can’t plot their future. Things just happen.
- Brian de Palma’s newest movie, “Passion”, is about competition in business.
- Do you think the present state of the economy is the new normal? Have you ever wondered if the “general economy” will ever get “better”?
- Have you ever tried to figure out what is “economically, politically, socially and culturally” normal?
- Many “poor” people in the United States today enjoy luxuries that John D. Rockefeller and the French Monarchy, including King Louis XIV, King Louis XVI and Queen Mary Antoinette (of “let them eat cake” fame), couldn’t. What does that tell you about the definition of poverty?
- By the way, I recently received an email in which the author claims that in fiscal year 2012 the average U.S household below the poverty line received $168.00 a day in government support between food stamps, housing support, child care, Medicaid and other benefits. That works out to being paid $30 per hour for a 40-hour week compared to the average job in the U.S., which pays $20 per hour. However, that isn’t the whole story and doesn’t give you an accurate picture of our economy on which to make any important decision.
- The mean household income in America is just over $50,000, which averages out to $137.13 a day, which for a 40-hr week is $20 per hour. However, very few new college graduates in the United States can find a job that pays $50,000 per year or find a job which has health benefits.
- For the foreseeable future the cost of getting a college degree will keep going up and up and the amount of money most new college graduates will be able to make will keep going down and down. It is important that one be informed of the historical context in which the comparison is made above between how much a person under the poverty line receives and how much the average worker is paid per hour as well as the forces responsible for that result.
- Things don’t just happen. They evolve.
- In terms of planning our future, is all we can do is stay off the dance floor while the elephants are dancing, or find a really good dance partner who knows the moves?
- Why did the French Revolution – initially premised on the ideas of liberty, equality and fraternity – come to be defined by the guillotine, regicide, rivers of blood and the Reign of Terror?
- In France, disillusion and distrust followed the horrors of the Reign of Terror and the Directory Government after 1974. That made possible the rise of the ambitious Corsican general Napoleon who offered not bloodshed and primitive justice of the street mobs, and the self-righteous justifications of of the royalists and moderates. What Napoleon proposed was a new kind of glory separated from the factionalism of the past decade, with promises of a bright future, a solid nation and better times. Is something like that taking place in Egypt?
- Did something like recently taken place in Egypt (i.e. under the direction of deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi)? Has something like that already taken place in Turkey (i.e., under the direction of Turkish Prime Minister Recap Tayyip Erdogan)?
- Will something like that take place in the near future in other Middle Eastern countries, such as Syria or Saudi Arabia or Lebanon, or Yemen or Libya, or Tunisia ?
- Does Turkey or Egypt debunk the accepted wisdom that the military is anti-democratic? In Turkey’s case and/or Egypt’s case is the military democracy’s guardian?
- Why did the “West” criticize Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s prime minister, in June, 2013 for using tear gas and water cannon against his people when they demonstrated but did not criticize the shooting that took place in Cairo early on July 27, 2013 that killed unarmed civilian supporters of Muhammad Morsi, ousted in a coup at the beginning of July, who were marching to demand that the army restore him to the presidency? Riot police opened fire. More than 80 members of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mr. Morsi’s party died; many more were wounded. In Egypt, is the military the lesser of two evils?
- According to the Los Angeles Times, Egypt’s Shiite community is a minority in a country dominated by Sunni Muslims. “In the year that the recently ousted President Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood held power, Brotherhood official denounced Shiite practices and declared that the sect had no place in Egypt. Law makers pushed through a new constitution that made Sunni religious doctrine the basis for most laws. One preacher who converted to Shiism was jailed on charges of insulting Islam. The trouble culminated in a gruesome lynching in a village outside Cairo in June, when a mob dragged the bloodied bodies of a prominent Shiite cleric and three others through the streets while police officers stood by.” After reading or hearing that story are people around the world to conclude about “Western Democracy” or the “Muslim World” or “Islam” and the importance of embracing civil rights, tolerance and living in a place where you can speak freely and worship freely without any fear of punishment?
- The present and the future of the oil industry, oil production and oil usage is a big deal with enormous geopolitical and economic as well as social ramifications.
- According to the Huffington Post, Bahrain deported a U.S. citizen (Erin Kilbride) working as a teacher in the Gulf Kingdom on August 10, 2013 for working “illegally as an unaccredited journalist” in violation of her visa. She was “using Twitter and a number of websites to publish articles in Bahrain that were deemed to incite hatred against the government and members of the royal family” according to Bahrain’s Ministry of State for Communications.
- Bahrain is cracking down on dissent. According to that same article, on August 9, 2013, British Airways barred Maryam al-Khawaja, the acting president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, from boarding a direct London-Bahrain flight over what a spokesman described as a request from the government. al-Khawaja is the daughter of jailed activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja.
- Bahrain is home of the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet.
- Bahrain has faced months of unrest between the Sunni led monarchy and its majority Shiite population.
- Do you believe that liberty and being able to speak freely are part of what being human means?
- Do you think that free speech enhances human life and/or favors its development?
- What are the geopolitical economic and social ramifications of the world’s dependence on oil?
- In Turkey is the military the lesser of two evils? Is it fair to say that over the decades since modern Turkey’s founding father, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, rescued his country from Ottoman decay, it was Turkey’s military that defended his progressive constitution and prevented the reemergence of Muslim clerical domination?
- Is it fair to say the same happened in Egypt, where the army stood behind every ruler from Gamal Abdel Nasser to Hosni Mubarak?
- What does President Mohamed Morsi’s ouster in Egypt by the Egyptian military signify?
- Is Islamic religiosity compatible with democracy?
- Why was Turkish Premier Recap Tayyip Erdogan one of the most vociferous critics of the overthrow of Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi?
- Will religious struggle and/or class struggle or some other struggle be the main political theme in years to come?
- What is the future of oil? Is “oil” becoming yesterday’s fuel?
- What will be the impact of “fracking” (the release of gas from shale beds), advanced in automotive technology (advanced in the efficiency of the internal combustion engine, the materials used in making cars getting lighter and stronger, the growing popularity of electric and hybrid cars, as well as vehicles powered by natural gas) on demand for oil? What will happen to the demand for oil if “lower cost” and more available gas replaces the use of oil in ships, power stations, petrochemical plants and in domestic and industrial heating systems?
- Is America headed towards shale-powered self-sufficiency?
- What are the geo-political implications of “oil” becoming “yesterday’s fuel?”
- Is Saudi Arabia facing a threat with the continuation of its near-complete reliance on oil, especially as 92% of the budget for this year (2013) depends on oil?
- Does Saudi Arabia need to reduce its reliance on crude oil and diversify its revenues lest the era of gold-plated toilets and paying for lavish social programs to placate the restless generation that has taken to the streets elsewhere?
- What will happen when Saudi Arabia ability to pay for lavish social programs for its citizens comes to an end?
- The Saudis control 11% of the world output of oil and have the most spare capacity. Why is Saudi Arabia, according to Reuters, offering Russia a $15 billion arms deal and a vow to not compete with Russia’s gas sales to Europe if Moscow scales back support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad? Russia has been Assad arms and has defended him at the U.N. and elsewhere.
- What have the people in Egypt been demonstrating for and demonstrating against? Why have they been demonstrating?
- Syrian Bishops Metropolitan Mar Gregorios Yohanna Ibranin and Metropolitan Boulous Yazigi have been captured for over 100 days now. The bishops were kidnapped on April 22. 2013 by an unknown group near the Turkish Syrian border between Aleppo and Antioch. Ibrain is the Syrian Orthodox Archbishop of Aleppo and Yazigi is the Greek Orthodox Bishop of Aleppo. The two sister churches have publicly and privately exerted every effort at local, regional and global levels to secure the release of the two bishops. “Religions for Peace,” the world’s larges multi-religious organization, has called for the release of the two religious leaders. In a call for action they said, “Release the Bishops! Let them take up together with Syria’s other religious leaders the hard but essential work of stemming sectarian violence and building a just peace.” What are the people in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, India and Pakistan fighting for? What is their motivation, what is their goal, what are they trying to achieve?
- Are the current woes in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, India or Pakistan fundamentally new? Do you identify with any of the combatants in Egypt, Syria, Iraq or Afghanistan or in Pakistan or India? What is implied by the “fact” that Adam and Eve were in Eden, then they left? By the way, according to the “Economist” only 17 % of the nations in the United Nations are fully democratic.
- Are Federal Reserve Bank Chairman Ben Bernanke’s monetary policies inflationary or deflationary?
- Is it good or bad politics to follow Bernanke’s monetary policy of printing money?
- Does printing more money favor the rich and/or condemn the majority to even more difficult lives?
- Is what is good for U.S. Investment Bankers bad for America?
- Are Bernanke’s monetary policies making the United States increasingly unstable socially, financially, and/or economically?
- Are we at the beginning of a rising interest rate cycle? In just the last 12 months, U.S. 30-year bods have lost more than 11% of their value. Why did that happen? Is it fair to say investors in Treasuries have lost over 4 times the annual yield they were counting on in the past 12 weeks? According to one research letter I read, investors are selling bond-related investments at a record pace, with $47.2 billion (US) flowing out of US bond mutual funds and exchange-traded funds in June. Why is that happening?
- Are children in “advanced economies” now viewed as a luxury instead of as a necessity?
- Why are marriage rates in decline across all races in the United States? Is this because men and women now apply a cost-benefit thinking towards decisions whether to marry or have children? Does American culture and laws punish people who get married? Does capitalism and capitalistic thinking result in lower fertility, decreasing birth rates and ultimately less young people in the work force working to support elderly “retired” people in advanced industrialized countries?
- Why has the number of white mother-headed households living in poverty risen to the level of black ones in the United States? Is it because for many single women, having a child and getting governmental entitlements is the easiest way to get an apartment and a steady income?
- Why do so few people in advanced economies have job security?
- Why are well-paying stable jobs few and far between?
- Why are the outlooks for improving the standard of living and job prospects for new college graduates so dismal?
- Why are educational standards so weak in the United States?
- Why do four out of five U.S. adults struggle with joblessness, near-poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives?
- Going back to the 1980s, why have whites in the United States never been so pessimistic about their futures? Why do just 45 percent say their family will have a good chance of improving their economic position based on the way things are in America.
- Has America become a nation of hamburger flippers, Wal-Mart sales associates, barmaids, checkout people and other people working at very low paying jobs?
- A study released on August 1, 2013 by Pew Research Center states that the number of young adults, ages 18 to 31, living with their parents rose to a record 36 % in 2012. The report showed that those aged 16 to 24 were more likely to live at hone than those 25 to 31. The data shows that 56% of the younger subset lives at home vs 25% of the 25 to 31 group. With decent-paying jobs still elusive for young adults, a record number of them are still living with their parents. A few years ago, people were bemoaning the decline of the family in America. Have we recently (in 2012) reached a different point – where the family is alive and well in America?
- Last year, 21.6 million 18 to 31 year old Americans lived in their parents’ homes, up from 18.5 million in 2007. Is that good or bad? Why?
- Why are more than 50 % of new college graduates (who have jobs) stuck in jobs that don’t require a college degree or a college education and why did only sixty-three percent of 18 to 31 year old Americans held jobs in 2012 down from 70% in 2007? Why are the Jobs available the lower paying retail, fast-food and other service jobs?
- Why is there a flood of well educated intelligent and wealthy foreigners trying to immigrate to the United States?
- Why has the immigrant share of all new businesses in the United States doubled from 13.4 % in 1996 to 29.5 % in 2010?
- Will the aging white populations of the U.S., France, Britain and Italy soon find their social welfare transfer payments increasingly supplied by the darker skinned children of recent immigrants from Latin America the Muslim world, the Hindu world, from India, from Pakistan, from Afghanistan, from Hong Kong, from Taiwan, from Sri Lanka, from South Korea, from Russia, from Israel, from Iraq, from Iran, from China? Why is that now a possibility?
- The modern kitchen, absent a few surface improvements, is the same as the one that existed 50 years ago. What does that tell about the speed at which the standard of living in advanced industrialized hyper-consumerized countries is improving?
- Has Austrian-American Joseph Schumpeter’s prediction that capitalism and consumerism (not socialism or communism) will be the ultimate enemy of political conservatism and traditional values been proven to be true?
- What is the relationship of demographic trends to Gross Domestic Product?
- What is the role of demography, the influence of demography, on economic growth?
- How do population profiles determine what is presently going on and what will be going on in a country?
- What will be the future prosperity of different countries in view of their past, current and future demographic profiles?
- Do you want to invest in any of the countries whose economic fortunes depend on exporting goods to China? Take Chile, for example. Chile sends 24% of its exports to China. Chile is China’s largest supplier of cooper, and copper accounts for 20 % of Chile’s Gross Domestic Product.
- In which country or countries in the Middle East, if any, will there be innovation, a growing economy and material progress in the next 5 years, in the next 10 years, in the next 15 years? Why ?
- How is it that Israel – a country of 7.1 million people, only sixty years old, surrounded by enemies, in a constant state of war since its founding, with little or no natural resources, produces more start-up companies than large peaceful stable nations like Japan, China, India, Korea, Canada, and the United Kingdom?
- Is the story of Israel’s economic miracle a story of what high quality immigrants can accomplish and/or a bigger story?
- As America, and the American economy, seeks to reboot its “can-do” spirit and as people and countries all over the world seek to build thriving economies and “thriving businesses” are there lessons to be found in Israel’s example that might apply?
- Somewhere along the way (either at home, in school, or in the army) Israelis learn that assertiveness is the norm, reticence is something that risks you being left behind and that you have to work harmoniously with teammates toward a common goal. Is this a good thing or a bad thing?
- With respect to your view on current US foreign policy – do you want current US foreign policy to conform with George Washington’s statement, “Associate yourself with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation, for ’tis better to be alone than to be in bad company.”? Do you believe current US foreign policy conforms to George Washington’s admonition? Do you believe the United States can buy peace? Do you believe the united States can buy friends? Many people believe money doesn’t buy love. Is U.S. foreign aid to countries such as Egypt or Syria simply wasted? In effect, is the U.S. “buying friends” who are tyrants, tyrants who use their power and influence to gain what ever they want? Do you identify with any of the combatants in Egypt or Syria? Which combatant? Why? Do you have a “lesser of two evils” point of view? If so, why?
- General Motors has been losing about $50,000 on each Chevrolet Volt built. The Volt is an electric car. Sales of the Volt were only a little more than half of the 45,000 GM expected last year. Ford built 1,627 Focus Electrics in 2012 and sold only only 685 of them. California start-up luxury electric-car maker Tesla is making money producing luxury electric cars. Telsa has said it delivered 5,150 vehicles in the second quarter of 2013. Tesla CEO Elon Musk said in a recent letter to stockholders, if demand in Asia matches North America and Europe, Model S sales could exceed 40,000 a year by late 2014. Telsa expects 21,000 Model S sedan deliveries in 2013. What is going on here?
- Have you seen Versailles? If you haven’t seen the Hall of Mirrors, the galleries and the gardens at Versailles, go see them.
- Have you seen Monet’s gardens and lily pond at Giverny? If you haven’t, go see them.
- Have you read “Bend, Not Break” by Ping Fu? It’s take away message is: “Bamboo is flexible, bending with the wind but never breaking, capable of adapting to any circumstance. It suggests resilience, meaning that we have the ability to bounce back even from the most difficult times … Your ability to thrive depends, in the end, on your attitude to your life circumstances. Take everything in stride with grace, putting forth energy when it is needed, yet always staying calm inwardly.”
- Do you agree with former United Nation’s Secretary Dag Hammarskjold’s statement, “It is by playing it safe that we create a world of utmost insecurity.”?
- Did Napoleon have it right when he said, “Three hostile newspapers are more to be feared than a thousand bayonets.” ?
- Napoleon was concerned that certain ideas when proclaimed from the stage with the force and eloquence of a popular actor would have an influence explosively multiplied by the mutual reverberations of feeling.
- Do you agree with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s statement, “The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money to spend?”
A Mind Expanding Experience
You need to understand what is going on in the world today if you want to make sensible plans and decisions.
In order to understand what is going on today you need to understand where people are coming from, you must understand their culture, their history, their values, their beliefs, the society in which they live and the societies with which they interact, as well as how the various economies in the world are dependent on their demographic profile, their state of industrialization and why each economy in the world works the way it does. Otherwise, catastrophic blunders of perspective can ensue.
The movies and books mentioned in this review bring reality to the surface (a) by showing why what is happening is happening, (b) by explaining how things evolved, and (c) by explaining why things happened.
Forces Driving Events
The histories of people shown in these movies showcase the feedback loops and interconnections between interdependence and interaction in our lives.
Each movie is jammed with historical facts. Each character in each movie, whether that character made history or not, was carried along by cultural forces, their intellect, their personality, their character, and the circumstances in which they found themselves in the flow of history.
The movies and books mentioned in this review shed light on issues being debated concerning the civil wars raging in Syria, in Tunisia, in Libya, in Yemen, in Egypt and whether there ever will be peace Turkey, or Egypt, or Syria, or Lebanon, or Israel or any other place in the Middle East.
The movies and books mentioned in this review also shed light on how the economies and economic outlooks for Japan, China, the United States and the European Union evolved and will impact everyone.
What Does It Take to Win?
Each of these movies show how people are trapped in the roles dictated by the heavy weight of their country’s cultural legacy, their personality, their own personal experiences and personal circumstances.
Each movie provides insights on how a person’s attitude, cultural values and history effects that persons actions and determines which people will succeed.
Each of these movies and extensive research have shown that there is scarcely a single top performer in any complex task who has circumvented years of hard work and that dooing hard work is necessary to reach the top.
Background of Main Characters
The main character in each of these movies is an individual who made the independent decision to devote himself to whatever he was doing.
Each main character in each movie had a colorful upbringing.
Many experts on “success” have determined that top performers owe their success to their upbringings.
In “Outliers“, Malcolm Gladwell argues that the true story of successful people depends on such things as their family, their birthplace, their culture and their class as well as the year they were born.
A common idea at the center of each of these movies is that excellence is not reserved for the lucky few but can be achieved by almost all of us.
The main character in each of the movies mentioned in this review is a compelling character because he or she
- was a “hands-on” person who thrived on results and flurries of activity;
- was thirsty for knowledge;
- had a growth-mind set;
- had good nerves;
- had an independent spirit;
- was a critical thinker;
- was a keen observer who perceived faster, smarter and deeper than the rest of us;
- had tireless enthusiasm;
- were purposeful;
- had courage;
- had integrity, humility and foresight;
- didn’t try to game the system;
- was unconventional;
- was extraordinarily inventive and cool headed;
- was a go-getter;
- accepted accountability for the impact of their actions on themselves, on the people around them, on their community and on the world at large;
- cared sincerely and deeply about what he or she was doing;
- used their gifts to pursue a big goal or purpose;
- didn’t let other people discourage or stop them from doing what they thought was the right thing to do; and
- were completely dependable in critical situations.
In that life tends to respond to our outlook, to shape itself to meet our expectations, each movie and book discussed in this review inevitably will serve as a feedback loop.
How that feedback loop will work with respect to the movie “Hannah Arendt” is the topic of the next portion of this review.
The next section of this review contains a discussion of the impact the movie “Hannah Arendt” will have on people living in countries that are not full fledged democracies.
Later sections of this review contain discussions on how the human mind works with respect to human behavior in human pursuits, and how the deep currents of world history-religions and cultures are interconnected feedback loops.
Identifying the Alliance of Forces Responsible for What Will Happen Next
The movies and books discussed in this review are grounded in fascinating historical and cultural details which are responsible for what is happening in the world today and will be responsible for what will happen in the world tomorrow.
For those reasons, those books and movies will have worldwide impact.
Movies Have Worldwide Impact
The movie “Hannah Arendt” compellingly demonstrates the level of freedom of speech, freedom of thought, freedom of religion, as well as population density, level of pollution, the existence of property rights and the level of political stability which currently exists in the United States.
Successful educated people in “less” “free” countries find freedom to express political views, freedom of religion, the existence of property rights and political stability, as well as a comparatively low population density and level of environmental degradation in the United States to be a powerful set of reasons to send their children to live in, to be educated in and to immigrate to the United States. They act accordingly.
Christians, who make up some 42% of Asian Americans, face surveillance and repression, particularly in China, where religion is tightly regulated and dissent from the party line can land adherents in jail.
Over one half of Asian immigrants cite freedom of religion as a key advantage of living in America.
In China an individual can not own real estate.
All the land in China is owned by the country.
At most, an individual can purchase the right to use and occupy land for a period of 70 years subject to the right of China to expel any and all persons occupying any land without due process of law.
America is a runaway winner when one compares the lifestyle of people living in Beijing, Shanghai and Singapore to the lifestyle one may enjoy while living in America.
In Beijing, Shanghai and Singapore even the highest levels of wealth and “success” cannot buy you the comfort and privacy of a single family home.*
In China, even a billionaire can’t breathe clean air, drink the tap water, or easily access quality public education.
In “Hannah Arendt” the sky is clear with good visibility. People (particularly Hannah Arendt and her students, fellow faculty members, and close friends) are shown walking around NYC and in the countryside without wearing a face mask.
Hannah Arendt is shown living in a beautiful spacious apartment in NYC, going for a walk in woods surrounding her nice second home in the country, working and living comfortably.
Characters in the United States portrayed in “Hannah Arendt” and in “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” are shown working in offices and attending schools that don’t have special air filtration systems; they are shown living, working and attending classes and business meetings in a healthy clean beautiful pollution free uncrowded environment.
In “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” people are shown exercising vigorously, having fun in a park in NYC without any problems breathing. No-one is wearing a face mask.
In Beijing and other cities in China people are constantly exposed to levels of deadly pollutants up to 40 times the recommended exposure limit.
They wear face masks in an attempt to protect themselves from deadly pollutants in the air.
They have special air filtration systems in their apartments, if they can afford them, in an attempt to protect themselves from deadly pollutants in the air.
As a result of the high level of deadly pollutants in the air, parents confine their sons and daughters to their homes, even if it means keeping them away from friends, and schools cancel outside activities and field trips.
Parents in China, with the means to do so, choose schools for their children to attend based on air-filtration systems; some international schools have built gigantic domes over sports fields to ensure healthy breathing.
On Chinese microblogs and parenting forums, people discuss holidays to what they call “clean-air-destinations.”
A Deutsche Bank report released in February 2013 said the current trends of coal use and automobile emissions mean air pollution in China will worsen by an additional 70 % by 2025.
The Era Of Gold-Plated Toilet Seats
A Saudi Prince, billionaire Saudi Prince Al-waleed bin Talal, has warned the leaders of his country that his oil reliant nation is under threat because of fracking technology being developed in the U.S. and spread around the world.
Ninety-two percent of the budget of the Saudi government this year (2013) depends on oil.
The worlds three top largest reserves of shale oil are Russia (75 billion barrels), the U.S. (48 billion barrels) and China (32 billion barrels).
In an open letter to his country’s oil minister Ali al-Naimi and other government heads, published on July 28, 2013, via his Twitter account,Prince Alwaleed said demand from OPEC member states was “in continuous decline” as a result of the technology that has unleashed vast deposits of oil and natural gas worldwide.
“Promised Land” a film financed by a company owned by the United Arab Emirates claims that fracking poisons ground water to the point that it becomes flammable.
Aging Populations and Fertility Rates
In spite of air pollution, the number of people aged 60 and over in China is expected to jump from the current 185 million to 487 million, or 35 percent of the population by 2053.
The expanding ratio of old people to young people is due both to an increase in the life expectancy — from 41 to 73 over five decades – and by family planning policies that limit most urban families to a single child.
The burden of supporting the growing number of elderly is being passed to a proportionately shrinking working population.
China’s law books now require adult children to visit their mothers and fathers as China faces increasing difficulty caring for its aging population.
The relevant law says that offspring of parents older than 60 should see that their daily, financial and spiritual needs are met.
Quality of life, aging populations and fertility rates are also big issues in advanced countries as well as in the prosperous City-State Singapore.
Although Singapore has a GDP (Gross Domestic Product) higher than the US and the EU (European Union), many Singaporeans are decidedly negative.
In a 2011 Gallup Poll Survey the percentage of City residents who thought things would get worse in the next five years was amongst the highest in the world.
The low fertility rate in Singapore (under 1.2, barely half that necessary to replace the current population) threatens to turn Singapore, this ultra-dynamic city state, into a giant old-age home.
Contrast the environmental, fertility, political, social, life style and economic realities in China and Singapore with how America is portrayed in “Hannah Arendt” and in “The Reluctant Fundamentalist.”
- America is portrayed as a pollution free place populated by large numbers of athletic dynamic ambitious energetic healthy young persons living a fun filled life in a roomy uncrowded land of plenty.
- There are no limits on opportunity based on religious, or political beliefs.
- Ambitious hard working people of all colors, religious backgrounds and ethnic backgrounds succeed in America.
- People in America have property rights.
Both movies emphasize that “foreigners”, people who were not born in America, can reach the highest levels of social and economic success in various occupations and business.
Entrepreneurs are welcome and rewarded in America.
America has an abundance of opportunities for ambitious people of all colors, races, religious beliefs and ethnic backgrounds.
“The Reluctant Fundamentalist” is not an American film.
“The Reluctant Fundamentalist” is a Mira Nair film.
Mira Nair was born in Bhubaneswar, Orissa, India.
“Hannah Arendt” is not an American film.
“Hannah Arendt” is a Margarethe von Trotta film.
Margarethe von Trotta was born in Berlin, Germany.
Those Who Control A People’s Opinion Control It’s Actions
Danger, disquiet, anxiety attend the unknown.
Humans are chemically wired to seek knowledge.
When people come to understand a previously baffling situation, their brain releases chemicals which make them feel good.
Human nature compels people to seek answers to pertinent questions, especially if answers impact their health, their quality of life, their wealth, their employment or all of the foregoing.
People watch movies for information, to learn new things, to be exposed to new ideas, as well as for entertainment.
Watching movies supplements, and for some people has taken the place of, reading books, magazines and/or newspapers.
The movie industry influences opinions by showing people what it is like to be a particular person living in a particular society in a particular civilization, at a particular time in a particular place.
Understanding the Big Picture
When people living outside the United States see the lifestyle the characters portrayed in “Hannah Arendt” and in “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” enjoy they will want to live and will want their children to live in the United States. They will act according to those desires.
When people “think” about the history of India and Pakistan portrayed in “Midnight’s Children”, about the history of Israel and the history of the Israeli occupied territories portrayed in “The Gatekeepers”, people will conclude that the present state of violence and unrest in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, Israel, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank will last for at least another 30 years, and will act accordingly.
No Problem Can Be Confined within A Single Framework
Have you ever wondered why the price of coffee beans has dropped by 34% in the past year, but the price of a venti at your local Starbucks hasn’t budged?
I expect the major costs of running a Starbucks store are labor costs and rent.
The above question assumes that the price Starbucks charges for a cup of coffee is strongly related to the cost of coffee beans.
- That question assumes the cost of coffee beans is a major portion of the cost to Starbucks of serving a cup of coffee. That might not be true.
- That question assumes that the profit margin to Starbucks per cup of coffee served is strongly dependent on the cost of coffee beans. That might not be true.
- That question ignores the fact that the cost of labor keeps going up and utility costs (i.e., cost to run air conditioning) keep going up.
- From time to time rent also goes up.
- That question ignores that people buy coffee at Starbucks because of the varieties of coffee drinks and atmosphere in a Starbucks Coffee Shop (free WiFi, etc.).
There is no problem which does not become increasing complex when actively investigated.
A body of concepts regulates the arts of living, thinking and believing, and profoundly limit the intellectual endeavors of even the freest of spirits from the very outset.
Mental frameworks can form prisons.
One must make an attempt to grasp the whole.
A friend of mine recently reminded me, “There is no whole. ‘Whole’ is merely another limiting concept. There is only aporia.”
“Aporia” is the difficulty encountered in establishing the theoretical truth of a proposition created by the presence of evidence both for and against it.
Be that as it may, some people arrive at useful understandings; they can see in “advance” which events are important, which ones will have lasting consequences, which ones will effect the future.
Their ability to distinguish between which events are of lasting importance, which events will have lasting consequences, which will effect the future and which events are ephemeral enables them to accurately predict the future.
People Who Can Leave for A Better Life Do
Although there is much wealth in Singapore —
- Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, California will not impress a shopper from Singapore or Hong Kong.
- Orchard Road in Singapore is about 10 times Rodeo Drive.
- Singapore has a higher Gross Domestic Product per capita than the United States and the European Union.
- It stands fifth in the amount of assets managed by institutional investors, ahead of much larger countries such as Japan, Great Britain and Brazil.
- It is a burgeoning financial center which was recently ranked fourth in the world ahead of such world-class places as Tokyo, Chicago and Toronto.
- Singapore ranks fifth in the world in tourism, behind New York, London, Paris and Bangkok.
- Singapore is rated as one of the top three countries for ease of doing business, schools teaching math and science, and honesty in government.
- Singapore has one of the world’s best educated and disciplined workforces.
- Singapore may have the lowest crime rate of any major city in the world.
yet more than half the Singaporeans in Singapore want to migrate.
Why do Singaporeans want to leave?
Some experts believe the reasons Singaporeans want to leave lie in such things as long working hours, ever-rising housing costs, population density, crowding, the influx of foreign workers and of rich foreigners, the growing disposable income and life style disparity between rich and poor.
Singaporeans, particularly those with children, often think of emigrating to less expensive places or at least roomier places such as the United States, Australia and New Zealand.
The World Bank estimates upward of 300,000 Singaporeans have moved abroad, accounting for almost one in ten citizens.
Singapore has turned to foreign workers to keep the economy humming, including some of the world’s most talented academic, technical and financial experts.
Since 1970 the percentage of Singaporean citizens among the residential population has dropped from 90% to 63% today.
Many Singaporeans believe life in their city will soon be dominated by foreigners.
A significant number of Singaporeans fear that their city is becoming dominated by globalized culture, with global restaurant brands and shops which forces Singapore (and other cities) to conform to what Dutch Architect Rem Koolhass calls “a larger and seemingly universal style” whose impact he compares to “the disappearance of a spoken language.”
Singapore is an island of only 714.3 square kilometers with 5.3 million crammed into it.
Be that as it may, Singapore is the number 10 city in the world for number of billionaires.
Of 11 billionaires listed in a recent report of billionaires living in Singapore, 9 are listed as being self-made, the other 2 are listed as having inherited their wealth.
Only one of the self-made billionaires are listed as having principally made their money in real estate.
The other nine self-made billionaires are listed as having made their money in manufacturing, multi brand retailing, technology, food and beverages (3) and investments (2).
The Myth of the “Self-Made Man”
Whether anyone is “self-made” [i.e., when they began they were poor with limited resources at their disposal] and not molded by their environment is a topic that has interested me for many years.
A good book on that topic is “Bounce” by Matthew Syed.
Another good book on that topic is “The Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance” edited by K. Anders Ericson (Florida State University), Neil Charness (Florida State University), Paul J. Feltovich (Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition), and Robert R. Hoffman (Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition).
There are such thing as the science of success, the psychology of success, and success stories.
Further Reading Recommendations: To find out more about what makes people successful, in addition to reading “Bounce” and “The Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance”, I also recommend that you read “Mindset – The New Psychology of Success” by Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D., “The Outliers – The Story of Success” by Malcolm Gladwell, “Start-Up Nation – The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle” by Dan Senor and Saul Singer, and “Bend, Not Break – A Life in Two Worlds” by Ping Fu and MeiMei Fox.
Under the criteria of a self-made man is someone who started poor with few resources and later became a billionaire the “self-made” man title is a myth with respect to billionaire Mark Zuckerberg because Mr. Zuckerberg is the son of two working professionals who were paying his way through Harvard while he attended Harvard.
By the same token Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Carlos Sims and most of the other people on the Forbes’ list of richest people are not self-made men.
However, the extent of their accomplishments is so great I would call them “self-made men. I would not delete any of the 10 billionaires under the age of 40 who came from tech sector from my list of self made men’s albeit the guys who started Google went to Standford, and Mark Zuckerberg went to Harvard before he dropped out.
Under the requirement of starting poor with few resources before you became a billionaire, billionaire Sheldon Adelson may call himself a “self-made man” because Mr. Adelson slept on the floor of a one bedroom apartment with his relative while he was going to school. Sheldon Adelson is the son of a cab driver.
I do not know what to make of the comment on the list of billionaires living in Singapore listing 9 of those billionaires as being “self-made.”
Composition of Population and Demographic Forces
Due to the fertility rate of Singaporean citizens being less than replacement, an increase in population in Singapore will have to be accomplished by an increase in the number of foreigners living and working on a permanent or part time basis in Singapore.
Architect Rem Koolhaas is the author of Delirious New York (published in America in 1994), and is also the author, with Designer Bruce Mann, of Small, Medium, Large, Extra-Large (published in America in 1995).
The introduction to “S, M, L, XL” states:
- “Architecture is a hazardous mixture of omnipotence and impotence. Ostensibly involved in ‘shaping’ the world, for their thoughts to be mobilized architects depend on the provocations of others – clients, individual or institutional. Therefore, incoherence, or more precisely, randomness, is the underlying structure of all architects’ careers: they are confronted with an arbitrary sequence of demands, with parameters they did not establish, in countries they hardly know, about issues they are only dimly aware of, expected to deal with problems that have proved intractable to brains vastly superior to their own. Architecture is by definition a chaotic adventure.“
- “The more architecture mutates, the more it confronts its immutable core. Yet S, M, L, XL is a search for ‘another’ architecture, knowing that architecture is like a lead ball chained to a prisoner’s leg: to escape, he has to get rid of its weight, but all he can do is scrape slivers off with a teaspoon.”
In “Delirious New York”, Rem Koolhaas argues that Manhattan, the city renowned for commerce, intelligence and wealth, is the terminal stage of Western Civilization.
Koolhass argues that through the simultaneous explosion of human density and invention of new technologies — which enabled people to exist in a world totally fabricated by man — Manhattan became, from 1850 on, a mythical laboratory for the invention and testing of a revolutionary lifestyle: the Culture of Congestion.
Koolhass claims Manhattan is a theater of progress, the modern world’s Rosetta Stone.
Koolhaas further argues the desire of Manhattan’s collective unconscious is to live in a world totally fabricated by man.
A friend of mine responded to the above comparison of Manhattan to Singapore by saying:
Your description of what is happening in Singapore appears to equate what is happening there to what happened in New York in the 1850’s.
The “Manhattanization” of New York really started with the the first hi-rise, built in 1888.
That first phase of major change ended with the Empire State Building and Chrysler buildings in 1933.
New York made a substantial change in lifestyle, architecture, and transportation in a period of approximately 50 years.
The same thing is happening to Singapore.
The difference is that New York had Westchester and Long Island as escape havens for New Yorkers who were not attracted to the City’s lifestyle.
Singapore does not have those kinds of “suburban” atmospheres.
Thus, you find people leaving.
But, it’s the same principle.
*Other friends of mine have pointed out to me that:
- Singaporeans who can afford it can buy a single family home and foreigners who can afford it can rent one.
- Multibillionaire Americans are moving to Singapore because Singapore has many tax incentives (lower taxes than the United States); income taxes in Singapore max out at 18% and the government of Singapore does not tax foreign income.
- If children are born in Singapore, those children can become Singapore citizens and carry a Singapore passport.
- On the one hand, Billionaires stay in Singapore to better keep their billions intact and also because they can arrange for the space and comforts that yuppies and working class people may not be able to afford.
- While on the other hand, a great number of yuppies Singapore citizens think they would rather be in New York or London.
- The people on the lowest level of the economic totem poll in Singapore, such as Philippian maids who work in Singapore, definitely would rather be in Canada or the U.S.
By the way, as the amount of available land becomes built out, the price of land goes up. Then the price of all real estate goes up, commercial rents go up, and residential housing costs go up. The uptick in housing prices forces people who would otherwise buy into the rental market.
According to a recent study by the Harvard Joint Center on Housing Studies, last year, the number of renters in the United States rose by a million, accompanied by a net loss of 161,000 homeowners. The number of renters in the United States has risen by 6.7 million over the decade. Roughly one in four renters, notes the Harvard study, are now paying upward of 50% of their income for housing. Moving to flee high housing costs has emerged as a major trend in the United States. For those who remain behind, it is a return to the kind of overcrowding associated with early 20th century tenement living — this can be seen in the rise in the number of families doubling up.
In a recently published report (“A Sustainable Population for a Dynamic Singapore”) the government of Singapore, in the name of global competitiveness, announced a plan to expand the population of Singapore to 7 million from its current 5 million by 2030. That increase in population can only be accomplished by the massive immigration of “foreigners.”
Forces that Create Immigration
Will Singapore be able to attract so many immigrants?
“Immigration” is driven by the subjective opinions and desires of immigrants.
Immigration depends upon the promise of rapidly escalating well-being.
The whole of American cultural memory, the period since World War II, has taken place within the greatest expansion of opportunity in human history.
The United States is a nation of immigrants to the extent the United States can make immigrants rich or save them from a frightening future in their native country.
Although the rate at which human well-being is improving in the United States has slowed “everyone” in the world wants to live in the United States.
Sixty-five percent of American workers occupy jobs whose basic tasks can be classified as information processing. If you are trying to find a competitive advantage for people over machines, this does not bode well.
There are many reasons why the rate of “human well-being improvement” in the United States has slowed down.
Be that as it may, for many reasons, for many people life in the United States is comparatively substantially much better than life in most other places in the world.
Constant Flow of History
People have been migrating from one place to another place in a constant flow of history.
Take for example what has happened to architecture and culture in Beverly Hills, California, USA.
Consider the architecture of the luxurious homes in the better parts of Beverly Hills and similarly consider the language now spoken in the famous Beverly Hills High School in Beverly Hills, California.
Look at what luxurious houses in the better parts of Beverly Hills looked like before 1976 (the invasion of Beverly Hills by Iranians fleeing from Iran) and after 1976.
Today, more than 35 years after the Iranian invasion of Beverly Hills began, if you look at houses in the better parts of Beverly Hills you will see many houses with Iranian architectural features that were not prevalent prior to 1976.
Today, you will find homes, owned by Iranians, that have turrets, domes, columns and pillars visible from the outside. In these Iranian homes you will find big chandeliers, marble floors, granite table tops, as well as luxurious furniture and bath rooms with gold leaf.
The Beverly Hills High School Newsletter is now written in Farsi and English. Prior to 1976 it was written in English only.
The Iranians who settled in Beverly Hills after 1975 did not come to the United States to go on welfare or to try to go on welfare.
The Iranians brought their money, their skills, their experience, their training and their talents with them.
They made investments in themselves, in real estate, in new businesses.
They started new businesses, created new jobs and continue to create new jobs.
Iranian immigrants, in their own ways, have been “good” for the “economy.”
The Iranian immigrants who arrived in the United States in the 1970s, like other recent immigrants from countries in the Middle East and in Asia, became successful physicians, scientists, engineers, lawyers, fast food restaurant and convenience store operators, etc. etc. etc.
Recent immigrants from the Middle East, India and Asian countries have obtained undergraduate college degrees and advanced degrees in America. They have gone to work for and later created high tech companies. They have become venture capitalists, hedge fund managers, small business owners and/or management consultants.
Every single one of them whom I have met is full of entrepreneurial spirit.
These recent immigrants brought their culture, beliefs, tastes, history, historical perspectives and ways of doing business with them.
Their culture, beliefs, tastes and ways of doing business are often different from the mythology of the way the majority of “rich” people living in Beverly Hills and/or in the rest of the United States live and do business in the United States.
Going back in history to 1609: Consider what happened to the Indians in Manhattan when Manhattan was first discovered by Henry Hudson in 1609.
The Indians, Mohicans, who hunted and fished in Manhattan when Henry Hudson arrived don’t exist any more.
One group of people has been taking over land from another group of people in a constant flow of history.
Throughout history, every culture has lived on land taken from another culture, either annihilated or absorbed.
The Purchase of Manhattan in 1609 by Peter Minuit
Apart from the Indians, who had always been there – Weckquaesgecks in the south and Reckgawawacks in the north, both part of the Mohican tribe – Manhattan was discovered in 1609 by Henry Hudson in his search for “a new route to the Indies by way of the north” on behalf of the Dutch East India Country.
The story of Peter Minuit buying the island of Manhattan in 1626 for $24 dollars is a fraud.
The transaction is a falsehood, the Indian who sold the Island of Manhattan to Peter Minuit did not own the property, they did not even live there. They were just visiting.
The Wealth Creating Power of Imagination
There’s another aspect to the story concerning Peter Minuit purchasing Manhattan Island from native Indians.
To the Indians, people who did not have permanent buildings like Europeans, or sailing ships, land ownership meant hunting rights. They knew that any animal worth eating had already been killed in Manhattan and so, to them it was worthless land.
Peter Minuit had the imagination to see Manhattan as a great harbor.
Minuit saw that any city built on Manhattan was not destined to stand on the side of a small stream such as the Thames or the Seine.
The large arms of the sea which embrace Manhattan Island, render its situation, in regard to health and pleasure, as well as to convenience and commerce, peculiarly felicitous.
After Minuit paid for the land, the word spread and the Canarsie Indians came by the next day and said that they owned the land and the others weren’t able to sell it. As Minuit had no way of knowing whom to believe, he paid a second time to be sure he really owned Manhattan.
Minuit thought Manhattan Island was “a bargain at twice the price.”
Minuit was right.
Architecture and the Built Environment In Manhattan
Since Manhattan is finite and the number of its blocks are forever fixed, the city cannot grow in any conventional manner.
It follows that after a certain amount of time passed, the Island of Manhattan became “built-out”; thereafter one form of occupancy could only be established at the expense of another and the price of real estate residential housing and commercial real estate went up and up and up according to commonly understood supply and demand dynamics.
Simultaneously, during the time spans while that was happening, the Island of Manhattan became a mosaic of land use episodes.
Each land use episode had its own particular life span.
Each land use episode was a contest waged through the practical medium of answering the question: What is to be built?
As Manhattan developed, became built out, architecture became Manhattan’s newest religion.
Here is what was said when Central Park was created (Central Park is the only major recreational facility in Manhattan and is also a record of its progress that exhibits forever the drama of its culture):
“The time will come when New York will be built up, when all the grading and filling will be done, and the picturesquely varied, rocky formation of the island will have been converted into the formations of rows and rows of monotonous straight streets, and piles of erect buildings. There will be no suggestion left of its varied surface, with the exception of a few acres contained in the park.
“Then the priceless value of the present picturesque outlines of the ground will be distinctly perceived, and its adaptability for its purpose more fully recognized. It therefore seems desirable to interfere with its easy, undulating outlines, and picturesque rocky scenery as little as possible, and on the other hand, to endeavor rapidly, and by every legitimate means, to increase and judiciously develop these particularly individual and characteristic sources of landscape effects …”
Lifestyle, Economic and Environmental Realities in China Today
China is a top-down driven economy.
The current Communist Party’s five year plan, in effect through 2015, is a blueprint for unprecedented social and economic development.
Pursuant to that plan, across China bulldozers are razing villages and farms to force 250 million rural dwellers into new urban highrises over the next 12 to 15 years.
The government wants a total urban population of 900 million people, or 70% of the country’s population by 2025.
However, unlike in the United States, and unlike how home ownership is depicted in “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” and in”Hannah Arendt”, in China a person can not own his or her own home.
All the land in China is owned by the government.
The most a person can purchase when he or she buys an apartment or a house is the right to occupy that house or apartment for 70 years.
People Should Be A Nation’s Greatest Resource
There is such a thing as “the science of personal success.”
Each of the movies mentioned in this review demonstrates how the science of personal success operates by portraying a significant portion of the life story of a highly successful person in such a way that the audience understands who that person is, what that person is thinking, what that person is doing, why that person is doing what that person is doing and what that person cares about.
I know from my personal interaction with highly successful people from all over the world that the character traits, skills and practices exhibited by Thor Heyerdahl in “Kon-Tiki”, by Changez in “The Reluctant Fundamentalist, and by Hannah Arendt in “Hannah Arendt” enabled individuals I’ve known to succeed, to become a world-class success story.
The message in each film is that character, values, customs, beliefs, imagination and actions have consequences.
- Actions are the result of character, values, customs, beliefs and imagination.
- One is not born with customs and beliefs.
- Customs and beliefs are learned.
- The past is never dead. It is not even past.
- Past and present are inseparable.
- There is no clear boundary between what has been lived, what is being lived and what will be lived.
- Past and present illuminate each other reciprocally.
- There is no society in which history has sunk completely without a trace.
- Beware of too hasty observations, of going only skin deep.
- Get past superficial observations.
- It is necessary to reduce any social reality to the time, the place and the history of the place in which it occurs.
- You cannot detach a society or a culture from it’s moral or intellectual framework.
- The entire value of conclusions is dependent upon the value of the initial observation, on the selection of essential elements within the observed reality and the determination of their relationships.
- You cannot detach an individual from his moral and intellectual framework, or from his ambition, his drive, his skills, or from his ability to think.
- All human activities are the result of ideas.
How The Human Mind Works
The actions of the characters in the movies mentioned in this review illustrate how the human mind works in a variety of situations.
Each movie teaches us that human actions, for the most part, for the majority of people, are the result of knee-jerk reactions, of unconscious thoughts.
Human actions are often the result of an “unthinking” conformity to social norms.
Many human actions are an attempt to conform to societal expectations as the result of cultural programming.
Cultures teach people how to behave and what to believe.
Few human actions are the result of careful research and thoughtful consideration; very few people think things through.
“Kon Tiki”, “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” and “Hannah Arendt” are powerful movies because the main character in each of these movies thinks things through before important taking actions.
As a result of thinking things through, each of the main characters in each of these movies is fascinating colorful and unforgettable.
A Comprehensive World View
Each of the movies and books mentioned in this review show how people think in different parts of the world.
Each teaches how people “think” is a function of the history of their country.
What people want in different parts of the world is important; it is important to U.S. studios and other global movie producers and distributors because they now rely on global revenue to reach profitability.
International revenue is now about 70 – 80% of their total global revenue, with North America accounting for the balance.
However, even with expanding markets outside of North America, roughly 65 to 70% of the movies made lose money for their investors.
In that regard it has been estimated that recent “mindless movies” such as “R.I.P.D.”, “Turbo”, “After Earth”, “White House Down”, “Pacific Rim”, and “The Lone Ranger” each cost more than $130 million and as much as $225 million to make (probably close to $1 billion in production and marketing expenses) and when all is said and done the studios who made those movies will be lucky to only lose half a billion dollars.
The movies mentioned in this review are “mind-expanding movies. They passionately teach powerful messages which fill the audience’s mind with new ideas, insights and useful information.
Watching “Kon Tiki”, “The Reluctant Fundamentalist”, “Midnight’s Children”, “Hannah Arendt”, and “The Gatekeepers” and reading “The Billionaire’s Apprentice – The Rise of the Indian-American Elite and the Fall of the Galleon Hedge Fund” (by Anita Raghavan) and “My Share of the Task” (by General Stanley McChrystal, U.S. Army, retired) provides a better understanding of how people think in different parts of the world, why they think the way they do, why they do what they do why things happen.
Each of the main characters in “Kon Tiki”, “The Reluctant Fundamentalist”, Midnight’s Children”, “Hannah Arendt” and The Gatekeepers” was born in a different country, and has
- (a) a different ethnic background
- (b) a different ancestry,
- (c) a different philosophy of life,
- (d) a different psychology,
- (e) a different mentality,
- (f) different values,
- (g) a different spirituality,
- (h) a different temperament,
- (i) a different gritty social history,
- (j) a different life story
- (k) grew up in a different cultural setting,
- (l) experienced different historical and social forces, and
- (m) faced different challenges.
Each of these movies and books teaches the history, beliefs, values, and illuminates the cultural social and economic stressors people have been exposed to in the different parts of the world.
HISTORICAL BACKGROUND FACTS RECOUNTED IN “MIDNIGHT’S CHILDREN” AND “THE BILLIONAIRE’S APPRENTICE”:
- Prior to midnight August 15, 1947, India was an occupied country where native born Indians (Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs) lived in deference to an imperial power, Great Britain.
- The India Independence Act of 1947 split two of India’s most distinctive provinces, Punjab and Bengal.
- Parts of both formed the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and part stayed with India.
“Midnight’s Children” depicts the struggle in India to gain independence from Great Britain and what happened after India became a free independent country.
“Midnight’s Children” also depicts life in Pakistan, including the military coup that deposed Pakistan’s first democratically elected Prime Minister as well Pakistan’s war with Bangladesh that resulted in the creation of independent Bangladesh.
“The Billionaire’s Apprentice” recounts the lives of some of the most financially successful and famous men in recent Indian history who immigrated to the United States.
HISTORICAL BACKGROUND FACTS RECOUNTED IN “THE GATEKEEPERS”
“The Gatekeepers” consists of interviews with six of the prior leaders of the Israeli Security Agency (a.k.a. the Shin Bet). These veteran intelligence chiefs discuss some of Israel’s most controversial counter-terrorism initiatives both foreign and domestic that they lead. They also discuss the decisions they made while head of Shin Bet and their feelings about the Palestine-Israeli conflict.
As a result of what I learned from absorbing the messages in the materials referred to in this review, I wholeheartedly believe I am now better equipped
- to predict what will happen to the price of oil in the future,
- to predict what will happen in the tourism industry and in other industries in the future,
- to predict what will happen in the stock market in the future,
- to predict what will happen in different economies in the world in the future, including the US economy, the Chinese economy and the Japanese economy,
- to predict what will happen next in the Middle East (my prediction of what will happen next in the Middle East follows in the body of this movie review),
- to predict what will happen next in the Global Economy (my prediction of what will happen next in the Global Economy follows in the body of this movie review),
- to predict what is required of me to be successful in the world today (my prediction of what is required of me to be successful on the world today and how I have acted on that prediction follows in the body of this movie review),
- to evaluate what is “right” and what is “wrong” with foreign and domestic policies, and
- to succeed in my business and personal life.
“Innovative people look at things. Everybody else keeps moving when they see things.” — Karissa Thacker
“Inspiration is a guest that does not willing visit the lazy.” — Peter Tchaikovsky
“If people only knew how hard I work to gain my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all.” — Michelangelo
“A man, as a general rule, owes very little to what he is born with – a man is what he makes of himself.” — Alexander Graham Bell
“The elevator to success is not running; you must climb the stairs.” — Zig Ziglar
“Originality thrives in seclusion free of outside influences beating upon us to cripple the creative mind. Be alone, that is the secret of invention; be alone, that is where ideas are born.” — Nikola Tesla
“Nothing is a waste of time, if you use the experience wisely.” — Auguste Rodin
The main character in “Kon-Tiki” is Thor Heyerdahl.
Thor Heyerdahl was born in Lavik, Norway, the son of a master brewer, on October 6, 1914.
He studied zoology and geography at the University of Oslo. At the same time, he privately studied Polynesian culture and history, consulting what was then the world’s largest private collection of books and papers on Polynesia, owned by Bjarne Kropelien, a wealthy wine merchant in Oslo.
After seven terms and consultations with experts in Berlin, a project was developed and sponsored by Heyerdahl’s zoology professors for Heyerdahl to visit some isolated Pacific island groups to study how the local animals had found their way there.
Thor Heyerdahl, who is now internationally renowned as a Norwegian ethnographer and adventurer, is customarily considered to be a self-made man on the basis of his notable achievements, albeit he had special advantages mentioned above before becoming famous.
The movie “Kon-Tiki” shows why Thor Heyerdahl is considered to be a self-made man.
From the moment the movie “Kon-Tiki” begins we see Thor Heyerdahl always had a great amount of curiosity, was always fearless, ambitious, intellectual, self-confident, driven and a self-starter.
On the surface, the movie “Kon-Tiki ” recounts the effort Thor Heyerdahl spent seeking the true explanation of why a particular type of pineapple grew on a particular island in Polynesia which he observed while he was studying animal and plant life on a island in Polynesia.
In the movie, Heyerdahl is shown looking at a pineapple in his hand and in a book and telling his beautiful young first wife Liv that the pineapple in his hand must have come from Peru because the same pineapple is shown growing in Peru in the book he is reading.
The movie shows Heyerdahl making a connection between carved stone statues of a God (Kon Tiki) on the island with similar carved stone statues found in Peru.
It is made clear that Thor Heyerdahl, after paying careful attention to minutiae, decided (or, hypothesized that) the pineapple he found growing on that Polynesian island must have been brought to that island over 1,500 years ago by seafarers (pre-Inca people) living in Peru.
By the way, in the European sphere, for whole centuries, economic activity was dependent on demographically fragile populations; all movement was dominated by the primacy of water and ships, any inland location being an obstacle and source of inferiority.
The Kon-Tiki expedition was inspired by old reports and drawings made by the Spanish Conquistadors of Inca rafts, and by native legends and archeological evidence suggesting contact between South America and Polynesia.
Heyerdahl claimed that in Incan legend there was a sun-god named Kon-Tiki, who was high priest, sun king and supreme head of mythical fair skinned people in Peru. Kon-Tiki and his closest companions disappeared after a disastrous battle with another tribe. According to legend they fled by sailing westward out to sea. Heyerdahl asserted that when the Spaniards came to Peru, the Incas told them this story.
At the time Thor Heyerdahl reached this conclusion, the scientific world was convinced that Polynesia was settled by people from Asia, and had not been settled by people from Peru or by people from South America.
“Kon-Tiki” is a true story about the experiment Thor Heyerdahl conducted to prove his conjecture that it was possible for a primitive raft to sail the Pacific albeit the movie gives the impression that Heyerdahl was inspired by finding a certain kind of pineapple growing on an island in Polynesia that grows in Peru.
Be it that as it may, the idea that pineapples were growing on an island in Polynesia brought by pre-Inca seafarers to that island over 1,500 years ago, by sailing west from Peru on ocean currents and the wind to that island (Peru and that island are separated by 5,000 miles of open sea, the Pacific Ocean) is the stuff that adventures are made of.
While watching this movie the viewer observes the mentality of a scientist in action.
First the viewer sees Thor Heyerdahl build a balsa wood raft, the “Kon-Tiki.”
Then the viewer sees Thor Heyerdahl sail that balsa wood raft without a motor and with only the wind and ocean currents to propel it, across 5,000 miles of the Pacific Ocean, from Peru to Polynesia.
This adventure took place in 1947. On August 7, 1947, after a 101-day, 5,000 mile journey across the Pacific Ocean, the Kon-Tiki smashed into the reef at Raroia in the Tuamotu Islands.
After successfully proving that pre-Inca seafarers could have sailed from Peru to Polynesia more than 1,500 years ago on a balsa wood raft, by sailing on a balsa wood raft from Peru to Polynesia, Thor Heyerdahl wrote a book about the “Kon-Tiki Expedition.”
It is reported that Thor Heyerdahl’s book about the “Kon-Tiki Expedition” has sold over one billion copies.
Before proving that it is possible to sail from Peru to Polynesia on a balsa wood raft, Thor Heyerdahl was prepared for everyone telling him he was nuts for proposing such an idea.
In one memorable scene in “Kon-Tiki”, an important official at “National Geographic Magazine” told Thor Heyerdahl that every school boy knows Polynesia was settled by people from Asia sailing East. Thor Heyerdahl replied, “Every school boy is wrong.”
The actions of Thor Heyerdahl portrayed in “Kon-Tiki” will inspire many people to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more.
Anthropologists continue to believe, based on linguistic, physical, and genetic evidence, that Polynesia was settled from west to east, migration began on the Asian mainland. Heyerdahl countered the linguistic argument with the analogy that, guessing the origin of African-Americans, he would prefer to believe they came from Africa, judging from the color of their skin, and not from England, judging from their speech.
Changez/”The Reluctant Fundamentalist”
The main character in “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” is Changez.
Changez, is a Muslim who was born in Pakistan.
Changez spent four and one half years in the United States attending Princeton University and working on Wall Street.
“The Reluctant Fundamentalist” author Mohsin Hamid states: Changez was one of only two Pakistanis in his entering class – two from a population of over two hundred million — the Americans faced much less daunting odds in the selection process. A thousand Americans were enrolled, five hundred times as many, even though America’s population was only twice that of Changez’s country, Pakistan. As a result the non–Americans tended on average to do better than the Americans.
The international students were sourced from around the glove, sifted not only by well-honed standardized tests but by painstaking customized evaluations – interviews, essays, recommendations – until the best and the brightest had been identified.
While in his senior year at Princeton Changez was was interviewed for a job by a small boutique highly esteemed Wall Street valuation firm that paid well, but more importantly gave one a robust set of skills and an exalted brand name.
Because of the reputation of this Wall Street firm, over a hundred members of the Princeton Class of 2001 sent their grades and resumes to this firm. Eight were selected – not for jobs, but for interviews – one was Changez.
Changez reached his senior year without having received a single B. But, Changez’s grades did not impress the interviewer from the Wall Street firm who interviewed Changez.
What impressed the interviewer from the Wall Street firm was that (a) Changez had attended Princeton on a full scholarship; (b) while attending Princeton held down several jobs to pay living expenses; and (c) Changez’s parents were not wealthy enough to pay Princeton tuition charges or Changez’s living expenses.
The interviewer concluded that Changez was intelligent, educated and “hungry”, and therefore had what it takes. On those grounds the interviewer offered Changez a job.
In the movie the interviewer told Changez, “I get where you are coming from. You are hungry and that is a good thing in my book.”
The movie makes it clear that Changez was not poor. Viewers see Changez’s family’s home in Pakistan which sits on an acre of land in the middle of one of the most expensive districts in Lahore, Pakistan.
The audience sees that Changez’s family employs several servants. But, members of Changez’s family are not rich.
Changez’s father is a well known widely published and acclaimed poet in the Punjab.
Salaries for professional people in Pakistan – such as Changez’s parents – did not raise with inflation, the rupee declined against the dollar, and when the time came to send Changez to college the money simply was not there.
Confronted with this reality, Changez, on his own initiative, decided he would get an excellent education in America at Princeton, he would excel as a college student and make a fortune in America working for a Wall Street Investment Banking firm.
Changez went to school in America and to work on Wall Street with the intention of rapidly escalating his financial well-being.
Changez accepted the job because Changez was convinced that job had the potential to transform his life, making his concerns about money and status a thing of the past.
Changez was extraordinarily successful working on Wall Street as a financial analyst. Changez was quick at figuring out key issues and effective at delivering his analysis. The quality of Changez’s insights gave Changez the status of as being a giant among giant’s of intellectual prowess, an intellectual tour-de-force.
By late 2001, before the September 11 attack on the Twin Towers in Manhattan, Changez had become a fabulously successful Wall Street investment banker.
As Changez became more experienced working on Wall Street, Changez began to realize that as the result of his valuation studies employees were being laid off in companies all over the world — companies all over the world and/or parts of companies were being shut-down. Changez did not feel good about what he was accomplishing.
Eventually Changez decided what he is required to do as an analyst in the Wall Street valuation firm is not consistent with Change’s values and produces results that are not consistent what Changez wants to accomplish as a human being.
As the story told in the movie progresses Changez gives up his Wall Street job because of the conviction that what he/Changez was doing as an analyst for the clients of a Wall Street valuation firm was contrary to Changez’s ideals.
The audience watches while Changez is living in NYC and performing consulting assignments in his office in Manhattan and on sites in other part of the USA, after September 11, 2001, Changez is made to feel that he is unwelcome in America because he is a Muslim.
Being picked on because he was a Muslim was a side issue because Changez and not what caused Changez to quit his job.
Throughout the movie Changez always focuses on what he was trying to achieve. He never forgets what he was trying to achieve.
At all times Changez is a thoughtful and caring person.
When confronted with a challenging situation (deciding whether to continue working on Wall Street or to quit his lucrative career), Changez did what he thought was the right thing. Changez did not get attached to the fruits/consequence of quitting his job. Changez chose to be happy rather than to be paid lots of money for making business valuations that would result in people loosing their jobs. Changez didn’t want to be responsible for that happening.
Changez is never portrayed as being a slovenly person, or as having improvident habits. Changez is portrayed as living a life of grace and refinement, as being fully respectful of other people’s dignity and the sanctity of life.
Changez is not portrayed as being a man who believes every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property, either as a child, a wife or a concubine. To the contrary, Muslim men in this movie are not shown to have those beliefs or to act that way towards women. While living in Manhattan, Changez has a sexy, fully independent, spirited and scrappy American girl friend.
Changez, his father, and the other Muslim men have respectful relationships with the women in their lives and with women in general; they treat women they come in contact with respect and as fully emancipated individuals. Many of the Muslim women they come in contact with are sassy independent thinking women who make their own decisions and say what they want to say without any inhibitions.
Changez does not try to proselytize anyone. Changez is never portrayed wanting to kill Americans or as wanting to kill westerners, or wanting to kill anyone. Although he was subjected to abuse in America because he was a Muslim, Changez never became a jihadist. Changez is portrayed as always loving America.
Changez is never a wishy-washy person.
In “The Reluctant Fundamentalist”, to the disappointment of his mentor at the Wall Street valuation firm and to the disappointment of his American girl-friend, Changez quit his lucrative Wall Street job and returned to Pakistan.
Probity, reputation, respect for the dignity of other people, open mindedness, tolerance, love of learning and trust were the bedrock of his life.
Many people will find Changez’s life to be inspirational because even in times of stress his concern lay not with himself but with others.
The story told in “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” is a demonstration of the Sanskrit saying, “Self-realization cannot be realized by the weak willed.”
Status of Women in Islam, Muslim Society and Muslim Culture
The men and women portrayed in “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” and in “Midnight’s Children” do not believe that a woman is a chattel, owned by men — whether it be her father, her brother or her husband. They do not believe that
- A woman’s sexuality is fundamentally evil or corrupting;
- A woman who parades herself in public unveiled and/or without appropriate male escort (father, brother or husband) is exposing her corrupting sexuality to the male population at large.
The Muslims portrayed in “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” and in “Midnight’s Children” are not portrayed as believing their religion is superior to anyone else’s religion, or as being any more militant than any other people.
The Marte Deborah Dalev Story: Alleged Norwegian Rape Victim Sentenced to Jail for Sex Outside of Marriage
Ms. Dalelv, a citizen of Norway, was recently in Dubai, United Arab Emirate, for a business meeting when an alleged rape took place.
She claims she was raped by a co-worker in March 2013.
According to Ms. Dalelv, she fled to the hotel lobby and asked for the police to be called after the alleged rape. The hotel staff asked if she was sure she wanted to involve the police. “Of course.” She said.
She was then arrested, tried, found guilty of having sex outside of marriage and given a 16 month sentence of having sex outside of marriage.
International outrage and pressure on Dubai officials followed.
Norway reminded the United Emirates of obligations under U.N. accords to seriously investigate claims of violence against women.
On July 21, 2013, Dubai officials dropped her 16-month sentence for having sex outside of marriage.
“Until laws are reformed, victims of sexual violence in the UAE will continue to suffer in this way and we will likely see more cases such as this one.” said Ron Donaghy, a spokesman for the Emirates Center for Human Rights.” — according to a post in the July 22, 2013 Huff Post World.
The sentence tarnished the city’s reputation as a cosmopolitan hub, including possible fall out on its high-profile bid for the 2020 World Expo.
Saleem Sinai/”Midnight’s Children”
“Midnight’s Children” is more about India than about the colorful and fascinating characters whose interactions with each other portray life in India.
The title “Midnight’s Children” refers to 1001 children born within one hour after India became an independent country.
Each of the 1001 children born within an hour after India became an independent country has magical powers.
The magical power of each of those 1001 children is more powerful the closer a child was born to the moment India became an independent country.
“Midnight’s Children” gives the viewer a bird’s eye view of what happened in India after India became an independent “democracy” free of British rule.
India is a country with a vibrant 5,000 year-old culture. India has a history rich in learning, music and art –
The main human character in “Midnight’s Children” is Saleem Sinai.
Saleem was born in India at the moment (at midnight on August 15, 1947) India became an independent country.
Saleem is a Christ like figure who turns “the other cheek” whenever he is hit or humiliated. He is not indifferent to other people’s suffering.
To the contrary, Saleem is a very caring person who goes out of his way to comfort and to take care for other people.
The movie does not make it clear who was Saleem’s father, or whether Saleem’s father was a Muslim, a Hindu, a Sikh, a Christian or of some other nationality.
Confusion about the identity of Saleem’s father arises because the movie shows two babies being switched while they are in the nursery for new born infants in a Bombay hospital by a nurse (Nancy) whose job is to take care of new born babies in that hospital.
One of the two switched babies becomes Saleem Sinai when that baby is taken home by the Sinai family, a Muslim family.
Thereafter, Saleem is raised as the number one son in a Muslim.
Throughout the movie, the person who made Saleem’s birth mother pregnant is not clear.
Hannah Arendt/”Hannah Arendt”
The main character in “Hannah Arendt” is Hannah Arendt.
Hannah Arendt is a Jew who was born in Hanover, Germany in 1906.
While living in Germany, Hannah Arendt studied with the greatest minds of her day.
She received a doctorate in philosophy at the University of Heidelberg where she studied under Karl Jaspers.
During her lifetime, she had a harrowing escape from Nazi, Germany, during World War II, after being interned in an infamous Nazi detention camp in France.
Hannah Arendt was able to immigrate to the United States. While living and working in the United States, she wrote several ground breaking books which made her famous and led to her becoming acclaimed as the most profound, original and influential political scientist in the 20th century.
She is most famous for writing a series of articles which were published in “The New Yorker” magazine about the Eichmann trial in Jerusalem Her report was later published as a book titled “Eichmann in Jerusalem A Report on the Banality of Evil.”
Previously Hannah Arendt had won fame and acclaim as a result of being the author of “The Origins of Totalitarianism.”
“The Origins of Totalitarianism” has been hailed as a classic. It is considered to be the most influential single book on the theme of totalitarianism and is considered to be one of the major writings of the 20th century.
“The Origins of Totalitarianism” was first published in 1951. In the preface to the first edition, Hannah Arendt states,
“This book has been written against a backdrop of both reckless optimism and reckless despair. It holds that Progress and Doom are two sides of the same medal; that both are articles of superstition, not of faith. It was written out of the conviction that it should be possible to discover the hidden mechanics by which all the traditional elements of our political and spiritual world were dissolved into a conglomeration where everything seems to have lost specific value, and has become unrecognizable for human comprehension, unusable for human purposes. To yield to the mere process of disintegration has become an irresistible temptation, not only because it has assumed the spurious grandeur of ‘historical necessity,’ but also because everything outside it has begun to appear lifeless, bloodless, meaningless, and unreal.”
To say Hannah Arendt was outspoken, or that she was headstrong, or that she was independent, or that she was brilliant would be an understatement.
Hannah Arendt was a thinker who followed where her thoughts led.
As a result of the renown she received from writing “The Origins of Totalitarianism”, “The New Yorker” enthusiastically accepted Hannah Arendt’s proposal to go to Jerusalem to report on the Eichmann trial for “The New Yorker.”
The movie “Hannah Arendt” focuses on that portion of Hannah Arendt’s life when she was a witness to the Eichmann trial in Jerusalem in 1961, while she wrote a report on that trial, the publication of her report in “The New Yorker”, the publication of her report as a book , and the attacks on her for writing her report on the Eichmann trial that followed.
The publication of her report on the Eichmann Trial created a storm of controversy that wrecked a number of her close friendships, alienated her from almost the entire Jewish community worldwide, resulted in fellow faculty members asking her to quit her job as University Professor in the Graduate Faculty of the New School for Social Research, and launched a civil war between intellectuals in the United States and Europe.
“Hannah Arendt” is a spelling binding and gripping movie.
Getting Everyone to Pull on the Same End of the Rope
The main character in each movie mentioned in this review had the type of leadership best described by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher as follows: “Leadership is like being a lady. If you have to tell someone you are, you aren’t.”
The main character in each film is an exciting person who cares about what they are doing.
None of them ever try to “game the system.”
None of them is stuck up, egotistical or self-righteous.
Each of them is beyond being self-righteous.
Each one of them had complete integrity, was completely honest with themselves and everyone else, was dependable, was always believable and never a yes man.
They were grounded, passionate people, comfortable with who they were. Each one was a person with keen situational awareness, a person who kept “their eyes on the ball”, stayed focused, was a totally authentic and sincere person, without an ounce of phoniness, who lived an exciting honest life according to a clearly defined philosophy of life.
That is why people followed them.
Each one of them was highly successful in getting people to go along with them due to their honest passionate commitment to whatever they were doing.
They never overreacted; even in the most desperate of situations they never not panicked.
They took outrageous risks and acted shrewdly with a force generated by tremendous determination.
They knew who they were and had a clear understanding of their emotional needs.
They fulfilled their emotional needs by never doing things in a small way.
People followed them because they acted courageously with enthusiasm in a “big and courageous way.”
You always knew where they stood.
You always knew they could be counted on to be a man (or a woman) rather than a mouse.
Everything they did generated a sense of excitement.
People with Strong Ideals and Integrity Doing Big Things
Each one of these movies brims with big ideals, eternal themes, and a character imbued with a strong belief system doing big things in tense stressful situations.
Each of the main characters obtained financial success and/or emotional peace of mind by facing and over-coming life-threatening problems.
With respect to current conditions,
- “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” deals with (a) racial bias and prejudice, (b) people with different religious beliefs and value systems, (c) respect for the religion, value system and dignity of others, (d) respect for the ethnic and cultural identity of others, (e) thinking, speaking and acting respectfully of others, (f) education, (g) standards and styles of living, (h) the winner-take-all-entrepreneurship rampant today (including replacement of “ordinary workers” by modern technology and the current impact of focus on “current” shareholder value rather than on investment in the future), (i) lack of job security and scarcity of well-paying stable jobs), (j) the impact of technology and level of education on standard of living, (k) why brilliant hard working “rich” immigrants have been immigrating to the United States, (l) what talented high skilled immigrants as well as less skilled immigrants encounter when they begin a new life while living, going to school, and/or working in the United States, (m) and the on-going impact of immigrants on both the American economy and standard of living in the United States.
- “Hannah Arendt” deals with the blessings of freedoms and of democratic processes enjoyed by people living in the United States.
- “Midnight’s Children” deals with never ending violence and hate unleashed after people who have a history of bad blood between them who have lived in relative peace under the shackles (or fist) of a colonial power fight amongst themselves and kill each other after the colonial power leaves.
- “Kon-Tiki” deals with the power of imaginative educated raw entrepreneurial spirit ambition and drive.
- “The Gatekeepers” deals with the consequences of having a strong sense of identity coupled with the desire to control others and being intolerant of the religion of others, its teachings, its symbols and its values on the ability to live in peace among other people not like you. “The Gatekeepers” shines a bright light on the intersection of respect for freedom of thought and the dignity ethnic and cultural identity and political choices of other people on personal security.
The messages and lessons taught in these movies shed light on the following facts and conditions:
- Few people have job security.
- Well-paying stable jobs are few and far between.
- Standard of living and job prospects for new college graduates.
- The days when Americans automatically had the benefit of living a comfortable life simply because they were born in America and/or simply because they were a college graduate or simply because they could speak English are over.
- Four out of five U.S. adults struggle with joblessness, near-poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives.
- Marriage rates are in decline across all races and the number of white mother-headed households living in poverty has risen to the level of black ones in the United States.
- In the United States, more that 19 million whites fall below the poverty line of $23,021 for a family of four, accounting for more than 41 percent of the nation’s destitute, nearly double the number of poor blacks.
- Nationwide the count of America’s poor remains stuck at 46.2 million, or 15 percent of the population.
- Census figures show in 2011, 12.6 percent of adults in their prime working age years of 25 to 60 lived in poverty.
- Higher recent rates of unemployment mean the lifetime risk of experiencing economic insecurity now runs even higher: 79 percent, or 4 in 5 adults, by the time they turn 60.
- By 2030, based on the current trend of income inequality, close to 85 percent of all working age adults in the U.S. will experience bouts of economic insecurity.
- Going back to the 1980s, never have whites been so pessimistic about their futures, according to the General Social Survey, a biannual survey conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago. Just 45 percent say their family will have a good chance of improving their economic position based on the way things are in America.
- It has been observed that as America has become a nation of hamburger flippers, Wal-Mart sales associates, barmaids, checkout people and other people working at very low paying jobs, job growth has not significantly increased consumption or the ability to go out and buy stuff.
- There is continuous violence and unrest in Middle Eastern countries.
- Violent unrest exists in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Egypt and Iraq.
- Hostile tensions between India and Pakistan frequently flare up into violence.
- Portions of Israel endure continual rocket attacks from the bordering Gaza Strip. The children of Sderot are hardest hit – growing up with the psychological trauma that comes with living under the threat of attack. When a siren sounds a warning of an incoming rocket, residents have just 15 seconds to seek cover.
- Children and everyone else in Israel lives under constant threat of attack.
That being said, each of the films and books mentioned in this review provide a much needed reality check.
Job Market Realities
In 1997, the India branch of the McKinsey Business Consulting Firm analyzed every profession and every industry in the United States and in Germany and looked at what work could be moved off-shore.
After assuming that if a job demanded local know-how or connections the job could not be transplanted, but if a job wasn’t location specific it could be moved elsewhere, McKinsey India estimated that $1 Trillion of work could be moved to lower-cost high skilled locations such as India and the Philippines over the next two or three decades.
The McKinsey Business Consulting Firm shared these findings with its clients and potential new clients and offered to help them transfer high cost professional services jobs to lower-cost high skilled locations.
Corporations whose employees performed high cost professional services followed McKinsey’s advice.
They transplanted their high cost professional service work to lower-cost high skilled locations.
As a result of large corporations following that advice, in the late 1990s India became the off-shoring capital of the world.
India was able to become the “off-shoring” capital of the world because living in India at that time was a critical mass of idle but highly educated Indians eager to work for cents on the dollar.
In many cases the native English speaking Indians now providing professional services that used to be provided by American citizens are more educated than their American counterparts, and more motivated.
Because the wage gap is so large, even an Indian professional who may need twice as long to complete a task is more cost-effective than having an American professional perform the same service.
The Advantage of Speaking English
Internationally, peaking English is no longer an advantage to American professionals because every educated person now has English as a second if not their first language.
It has been estimated that the wage gap between highly educated native Indian professionals living and working in India and American professionals will not be closed (wages worldwide will not be more or less normalized) until the end of this century.
Apple, which collects the bulk of its income from physical goods (computers, iPhones, iPads and so on) has outsourced nearly all of its manufacturing to foreign countries, i.e., in China and elsewhere. Almost 700,000 people work on Apple’s physical products, but almost none of them are in the U.S.
New college graduates who have majored in information processing and computer science are having a hard time finding a job in their field because there is not a critical shortage for high-skilled computer workers in the United States.
In a recent study by the Economic Policy Institute it was reported that the United States is producing 50 percent more IT (Information Technology) professionals each year then are being employed in the field.
“Guest Workers” are getting a high proportion of new information technology jobs.
The real appeal of the H1B visas for “guest workers” – who already take between one third and half of all new IT jobs in the United States – is that they are usually paid less than their American counterparts, and are less likely to jump ship because they need to stay employed in order to stay in the United States.
High tech industries do not employ many people in the United States. According to a recent report, Google employs 50,000, Facebook employs 4,600 and Twitter less than 1,000 people in the United States. In contrast, GM employs 200,000, Ford 164,000 and Exxon over 100,000.
The Menace of Robots
Sixty-five percent of American workers occupy jobs whose basic tasks can be classified as information processing. If you are trying to find a competitive advantage for people over machines, this does not bode well.
Level of Education and Experience
People in their 20s today (i.e., new college graduates) are the first generation of Americans since 1870 to not be more educated then their parents.
Boomers (people born between 1946 and 1964) haven’t saved enough to retire, can’t afford to retire.
But, they have education, and 35 to 40 years of job experience, training, and skills. New college graduates cannot compete.
As a result, boomers are taking job “market share” from young college graduates.
Impact of New Technology on Standard of Living in Advanced Industrialized Countries
The modern kitchen, absent a few surface improvements, is the same one that existed 50 years ago.
Advances in modern communications technology, and corresponding reduction in cost of communicating from one place in the world to another place in the world, has resulted in professional jobs in advanced economies being transferred at lower cost off shore.
Prosperity is not a permanent condition.
Ten of the world’s 29 billionaires under 40 come from the tech sector: four from Facebook and two from Google.
Prosperity has cycles of utility, often a single cycle, which passes as the source of cause becomes exhausted or obsolete.
Thus a gold boom town disappears when the gold plays out.
A farm town declines when the crop can be produced and delivered to market cheaper somewhere else or when the crops grown in that town become out of favor with the consuming public or when government farm subsidies end.
Population density in a city determines how likely it is that you will talk to your neighbor.
The University of California’s Jan Breuckner and Ann Largey conducted 15,000 interviews across the country and found that for every 10 percent drop in population density, the likelihood of someone talking to their neighbor once a week, went up 10 percent, regardless of race, income, education, marital status or age.
A city declines when the commerce is more economical elsewhere, or the nature of its amenities change to the disadvantage of its population base, and as technology creates new products and new ways of doing things.
Many factors determine the nature of the population of a city and whether a city is a dynamic city or in decline.
I don’t think Detroit was forced to file for bankruptcy protection because its public employee unions held up the city or because the city government promised its workers more and more and more, but refused to set aside sufficient funds to pay for these benefits.
There will be many books written on why automobile manufacturing left Detroit.
At one time Detroit was an aspirational city.
During WW II Detroit was the arsenal of America.
After WW II, Detroit manufacturers made “lousy” cars, and treated their car dealerships and customers abysmally.
They lost tremendous market share to Japanese firms such as Toyota, Mitsubishi and Honda and to Korean firms like Hyundai and Kia.
Japanese and Korean societies have a comparative advantage in craftsmanship; their products are built to last and built cheaply.
For somewhat dated information on who’s ahead in the global auto wars and why (including commentary on Japan’s revolutionary leap from mass production to lean production – and what industry can learn from it) read “The Machine That Changes the World” by James P. Womack, Daniel T. Jones and Daniel Ross, published in 1990. This book is based on the results of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s 5-year study of the future of the automobile.
The United States used to be a nation of tinkerers. See:”The Machine in America – A Social History of Technology” by Carroll Pursell (published in 1995) and “They Made America” by Harold Evans (published in 2004).
Inventions don’t just solve problems, they create new ones, which demand – and inspire – other inventions.
For more information on the topic of the backroom tinkerers who have formed the modern world, read “The Most Powerful Idea in the World – A Story of Steam, Industry and Invention” by William Rosen (published in 2010).
With respect to use of new technology in the auto industry:
- The General Motors’ Voit has failed to break the dominance of Toyota’s Prius in the crowded market for electric and hybrid cars. In June, 2013, the Prius garnered 28 % of U.S. hybrid/electric sales – that excludes Telsa, a car being manufactured by a California start-up.
- Telsa has likely grabbed a 9 % market share in the full sized luxury sedan segment of the new car market.
- If you are a tech enthusiast, an early adopter, Telsa has become the future of automobile transportation.
- The Telsa is the first car built from the ground up with new technology and is the most differentiated vehicle on the road, not only with luxury but also with technology.
- Telsa is headquartered in Palo Alto, California, and builds its cars at a factory in nearby Freemont.
- “It’s like the first time you use an iPhone after a Blackberry, you feel like ‘Wow, this is the future of the automobile.’ That is how far a leap it is.”
- Telsa, a California start-up, has shown that making and selling a high-end electric car can be a money-making proposition. But, Telsa’s near term profitability remains tied to government incentives that apply to electric and zero-emission vehicles.
The Impact of Capitalistic Thinking on Marriage, Fertility Rates. Political Conservatism and Traditional Values
Joseph Schumpeter, the eminent Austrian-American economist and political scientist realized and predicted that the ultimate enemy of political conservatism and traditional values was not socialism but Capitalism, or rather Consumerism.
Schumpeter predicted that when societies and individual people began to view their economic relationships in mostly cost-benefit analysis, over time people would begin to apply this free-market consumerism in other areas of their lives, including their most intimate relationships.
Schumpeter predicted that the marriage and child-rearing family unit, an absolute presumption in an agrarian economy, was doomed and eventually even the nuclear family of the industrial age would not survive. Schumpeter predicted a cost-benefit lifestyle choice analysis would result, for the first time, in children being considered a luxury and not a necessity.
According to Schumpeter, the extreme challenges of marriage and parenthood would outweigh the perceived rewards expected from these institutions; that these institutions would not rationally compare to the favorability of living single and childless in an advanced capitalist economy where unmarried relationships were acceptable and children were no longer deemed necessary to care for you in your old age.
It’s this modernist rational approach to lifestyle choices that eventually leads to delayed first time marriages, rapidly falling fertility rates, and rapidly aging populations. As a hyper-consumerized industrial culture, the Japanese are on the leading edge of all these trends.
As cities create the conditions that make living alone a more social experience, they fill up with single professionals, well-heeled childless couples, well-to-do empty nesters, and college students – a place where city residents can experience their own urban location as if tourists – a place emphasizing aesthetic concerns. Schools, churches and neighborhood foundations no longer from the city’s foundation.
Instead, the city revolves around recreation, arts, culture and restaurants – a system built for the newly liberated individual.
The urban core of such cities becomes an entertainment machine.
In cities with populations greater than 400,000, the population of children aged 14 and younger actually declined between 2000 and 2010, according to U.S. Census data., with New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Detroit experiencing the largest numerical drop.
Increasingly, great American cities from New York and Chicago to Los Angels and Seattle are evolving into playgrounds for the rich, traps for the poor.
Such cities do not draw people who are impassioned about their kids and their school nor are they a place where everyone volunteers.
Even in the most affluent cities, the dearth of children reinforces public policies incompatible with children.
The post-family city appeals to a certain segment of the population.
That raises the question: Can such a city, no matter how affluent, ensure a prosperous future, economic vitality, on its own without families with children?
The Power of Ambitious Immigrants to Create An Economic Miracle
Dan Senor and Saul Singer claim , in “Start-Up Nation – The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle” by Dan Senor and Saul Singer (published in 2009), that Israel’s economic miracle is due as much to immigration as to anything. Foreign born citizens of Israel currently account for over one-third of the nation’s population, almost three times the ratio of foreigners to natives in the United States. Nine out of ten Jewish Israelis are either immigrants or first- or second-generation descendants of immigrants. Israel is now home to more than seventy different nationalities and cultures.
Many people have concluded that the most promising way to prosper from the application of their own abilities, skills, experience and training is to become a successful entrepreneur.
Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.
The facts are:
- To be a successful entrepreneur requires having imagination, having a dream, having vision, being creative, having passion, having conviction, having courage, being hands-on, standing out from the crowd.
- Having drive, being a fierce competitor and being tenacious and diligent are also critical.
- A successful entrepreneur is always on top of things.
- A successful entrepreneur is always be alert.
- A successful entrepreneur is always prepared.
Successful entrepreneurs are the kind of person who can’t just stand by and watch stuff. They always want to be “hands-on.” They have to be a “do it first” person.
They are the first ones out there and “not care” if they are not like everyone else.
The stories told in “Kon-Tiki”, “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” and “Hannah Arendt” illustrate the character traits one must have to be a successful entrepreneur, to succeed in the dismal job market.
Thor Heyerdahl’s, Changez’s and Hannah Arendt’s self-awareness, self-control, conviction, high skill level, hunger for knowledge, work ethic, courage, passion, competitiveness, extraordinary creativity and imagination made each of them a successful “go-to-person.”
Thor Heyerdahl is a study in imagination, conviction and extraordinary creativity. Thor Heyerdahl’s story epitomizes the fact that one cannot dream oneself into either usefulness or happiness.
Thor Heyerdahl knew he would never be happy with himself if he gave up his dream of proving that pre-Inca seafarers over 1,500 years ago could have sailed 5,000 miles across the Pacific on balsa wood rafts from Peru to Polynesia. When everyone in the scientific establishment in New York refused to fund Heyerdahl’s expedition to prove that pre-Inca seafarers could have sailed from Peru to Polynesia, Heyerdahl went to Peru to talk the President of Peru into funding his expedition.
Changez is a study in bravery and the power of self-awareness/knowing who you are. Changez’s story epitomizes the facts (a) that we are all works in progress – personally and professionally, and (b) you need to know who you are in order to know what will make you happy.
Changez thought he needed to make a lot of money in order to be happy.
Changez thought he could make a lot of money working on Wall Street.
Those thoughts brought Changez from Lahore, Pakistan, where Changez had grown up, to Princeton University in New Jersey.
After graduation from Princeton, Changez went to work for an elite Wall Street firm as a financial analyst.
While working for the Wall Street firm, Changez made a fortune.
But, Changez realized that although he was making a lot of money (a fortune), he was not happy doing what he was doing.
Changez had the bravery to face the fact that if he quit his job on Wall Street he would not be a “rich man” but he would be a happier if he returned to Pakistan to work for less money as a college professor.
Changez realized that people have a mind, a body and a soul; in order for a person to be happy their mind, body and soul have to be in balance.
Hannah Arendt is a study in courage. Hannah Arendt’s story epitomizes the fact that you can’t wait for everything to be perfect you’ll never get anything done.
Hannah Arendt wanted to know how to think. Hannah Arendt spent her life (a) learning how to thinking, (b) observing, analyzing, studying and thinking, and (c) teaching others how to think.
Hannah Arendt realized that the publication of her report on the trial of Adolph Eichmann in Jerusalem would make many people hate her. She had her report published anyway.
As a result of that act, Hannah Arendt became a light and power in the world.
The Likelihood of Success
Each of the movies mentioned in this movie review is a story about innovation, independent thinking, entrepreneurial spirit, imagination, deep thinking, conviction, rugged individualism, courage, drive, and what counts – what an individual has to do – in order to become an extremely successful person.
- Thor Heyerdahl was a driven man who risked his marriage, his life and his fortune to prove something he believed in – to prove his theory that Polynesia was initially settled 1,500 years ago by fearless pre-Inca seafarers who sailed 5,000 miles across the Pacific Ocean on balsa wood rafts from Peru to Polynesia. Thor Heyerdahl was so confident that Peruvians did that 1,500 years ago, that he organized and led an expedition in which he sailed with five crew members on a balsa wood raft, without a motor, from Peru to Polynesia across 5,000 miles of the open sea. Thor Heyerdahl wrote a book about the Kon-Tiki expedition that has been translated into 70 languages and which has sold about one billion copies.
- “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” – is a story about the life and philosophical beliefs of Changez. Changez was a fabulously successful entrepreneur. Although Changez was born and raised as a Muslim in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Changez achieved fabulous business success in America while working on Wall Street as a financial analyst and business consultant in an investment banking firm. “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” illuminates in dramatic fashion the mindset of Changez who followed Muslim and Hindu philosophy teachings and percepts on how to live. Changez made life altering choices in the face of being exposed to the seductions of material wealth, including the seductions of having a rich sexy white high society American girl-friend as a lover, the seduction of living in a fashionable apartment in Manhattan and the seduction of being able to buy anything he chose. In the end, Changez was not seduced by the blandishments, values or and ideals of Western Materialistic Philosophy.
- “Midnight’s Children” – is the story of what happened to the Muslim and Hindu people who lived in India. The “story” is told by Saleem, a Muslim, whose life began at the exact moment (midnight on August 15, 1947) when India gained independence from Great Britain. Parts of India, which had existed under British rule as a single “India” were partitioned into the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and into independent India at the moment India secured its independence from Great Britain. Despite a long history of bad blood between them, Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs had managed to live together in relative peace under British rule. The philosophy “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” prevailed while Great Britain ruled India.
- For many people, Partition ment starting over. The partition of India triggered a great migration of people, with about 7.2 million Hindus and Sikhs moving to India from newly created Pakistan and an equal number of Muslims making the reverse migration. One million lives were lost along the way, many victims of brutal sectarian violence.
- Corruption and racial hatred were rampant in the new Indian government. Saleem’s father who had been a fabulously rich and successful (Muslim) businessman in India under British rule became financially ruined and suffered a nervous breakdown as a result of the hostile actions and policies of the Indian government directed against Muslims which he experienced after India became an independent country.
- As a result of watching “Midnight’s Children” I now better understand the on-going violence in Egypt, Syria, and Iraq. I feel comfortably sure that I can now accurately predict what will inevitably happen next in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, and Israel. I have no doubt that what happens next in those countries and in the Palestinian Occupied Territories will impact the rest of the world.
- Hannah Arendt is a woman who towered in mind over everyone. She is spoke with complete clarity. She was not resigned to the hypocrisy which many good people put up with, and sometimes imitate in order to live. Hannah Arendt “called things as she saw them.”
- Hannah Arendt explained to the world that the greatest threat to mankind is unthinking people, unthinking people who unthinkingly follow orders issued by totalitarian governments.
- Through her writings, talks, speeches, and teaching, Hannah Arendt gave the world a foretaste of what the consequences of living in any country run by a dictator will be.
- Thor Heyerdahl, Changez and Hannah Arendt had tremendous self-awareness, were totally in touch with what they wanted their life to be about and were completely trustworthy.
- Regardless of fortune or lack of it, the main character in “Kon-Tiki”, “The Reluctant Fundamentalist”, “Midnight’s Children”, “Hannah Arendt” and “The Gatekeepers” lived their own values, did not let anything keep him or her from living fully for the thing they wanted to live for.
Movie Reviews Continued
In the first scene we see a group of boys somewhere in Norway, staring while standing on secure ground covered with snow, at a hole in which a piece of ice is floating.
One boy runs across the ice and snow the other boys are standing on, jumps into the middle of that hole in which the piece of ice is floating, lands on the piece of ice floating in the hole, then loses his balance and falls into the ice cold water on which that piece of ice is floating.
Then someone jumps into the water to “save” the boy.
[At the end of the movie, we learn that the boy (now a man) does not know how to swim.]
In the second scene at the very beginning of the movie, we see the boy, who fell off the piece of floating ice, bundled up in blankets laying in a bed.
People are staring at the boy, wondering if he will live.
That boy is Thor Heyerdahl, the main character in Kon Tiki.
In a later scene (perhaps the next scene) we see a young man (Thor Heyerdahl) with his young beautiful wife on an island in the Pacific Ocean.
Thor is looking at a picture of a pineapple in a book and also looking at a pineapple in his hand.
Thor tells his wife the pineapple they are looking at must have been carried across the Pacific Ocean with pre-Inca South American seafarers.
It must have come from Peru because the book he is looking at says that pineapple is a native plant of Peru.
Thor tells his wife: 1,500 hundred years ago, native people from Peru must have sailed across the Pacific Ocean on their balsa wood rafts to this island in Polynesia.
The natives believe their island was settled by Kon Tiki, who came Westward to their island from the East.
In later scenes we see Thor in New York, without his wife, talking to members of the establishment scientific community.
Thor is soliciting financial support, grant, to enable Thor to make a 5,000 mile (8,000 kilometre) voyage across the Pacific on a balsa raft in order to prove that Polynesia was settled by people from South America, 1,500 years ago.
At that time the scientific community believed that the original inhabitants of Polynesia came Eastward from Asia.
Thor explains that the distance from South America to Polynesia is further than the distance from Chicago to Moscow.
Thor further explains that ancient seafarers did not see the ocean as a barrier but rather as a highway, a trade route, linking people across the sea from one another.
Everyone whom Thor solicits in New York turns him down. They think he is crazy.
In one memorable scene, a high official at National Geographic tells Thor that every expert and every school boy knows that Polynesia was settled by people from Asia.
Thor replies, “Every expert and school boy are wrong.”
Thor refuses to give up, despite the fact that the scientific community openly mocks him and he can’t find funding.
In a later scene the film shows Thor, in New York, calling his wife (Liv).
Liv is with their two young sons in Norway.
It is around Christmas time.
In this long distance call, Liv asks Thor if Thor will be home for Christmas.
Thor tells Liv, he will not be coming home for Christmas, instead he is going to go to Peru to raise or borrow funds for his expedition.
Liv tells Thor Liv hopes Thor doesn’t die. Liv tells Thor that she hopes that Thor will be home with her and his two sons soon.
All during the film Thor handles failure without losing his temper or self-control.
Thor never loses the conviction that what he wants to do is the right thing.
Though matter what happens Thor never loses hope.
In the next scene, Thor is shown in Peru discussing his conviction that people from Peru sailed across the Pacific Ocean to Polynesia over 1,500 years with the President of Peru.
The President asks Thor, “What can I do for you?”
Thor replies, “The question is what can I do for you. I can prove that Polynesia was settled by Peruvians. But, I need money to fund an expedition to prove that.”
The President of Peru agrees to fund Thor’s expedition.
The President of Peru asks the commander of the US Fleet stationed nearby to “outfit” Thor’s expedition with supplies.
In a later scene, Thor and his crew are shown inside a US Navy vessel gathering up supplies, such as life preservers, and shark repellent.
Later, Thor and a motley crew of five adventures are shown building a balsa wood raft with the same materials available to people who lived in Peru 1,500 years ago..
The raft is built as similar balsa wood rafts must have been built 1500 years ago.
After the y build the raft, Thor and his crew of five set sail from Peru for Polynesia.
Thor and each of his crew are inexperienced seamen.
The Kon-Tiki expedition raft does not have a motor.
The only modern things the Kon -Tike raft is equipped with are a radio and a sextant.
Thor named this balsa wood raft the Kon-Tiki.
The Kon-Tiki raft was named after a legendary sea-faring sun-king common to both the old Inca kingdom and the island in Polynesia where Thor made the connection between the pineapple growing on the island with a similar pineapple growing in Peru.
In one memorable scene, one of the members of Thor’s crew tells Thor that he thinks the balsa wood logs are coming apart, that the rope lashings holding them together are frayed and about to break and something needs to be done to fix that situation before the raft comes apart and sinks.
This crewman brings out steel wire, which he had brought on board with Thor’s knowledge.
He begs Thor to allow him to lash the balsa wood logs together with the steel wire.
Thor grabs the steel wire and throws it in the ocean.
Thor tells his crew that the Peruvians didn’t have steel wire, they only had rope.
Thor tells his crew that he (Thor) and the rest of the crew are going to sail across the Pacific Ocean exactly the same way the Peruvians sailed across the Pacific Ocean 1,500 years ago.
In another scene, a member of the crew tells Thor that if the Kon-Tiki raft does not change course it will be pulled down a well known vortex in the Pacific Ocean located near the Galapagos Islands.
The Galapagos Islands are an archipelago on the Equator in the Pacific Ocean about 600 miles west of Ecuador.
Thor tells the crew to have faith, they will not drown in the vortex because the Peruvians sailed this way — by ocean currents and sail — over a thousand years and did not get sucked into that vortex.
The movie tracks Thor’s voyage of 101 days across the open Pacific Ocean.
During the movie, Thor and his crew are shown having several life threatening adventures. They must deal with:
- sudden thunderstorms,
- a shark attack,
- a playful whale and
- a barrier reef close to the surface of the ocean.
- The crew and their raft must cross over this barrier reef in order to reach land.
- Thor and his crew sailed on the open sea with only a sail, wind and ocean currents, to propel them.
- They sailed 5,000 miles (8,000 kilometers) across the open sea from Peru to the Raroia Atoll in the Tuemotu Archipelago.
- This voyage demonstrated that Polynesia was well within the sailing range of prehistoric South American seafarers.
- After completion of this voyage, Thor Heyerdahl wrote a book about the Kon-Tiki expedition.
- That book has been published in 70 languages and has sold about 1,000,000,000 (?) copies.
- Thor’s adventure captured the public’s imagination.
Thor’s Entrepreneurial Traits and Lessons Taught in the Movie “Kon-Tiki”
Thor Heyerdahl was not afraid to take risks.
Thor Heyerdahl was a risk-taker since childhood.
Thor Heyerdahl was not afraid of public failure.
Thor Heyerdahl did not suffer from anything close to an inferiority complex.
Thor Heyerdahl was prepared for his ideas not to be accepted.
Thor Heyerdahl was very focused and hard driving.
After Thor Heyerdahl hatched his plan to cross the Pacific Ocean on a balsa wood raft, he was unshakeable in his determination to do so.
Thor Heyerdahl simply refused to give up – despite the fact that the scientific community openly mocked him.
Thor Heyerdahl was a leader, not a conformist.
Thor Heyerdahl was in touch with what he wanted his life to be about.
Thor Heyerdahl did not let anything keep him from living fully for the thing he wanted to live for.
“Kon-Tiki” demonstrates that dynamic individuality is the most precious quality a businessman can possibly have.
Innovative people look at things. Everyone else keeps moving when they see things.
Successful people have
- free-wheeling imagination,
- strong beliefs
- strong independent personalities – they refuse to conform
- connection to reality
- stamina and,
- a work ethic that comes from within.
- They are not afraid of adversity or the risk of failure.
Businesspeople who want to be successful cannot afford to imitate others.
They must very much be an individualist who can think and act independently.
They must be imaginative resourceful and entirely self reliant.
They rely entirely on their own judgment, rather than on surveys, studies and committee meetings.
They strive to achieve exceptional results in everything they do.
They are prepared for other people to not accept their ideas.
Aside: If Henry Ford had left design to the masses, they would have asked for faster horses – never cars.
They find something to hold on to, something that motivates them, something that inspires them.
If you move counter to the tide of prevailing opinion expect to be obstructed, derided, and damned.
Develop a thick skin if you want greatness or to be a leader.
Thor Heyerdahl got things done and made things happen by dint of the force of his personality, his desire to get things done, his energy, his enthusiasm, his self-confidence, his convictions, his imagination, his creativity, his attention to detail, his ingenuity, his resourcefulness, his work ethic, his chutzpah and his savvy for taking advantage of opportunity.
Thor Heyerdahl died in 2002.
“The Reluctant Fundamentalist”
According to Dante:
“The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis.”
Inferno, The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri
“The Reluctant Fundamentalist” is a movie about a portion of Changez’s life.
Changez is Pakistani man who named Changez came to America ablaze with gritty optimism.
Changez saw America as a place where sharp, creative and ambitious entrepreneurs with little capital might make a fortune.
Changez made a fortune while working as a financial analyst and business consultant for a Wall Street Investment Banking firm.
Changez was a sensitive successful businessman with a brilliant and creative mind who at all times lived his life to the fullest with panache.
“The Reluctant Fundamentalist” tells the story of what happened to Changez during his busy successful life.
“The Reluctant Fundamentalist” shows (a) how Changez came to know what he wanted his life to be about, (b) what Changez did to be true to himself, and (c) the consequences of choices made by Changez.
The first scene of “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” shows a man being kidnapped in Lahore, Pakistan.
Three men grab a fourth man, put a hood over his head, stuff the man into a waiting vehicle and then drive away.
The kidnapped man was followed by a woman who tried to stop the abduction.
That woman is pushed aside as she tries to stop the assailants from stuffing the kidnapped man into a waiting car.
In the next scene, exotic music is being played while a group of male singers is performing at a sober event.
In the next scene the main characters (Changez and Bobby) are introduced; Changez is seen talking to Bobby (played by Liev Schreiber), in 2011, at an outdoor café filled with college students, in Lahore, Pakistan.
Bobby is posing as an American journalist meeting Changez for an interview.
Changez is a popular college professor. Changez knows that Bobby works for the C.I.A.
The C.I.A. are searching for the American who the audience saw being kidnapped.
The C.I A. hope Changez will tell Bobby what has happened to the kidnapped American, that Changez will tell Bobby where the kidnapped American is being held hostage.
Changez insists that Bobby listen to Changez relate his experiences in the United States.
The movie then rolls back ten years.
Changez just graduated from Princeton University with honors. Changez is on campus being interviewed for a job with a Wall Street Investment Banking firm.
The interview is taking place in a fancy house, perhaps in a fraternity house at Princeton University. At this point in time, Changez wants to work for the Wall Street firm interviewing him. In Changez’s mind, getting the job he is interviewing for will taking another step necessary to win fortune and glory on Wall Street.
Changez is hired for the job he wants by Keith Sutherland, a managing partner at an ultra selective high powered Wall Street investment firm.
Changez, through pure genius, creativity, hard work and his ability to organize and analyze data better than anyone else, raises through the ranks in the Wall Street firm while Changez makes himself, Wall Street firm he is working for and the firm’s clients a great deal of money.
Changez rises like a shooting star. There is no clutter or distraction in Changez’s life. Changez is able to concentrate, to be organized and to be innovative with no distraction except for the charm of the firm’s founder’s highly independent artistic daughter Erica, played by Kate Hudson.
Erica finds Changez’s manliness, foreignness, charm, dash and brilliance utterly sexy and irresistible. She can’t get enough of him. To Erica, Changez is a different kind of man, an intriguing exotic man; brilliant, sexy, creative and elegant man; a man for whom life is an open-ended adventure. Changez’s adventurous spirit, his pugnacity and imagination, drive, ambition and manliness turns Erica on. Erica can only think of Changez relationship with as being like the relationship of a lamb with a ram entering a field of sheep.
From Erica’s perspective freedom, drive, ambition and domination are obviously in Changez’s blood. It is obvious to Erica that Changez means to have it all.
When Erica is around Changez, Erica experiences a thrill of a new kind of excitement. Erica feels uplifted, taken into a new and larger life where she can become a person she had never dreamed of becoming before.
From young Changez’s point of view: Erica is a cultivated, well-read, worldly wise, sensuous, sophisticated, artistic woman. Without needing to assert herself in the least, Erica is a woman who is completely sure of herself and comfortable with who she was. Changez respects that. Changez is passionately attracted to Erica. Erica is just the sort of person Changez thought he should get to know, a woman with whom he could share his adventurous life.
Changez and Erica become lovers. But Erica is not familiar with Changez’s way of life in Pakistan, or with Changez’s upbringing or how Changez’s attitudes are different from her own. Unbeknownst to Changez, Erica was taking photographs of Changez which Erica intended to display in a photography exhibit. Erica did not consider Changez’s way of life and attitudes were different from her’s before publicly displaying the intimate photographs she had taken of Changez.
It was very important to Changez to have self-respect. Erica’s display of photographs she had taken of him at a night club in New York humiliated Changez and made Changez believe he had been used by Erica.
As a result of the attack on the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center on 9/11/2001 in NYC Changez suffered a variety of humiliations as a result of publicly open hostility and unbounded hatred displayed towards also Muslims in America immediately after the attack on the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in NYC on 9/11.
The more financially successful Changez becomes the more Changez realizes he can not be the person he wants to be while working at his Wall Street job. He feels progressively more rootless, and that he is living a life alien to his own nature and innate desires.
Much to the disappointment of Changez’s boss Kiefer Sutherland (who had recruited Changez from Princeton and fast tracked Changez’s career), and much to the disappointment of Changez’s girl friend (Kate Hudson), Changez decides to quit his Wall Street job and to return to Pakistan. Changez quits his job on Wall Street and returns to Pakistan.
In Pakistan, Changez becomes a university professor who is loved and respected by students.
At that point in “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” Changez’s flashback ends In the next scene Changez is seen at Changez’s meeting with Bobby. Bobby is soliciting Changez to help the C.I.A. find the location of the kidnapped American hostage.
From that point forward the the story takes one dramatic unanticipated twist and turn after another.
There is no direct reference to U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan, but there is reference to Pakistani students having strong anti-American feelings.
Bobby and the C.I.A. believe that strong anti-American feelings have led to the kidnapping of the American and that because Changez is a beloved teacher Changez’s students have already told Changez where the hostage is being held or will tell Changez if Changez inquires.
During their conversation about the kidnapped American Professor, Bobby admits to Changez that the kidnapped American Professor is C.I.A. Bobby also admits that the kidnapped American Professor recruited Bobby to work for the C.I.A.
Tension builds as it becomes clear that the C.I.A. is panicked, does not know what is going on. It is clear the C.I.A. does not know what to do next and will probably do something violent and stupid. In the next few scenes, the C.I.A. and Bobby prove their stupidity. The C.I.A. sends an armed convoy to extract Bobby from the café where Bobby is engaged in conversation with Changez.
Due to a complete and utter lack of understanding of the situation on the part of the C.I.A., and Bobby, during the extraction of Bobby from the café, one of the students at the café is shot and killed by Bobby. Thereafter, Bobby is shot and wounded by one of many students present while Bobby is being “extracted” by the C.I.A. from the cafe.
“The Last Fundamentalist” is about consequences of choices, about what one must do to derive genuine contentment in life.
The take away messages emphasized in “The Last Fundamentalist” are that not understanding what is going on is like driving through your life with a handbrake on. One can’t do anything well if they are not prepared. Choices have consequences.
Lessons in “The Reluctant Fundamentalist”
The most powerful lesson taught in “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” is that it is important to know oneself because:
- In order to be happy you must live life on your own terms.
- You must be in touch with what you want your life to be about.
- You must find something valid and meaningful to you to hold on to, something to motivate you, something to inspire you.
The Importance of Compatibility
When Kiefer Sutherland interviewed Changez at Princeton, Changez was ablaze with gritty optimism.
Changez told Sutherland that Changez loved America because American is a land of dreams where people can reach for what is unattainable in other countries cluttered with aristocratic ideological pasts.
Sutherland was seduced by Changez’s clear thinking, sharp mind, ambition, straightforward language, hunger to succeed, fire in his belly, and self-respect.
Changez made it obvious to Sutherland that Changez was sincerely motivated to succeed on Wall Street.
The Importance of Relating
Changez came from a poor family who could not pay for Changez’s education.
Changez did not tell Sutherland that Changez’s father is a well known famous and highly regarded poet in the Punjab whose poems were read and published in many languages, throughout the Muslim world.
Changez’s father was not a financially successful person.
Changez, unbeknownst to his classmates, was attending Princeton on a full scholarship.
Sutherland’s parents were poor also.
Sutherland’s parents could not pay for the education Sutherland received at Harvard.
Sutherland could never stop thinking of himself as being a hungry outsider with fire in his belly.
Sutherland related to the fact that Changez was an ambitious hungry outsider with fire in his belly.
Sutherland related to the fact that Changez also came from a poor family.
Sutherland knew that Changez was “hungrier” than the other recent graduates he was interviewing at Princeton.
Sutherland believed that because Changez was brilliant, ambitious and had fire in his belly, Changez would be a great success working for Sutherland on Wall Street.
Sutherland believed that he (Sutherland) and Changez were kindred spirits.
In Sutherland’s mind Changez was the cream of the crop.
For all those reasons, Sutherland offered Changez a job, launched Changez’s career on Wall Street and fast tracked Changez’s career as Sutherland witnessed Changez living up to expectations.
Opportunity for All In America
Throughout the movie Changez makes it clear that Changez never stopped loving America.
Changez never stopped believing that America is a land of dreams with a level playing field, an upwardly mobile place where people can reach for what once seemed unattainable.
While Changez was in America, Changez did not learn that there is more to capitalism and free-enterprise than being a Wall Street Banker who thinks up ways to lay-off workers.
Changez would have been thrilled and happy to work for any one of many business leaders in America (a) who distinguish themselves by their drive to improve and innovate, (b) whose drive, innovation and quest for quality set them and their enterprise apart from all opposition, (c) whose companies profit by balancing short-term profitability with a a multifaceted situational awareness of the value of a social conscience, (d) whose companies profit by making things better for their customers, their employees and their stockholders, and (e) who sincerely believe that doing so is a win-win situation for all concerned.
Many companies that fit that mold are described in the recently published book, “Conscious Capitalism.”
In that book, authors John Mackey (Co-founder and Co-CEO of Whole Foods Market) and Professor Raj Sisodia describe how Whole Foods Market, Southwest Airlines, Costco, Google, Patagonia, The Container Store, UPS and dozens of other companies compete by successfully inventing and implementing innovative new strategies to meet consumers’ needs.
Changez would have loved to work for Isadore Sharp, whose drive, innovation, and diligent quest for quality sets him and his enterprise (Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts) apart from all other hotels in the hotel industry.
To learn more about Isadore Sharp’s and Four Seasons’ zeal and business philosophy when I read Isadore Sharp’s memoir “Four Seasons – The Story of a Business Philosophy.”
In “Four Seasons – The Story of a Business Philosophy” author Isadore Sharp, founder, Chairman and CEO of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, tells how Four Seasons succeeds by pursuing excellence in everything it does.
Below is a quote:
“To compete, we all have to feel about service the way Ray Krok, head of McDonald’s statewide, felt about hamburgers. Explaining why his company led competitors around the world, Krok had said, ‘We take the hamburger more seriously than they do.'”
Isadore Sharp’s vision has always been to emphasize an unprecedented level of awareness of the needs of the most demanding customers.
Isadore Sharp succeeded as the CEO of Four Seasons by getting into the minds of customers and by asking what should his industry provide. Sharp asked and understood how customers see things, which is they want the most value for their money.
Isadore Sharp is not a snob.
- Isadore Sharp is more interested in what you know than in where you learned it.
- Isadore Sharp cares more about the kind of person you are and your personality, what you can do as a result of having the right attitude, than your pedigree, i.e., whether you have the best resume.
Today, Four Seasons manages the operations of 90 hotels in 36 countries including 25 of the 181 super stars properties in the Conde Nast Traveler Platinum Circle.
Last year’s revenue for Isadore Sharp’s privately held company, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, was $3.8 billion.
Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts is on Fortune’s list of 100 best companies to work for.
Isadore Sharp’s fresh ideas have become the industry norm:
- Isadore Sharp was the first to put shampoo and bigger and thicker towels in his hotel rooms.
- He put ultra-comfortable mattresses in his hotel rooms before anyone else.
- He put make-up mirrors and mini-bars in his rooms before anyone else.
- His hotels were also the first hotels to have 24/7 room service, non-smoking floors, gyms, and concierges creating histories of guest preferences.
The Importance of Values
In his book, “Four Seasons”, Isadore Sharp advises us that it is of utmost importance for everyone in an organization to have the right values.
- The success of a business enterprise depends upon the values of its employees.
- It is of utmost importance that everyone in a business enterprise have a common purpose, common values.
Isadore Sharp isn’t the only businessman to feel strongly about the importance of values.
In “How to Be Rich”, J. Paul Getty describes the importance of having and living by personal values as follows:
“To be truly rich, regardless of fortune or lack of it, a man must live by his own values. If those values are not personally meaningful, then no amount of money gained can hide the emptiness of life without them.
“I have known entirely too many people who spend their lives trying to be what others want them to be and doing what others expect them to do. They force themselves into patterns of behavior which have been established for – and by – people with personalities entirely different from their own. Seeking to conform to those patterns, they dissolve into grotesque, blurred mirror images as they obliterate their individuality, to imitate others. Rootless, dissatisfied, they strive frantically – and most often vainly – to find their own identities within constricting limits of an existence alien to their natures, instincts and innate desires.
“…largely overlooked in this age of treadmill scrambling for money and status is the fact that there are many forms of wealth other than financial wealth.
“Rich as I may be from a material standpoint, I’ve long felt that I’m very poor, indeed, in time. For decades my business affairs have made extremely heavy inroads on my time, leaving me with very little I could use as I pleased. There are books that I have wanted to read – and books I have wanted to write. I’ve always yearned to travel to remote parts of the globe which I’ve never seen; one of my greatest unfulfilled ambitions has been to go on a long safari in Africa.
“Money has not been a bar to the realization of these desires; insofar as money is concerned, I could have easily afforded to do any of those things for many years. The blunt and simple truth is that I’ve never been able to do them because I could never afford the time. It’s paradoxical but true that the so-called captains of industry frequently have less time for indulging their personal desires than their rear-rank privates. This applies to little things as well as big ones.
“The point I am trying to make is that each individual has to establish his own standards of values, and that these are largely subjective. They are based on what the individual considers most important to him and what he is willing to give for a certain thing or in order to achieve a certain aim.
“Old – but true – are the bromides that you can’t have everything and that you can’t get something for nothing. An individual always has to give – or give up – something in order to have or get something else. Whether he is willing to make the exchange or not is entirely up to him and his own sense of values.”
Mr. Getty also discusses the large number of Americans who take their lives each year whose suicides are classed as “economic suicides, “At least 30 to 40 percent of so-called economic suicides occur when a man is successful, not when he is failing. When a man has achieved the peak of success, often he has nothing left to scramble for.”
“I’m no psychiatrist, but it seems to me that anyone who takes his own life because he has not achieved success and has ‘nothing left to scramble for’ never had anything worthwhile to scramble for in the first place. The goals he sought – and achieved – were meaningless. When he realized this he also realized that what he had actually achieved was not success but a pathetic failure.”
Mr. Getty also discusses the results of an intensive study of families living in a typical contemporary status-seekers’ suburban community: In this study it was determined that the diseases which stem primarily from emotional distresses – notably ulcers, coronary thrombosis, hypertension, cardiovascular disease – were markedly more prevalent there than in communities in which status seeking was not such a dominant social factor.
Mr. Getty further comments,
- “Anyone who has encountered specimens of the ulcer-ridden, tranquilizer-devouring and status-seeking Organization Man and their nervously shrill voiced, apprehensive wives will hardly be surprised by this revelation.
- “I consider it one of the major tragedies of our civilization that people have come to regard it virtually mandatory to imitate in order to win the social acceptance of their fellows. The end result of this can only be to reduce even the most brilliant individuals to a sterile cipher.
- “…countless men will lower themselves to such absurd devices as wearing bow-ties because their employers wear them, cutting their hair the way their superiors so, or buying their homes, where the other executives buy theirs. They ape and echo the ideas, views and actions of those they seek to impress, proving nothing but that they are servile toadies.
“It has always been my contention that an individual who can be relied upon to be himself and to be honest unto himself can be relied upon in every other way. He places value – not a price – on himself and his principles. And that in the final analysis, is the measure of anyone’s sense of values – and of the true worth of any man.”
J. Paul Getty’s book “How to Be Rich” was first published in serial form in Playboy Magazine in 1961.
Concluding Comment Re “The Reluctant Fundamentalist’
“The Reluctant Fundamentalist” captures both heart and mind from the start and does not let go. t is both haunting and sensual. It is the story of choices made by men pushed to the brink and consequences.
“The Reluctant Fundamentalist” makes one think about common sense ideas, such as:
- “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but not vision.” – Helen Keller, writer
- “It is not a lucky word, this name impossible; no good comes to those who have it so often in their mouths.” – Thomas Carlyle, essayist
- “There are basically two types of people. People who accomplish things and people who claim to have accomplished things. The first group is less crowded.” – Mark Twain, author
Have a purpose.
Do not lose your grasp of the overall picture and/or sight of your purpose.
Hard work is the key to business success. Success is a marathon. The wealthy businessman’s life is not all champagne and caviar.
What differentiates the average from the elite is their ability to adapt, their imagination, their creativity, their conviction, their courage, their drive and their tenacity.
Visually, “Midnight’s Children” is a movie depicting life in India from the minute it became an independent country (at midnight on August 15, 1947) through the “premiership” of Indira Gandhi.
The message presented in “Midnight’s Children” is that one should not herald the so called Arab Spring as the rise of democracy in the Middle East.
Democracy entails much more than having the “right” to vote.
Democracy entails respect for the rule of law, equality under the law, an independent judiciary, individual liberty, property rights, government limits and tolerance of minorities.
In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson asserted “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights” including life and liberty.
The Declaration of Independence expresses basic ideas about liberty, freedom, democracy and self-government.
Ideologically Driven Totalitarian States
One should keep in mind that, according to the “Economist,” only 17% of the nations in the United Nations are fully democratic.
In “Midnight’s Children” the audience is shown that “democracy” kidnapped by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi after she was elected Prime Minister of India.
Similarly, the rule of ousted President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has re-taught the world that the democratic election of a President does not insure the functioning of a democracy:
According to an article in the Los Angeles Times on August 10, 2013, “In the year that the recently ousted President Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood held power, Brotherhood official denounced Shiite practices and declared that the sect had no place in Egypt. Law makers pushed through a new constitution that made Sunni religious doctrine the basis for most laws. One preacher who converted to Shiism was jailed on charges of insulting Islam. The trouble culminated in a gruesome lynching in a village outside Cairo in June, when a mob dragged the bloodied bodies of a prominent Shiite cleric and three others through the streets while police officers stood by.”
“Since the coup, Christians, who make up an estimated 10% of Egypt’s 83 million people have been targets of deadly attacks by Islamists who accuse them of supporting Morasi’s overthrow. Shiites who are believed to number less than 1 million fear reprisals from Salafists, a long-repressed radical Sunni sect that rose to prominence under the Brotherhood and views Shiite Islam as heresy. “
“In June, Morsi attended a rally at a Cairo stadium where a succession of Salafi clerics called for a holy war in Syria. One described Shiites as ‘filthy’; another called them ‘nonbelievers who must be killed.’ When Morsi took the stage, he drew cheers by announcing he would break diplomatic relations with Assad’s government. And he said nothing about the anti-Shiite rhetoric.”
“Because of those words, the extremists felt free to act. A week later, on June 28, two dozen Shiites gathered for a religious ceremony at a home in Abu Mussalem, a village south of Cairo, not far from the Great Pyramids. Among them was Sheik Hassan Shehata, 66, a well-known cleric who had been imprisoned during the Mubarak era. According to accounts compiled by human rights groups, the worshipers began to notice a crowd collecting outside, calling for Shehata. Suddenly several men broke through the front door. The worshipers ran upstairs, but the assailants chased them, ransacking the house along the way. The mob began hurling Molotov cocktails into the house, starting a fire.
“Shehata, two of his brothers and a fourth man went outside to placate the crowd, but attackers set upon them with sticks and metal rods, beating them until they collapsed. Video made at this scene shows one man, motionless, his arms and legs bound with rope, being dragged through the street as a mob cheers, ‘God is Great!”
“Bahaa Anwar, a Shiite activist in Cairo, said he received a call from the village that afternoon, as the mob was gathering. He notified the police, but witnesses said that though officers in riot gear arrived before the worst of the attack, they waited to intervene until after Shehata and the three others were killed.”
On August 9k 2013, gunmen waylaid a minibus carrying a Turkish Airlines crew on a road leading from Lebanon’s major international airport, kidnapping two pilots. A group claiming responsibility said the abduction was in retaliation for the continued detention of nine Lebanese hostages who have been held for more than a year by Syrian rebels. That case has been a source of considerable tension in Lebanon who have pressured the government to do more to gain the hostage release and to pressure Turkey, a close ally of Lebanon to use its influence in the matter. Turkey is a crucial supporter of rebels seeking to oust Syrian President Bashar Assad. Insurgents have used Turkish territory as a logistics and transportation hub, ferrying weapons and fighters into Syria with the apparent approval of Edgordan (Turkey). Arms and fighters have also crossed from Lebanon into Syria destined for both sides in the war.
Hezbollah Shiite militiamen from Lebanon have been dispatched to Syria in support of Assad’s government.
“Family members of the abducted Lebanese have held demonstrations outside the Turkish Embassy in Beirut and at the offices of Turkish Airlines .. demanding that Ankara use its weight with the Syria, opposition to help liberate their loved ones. The families have also blocked the road to Beirut’s airport on occasion. They have harshly criticized Ankara for what they call Turkey’s lack of resolve in the case.”
“…news of the kidnapping reportedly prompted celebratory fireworks in parts of southern Beirut, home of some of the kidnapped Lebanese.
The centuries old rivalry between Sunnis and Shiites is rampant in the Middle East. The sects are on opposite sides of civil strife in Iraq, Bahrain, Lebanon and Syria. The Sunni majority in Syria are battling to bring down the government of President Bashar Assad (in Syria) which is dominated by Alawites, an offshoot of Shiite Islam. Shiite Iran is one of President Assad’s biggest backers. The Syrian conflict has expanded into a proxy war between Iran and Sunni-led Saudi Arabia.
The ideas expressed in the Declaration of Independence have supported leaders such as Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi during their stands for liberty.
The ideas expressed in that document continues to this day to resound with ambitious people who want to live in freedom and liberty all over the world.
The visualization of life in India on view in “Midnight’s Children” provides an excellent explanation of why so many people from all over the world (including India) have immigrated to the United States and why “everyone” in the world wants to live in the United States.
According to the Migration Policy Institute: 20% of the world’s migrants today reside in the United States, even though the US has only 5% of the world’s population.
Violence in India Before and After The Indian Independence Act of 1947
“Midnight’s Children” vividly portrays conditions in India shorty prior to and for 30 to 50 years after India became an independent country.
Prior to midnight on August 15, 1947, India was an occupied country where native born Indians lived in deference to an imperial power, Great Britain.
India’s independence from Britain resulted in the partition of India into two separate countries.
The Indian Independence Act of 1947 split two of the countries most distinctive provinces, Punjab and Bengal.
Parts of both Punjab and Bengal formed the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
West Bengal remained part of India, but East Bengal became part of Pakistan.
Similarly, part of Punjab went to Pakistan and half stayed with India.
Partition triggered a mass migration of people, with about 7.2 million Hindus and Sikhs moving to India from newly created Pakistan and an equal number of Muslims making the reverse migration. One million lives were lost along the way, many victims of brutal sectarian violence.
Similar sectarian violence is a regular occurrence in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon today.
Independent India’s first leader, Jawaharlal Nehru, in his maiden speech, vowed to end “poverty and ignorance and disease and inequality of opportunity.”
But by the time his daughter Indira Gandhi came to power in the 1970s none of his had come to pass. The economic swamp in had deepened.
For ordinary Indians life was hard. Food was scarce. Essentials such as sugar and rice were rationed and queues were common.
Similar conditions exist in Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon today.
Daily Life in India Today
Below is a description of daily life in India described in a investment letter dated June 19,2013:
More than half the population has no access to toilets.
They defecate in fields and near railway tracks, often far from where they live. Women must go in pairs to make sure no one is watching and for security.
Large populations have no running water, and waterways are polluted; 1,600 people die every day of diarrhea.
Thirty-three percent of Indians have no access to electricity. Blackouts are frequent, even in big cities.
The supply of cooking gas is unreliable. Many must cook on wood in their small huts, poisoning the air and polluting the environment.
India’s road are choking with traffic. On a per-vehicle basis, nine times more people die in vehicle accidents in India than in China.
Trains are overcrowded and dirty. It is a herculean task to get a train ticket.
Everywhere int the country, government sweepers sweep the streets using brooms to relocate dust from roads to the air. The dust settles overnight, and they sweep it again in the morning.
Garbage collected from roads is often burnt underneath trees.
Infrastructure investments are dominated by political manipulators rather than entrepreneurs. Corruption runs so deep that Indian bureaucrats find pleasure in impeding the flow of business, even if it results in no personal gain for them.
It is difficult to enforce contracts.
The costs of doing business are high and unpredictable.
The work ethic is very bad.
Although Indian salaries are a quarter of Chinese salaries, Indian markets are flooded with Chinese goods.
Chinese companies are out competing Indian companies, despite the latter’s massive cost of labor advantage.
Recently, a top Indian federal government minister was alleged to have accepted a bribe. To ward off further bad luck, he sacrificed a goat.
Corruption and waste are not new things in India. Edmund Burke – the British statesman who eloquently denounced the Stamp Act of 1764, which taxed every piece of paper in commercial and legal transactions and urged the British government to avoid war with the American colonies – sounded the alarm when it came to waste and corruption by the king and his cronies.
Burke pushed for the Crown to get a handle on expenditures and open up the numbers for the public to see. Finally, that started coming about in 1882, when the Marquis of Rockingham became prime minister and appointed Burke paymaster general.
Burke’s reports on corruption and mismanagement in India are such classics, they are still read today, and showed that without having a moral foundation the Empire was doomed to collapse.
Highly Skilled Highly Educated Indians Who Immigrated to the United States
In 1829 English was introduced as the official language of formal higher education in India and a “lucky chosen few” were trained to deny their Indianness and perform like a faux Englishman, in the service of the of India’s emperor, His Majesty the King of Great Britain.
India’s English-educated elite were a rarefied group representing less than 0.1 percent of the country’s total population. Many of India’s English-educated elite resented British rule. They resented being a pawn of the British Empire. They brimmed with revolutionary resolve. They wanted to be independent Indians. After much revolutionary struggle India became an independent country, in 1947.
The end of British rule made education and social advancement possible for more native Indians.
Today, India has many educated individuals.
Today, skilled work is outsourced to India.
The Hart-Cellar Act
Today, many of the most educated and most ambitious Indians are living in the United States.
Prior to 1965 Indian immigration to the United States was restricted to one hundred people each year. n 1965 the Hart-Cellar Act was passed and went into effect.
Hart-Cellar meant that future immigrants would be allowed into America based on their skills and not just their countries of origin, race, or ancestry.
As a result of the Hart-Cellar Act, Indian immigration into the United States grew from a trickle into a torrent of highly educated Indians brimming with ambition. The Indians coming to America were among India’s “brightest and best.”
The average Indian in the United States today is ten thousand times more likely to have a “doctorate” than the average Indian in India. Of the 3.2 million Indians in the United States, 70 percent have bachelor’s degrees compared to 28 percent nationally.
Their medium annual household income of $88,000 is almost twice what most Americans earn each year and 33 percent higher than the average income of Asians in the United States.
Just as Irish-Catholics and Our Crowd Jews once made the ascent from immigrants to power brokers, Anita Raghavan argues in “The Billionaire’s Apprentice” it is now the Indian-Americans’ turn. Citigroup, Pepsi-Co, and Master Card are just a handful of the Fortune 500 companies that have recently been led by Indian-Americans.
Aesthetically speaking, everything about “Midnight’s Children” is right. It has visual artistry, superb costuming, and compassionate character studies of finely drawn colorful people.
Almost every scene contains some extraordinary or arresting detail.
Each scene is beautifully staged and photographed.
“Midnight’s Children” moves at a gallop as the narrator and main character Saleem Sinai silkily threads together the public events and private feelings that occurred in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh as those countries came into independent existence.
Saleem’s excitement never flogs as he tells a story about himself, his family, his friends, his country, his countrymen and the bonds that defined them and shaped their lives.
The life we see Saleem living is a historical cultural social political and religious explanation of the world the people in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh live in came into existence.
Midnight’s Children is a story of turbulent and violet events in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh as seen though the eyes of Saleem Sinai. Saleem was born at the same instant that India and Pakistan came into existence as independent countries.
Saleem Sinai was born at the stroke of midnight on August 15, 1947, at the very moment of India’s independence from Great Britain and the creation of Pakistan.
Midnight’s Children movie visualizes for the audience how people lived in India at the time the story is taking place.
On the basis of the story Saleem tells in Midnight’s Children, Saleem would be adjudged one of the richest people in the world if a person’s wealth were measured by the richness and variety of his memories.
Watching “Midnight’s Children” is a breathtaking experience, a bedazzling hypnotic sensory experience.
It is a historical, philosophical, and autobiographical adventure story of epic proportions.
The artistry with which the story is told is overwhelming.
It is entrancingly rich in fascinating detail and almost impossible to summarize.
It is mind boggling in its scope.
In “Midnight’s Children” you are shown the lives of all strata society in the most dramatic, beautiful and important places that need to be seen in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
The story telling showmanship and cinematic artistry in “Midnight’s Children” is at the same skill level as the Buffalo Bill Wildwest Show put on at the Universal Exposition of 1889 in Paris, France.
In his book “Paris” author Edward Rutherfurd describes what it was like to be in the audience at the Universal Expedition of 1889, in Paris France, watching the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show on its opening day.
According to Rutherfurd:
At the Universal Exposition of 1889, the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show took place in a newly constructed arena in an open field in the Neuilly section of Paris.
Fifteen thousand spectators packed the stands. All the important people in France were there, including the President of France, Monsieur Carnot and his wife, royalty, ambassadors, generals, aristocrats and distinguished visitors.
Nobody in Paris at the Buffalo Bill show in 1889, except visiting Americans, knew what to expect or, what the Buffalo Bill show was about. An announcer, who was not a native French speaker, described what was happening. The announcer told the audience what was going on as Redskins attacked early white settlers/pioneers, after which the U.S. Cavalry came riding in to the rescue, etc.
To the native French speaking audience, the announcer’s French pronunciation was stranger than the Wild West Show. The French audience did not know who the men in uniform were or why they were there. When the dramatic scene ended the French speaking audience did not know what to do. Fortunately, the Americans started to applaud. Everyone followed suit.
Next a slim young lady, Annie Oakley, walked into the ring, accompanied by some assistants who carried a table of guns.
Edward Rutherfurd describes what happened as Annie Oakley performed her act.
“From somewhere, a glass ball rose high into the air. Easily, hardly glancing at it, she raised her rifle and shot it so that it burst into a thousand fragments. A cool shot certainly. Another ball, and a second. Two shots, so close together, it seemed hardly possible. Both glass balls burst. Very good it had to be said. She went to the table and picked up another gun. As she did so, three balls went up, in different directions. Three balls, three hits.
“And now it began. Glass balls, clay pigeons, a playing card, a cigar, objects on stands, things tossed in the air, in front of her, behind her, faster and faster, high and low. She was grabbing guns from the table and throwing them down with bewildering speed. Generals boggled, sporting gentlemen leaned forward in their seats, ladies dropped their fans. Annie Oakley did not miss. They had never seen anything like it. The cries of astonishment rose, people were standing in their seats. And when she had exhausted every gun and the haze of smoke was hanging over the center of the arena, and she took her bow, the audience roared, and threw handkerchiefs at her feet.
“She ran off gaily, and the audience sank into their seats.
“And then she was back again, but riding a horse. Around the arena she rode, and the balls started rising into the air, and she shot them as she went. And then silver French coins went up, sparkling in the sun, and she shot them too. But now the audience was beyond ecstasy. As well they might be. For what they were seeing was close to a miracle, and Annie Oakley was, quite likely, the finest shot the world has ever known.
“After that the audience was won They cheered the Mexicans, and the buffalo, and the Indian battles and the taming of the West. They might not be sure exactly what it all signified, but they didn’t care.”
I was just as engaged as the Paris audience and won over after viewing the first scene of “Midnight’s Children.” If director-film-maker Deepa Metha had appeared on stage after the first scene of Midnight’s Children”, and if I had a bouquet of flowers, I would have thrown them at her feet and shouted “bravo.”
Story Telling Par Excellence
In the first scene the audience is told by Saleem that they are being introduced to Saleem’s grandfather, Dr. Aziz.
At that point in the story, Dr. Aziz is a young physician. Dr. Aziz has been summoned to treat a very beautiful young woman living in a small rural village in India.
Dr. Aziz will not be allowed to see the woman. The woman’s father will be present as a chaperone. Dr. Aziz will allowed to examine only that part of the woman’s body that is in pain.
This woman has a stomach ache.
At this point in Saleem’s story, Dr. Aziz is seen traveling over a beautiful lake in a row boat. This scene is magnificently, dramatically and arrestingly beautiful, as are all scenes which follow.
After debarking from the row boat, Dr. Aziz going to a house. There, Dr. Aziz meets his future wife (who will become Saleem’s grandmother), who as an unmarried woman still lives with her father. His future wife is on the other side of a sheet.
Dr. Aziz has received his medical training in the West and is not familiar with local medical traditions. When he arrives at the house to see his patient, Dr. Aziz is told by the woman’s father that Dr. Aziz is not allowed to see the woman he has been summoned to treat. Dr. Aziz is only allowed to view her stomach.
Dr. Aziz views/examines her stomach through a “viewing hole” cut in the sheet she is standing behind. Although he only sees her stomach, he finds her fascinating.
As Dr. Aziz being is being rowed back across the lake, Dr. Aziz complains to the boatman that he (Dr. Aziz) did not get to see the woman’s face and that he might never get to see her face. The boatman replies, “Don’t worry, some day she will have a headache.” Eventually, Dr. Aziz marries that woman.
At a later point in the movie Dr. Aziz is shown in bed with his wife asking her to “move her body” while they are having intercourse.
His wife replies, “European (or Western) women may move their bodies while having sex, but not me.”
Later in the movie, Dr. Aziz becomes enraged when he finds out that the husband of one of his daughters (the woman who is to become Saleem’s mother) has not had sex with her husband.
Soon thereafter, that man divorces Dr. Aziz’s daughter by saying or writing three times that they are not married: “I divorce you. I divorce you. I divorce you.”
At a latter point in the movie, the audience learns that Saleem’s real actual “birth mother” died while giving birth to Saleem and that Saleem was switched in the nursery for new born babies by a nurse named Nancy.
Saleem’s real parents were poor. The real parents of the other baby were very rich. The nurse Nancy switches the babies are the urging of her boy-friend who is a “revolutionary/agitator” wanted by the police.
As the audience is watching the film, the audience sees that at Saleem’s birth, a nurse named Mary switches Saleem (the child of poor parents) with another baby born at the same time at the urging of Mary’s boy-friend who is a revolutionary being chased by the police.
This is one of the first references to the fact that agitation and violence against the British establishment in India proceeded Britain granting independence to India. Prior to that the movie shows the assassination of a prominent politician after he has left a party at Dr. Aziz’s home. The police come to Dr. Aziz’s home to ask if anyone knows anything about the assassination.
The police officer who does the questioning, decides upon seeing one of Dr. Aziz’s daughters that he will marry that woman. Later, in the movie that police officer marries one of Dr. Aziz’s daughter and he and his wife move to the newly created Islamic Republic of Pakistan where he becomes a top officer in the Pakistani Army.
[Aside: During British rule, native Indians who were known to want independence were arrested by the police, tortured by the police, then sent to jail and tortured and purposefully exposed to and then caught TB while serving their jail sentences.]
The other baby, now being raised by a single poor man, is named Shiva.
Shiva’s real father (the man who now thinks he is Saleem’s father) is a successful powerful businessman. His wife (the real birth mother of Shiva) is a high society socialite.
The poor man’s son Saleem is raised by the wealthy successful businessman and his high society wife and their servants.
While Saleem is still a boy, Saleem is meanly treated by his teacher – who pulls Saleem’s nose, and constantly degrades and make fun of Saleem in class. Saleem is also meanly treated by his classmates who are encourage to mistreat Saleem by their school teacher. Young Saleem’s school teacher is depicted as being a racist.
It is decided by the powerful businessman that Saleem needs cosmetic surgery because Saleem has a very large unattractive nose. It is unclear whether this is symbolic.
As part of the preparation for this surgery Saleem’s blood, Saleem’s ostensible father’s blood and Saleem’s ostensible mother’s blood are drawn to determine everyone’s blood type in case a blood transfusion becomes necessary. After the blood types have been determined it is inescapable that the husband (the man who thinks he is Saleem’s real father) is not the father of Saleem. From that point forward the husband believes Saleem is the product of his wife having sex with another man.
The rich powerful businessman disowns Saleem and feels cheated by his wife. No-one considers that the couple’s baby was switched with another baby at the hospital. Then nurse Mary who switched Saleem and Shiva at birth confesses to the family that she switched Shiva and Saleem while they were infants at the hospital.
The husband and wife fire Mary, who has been working for them as a governess and nanny. Mary disappears until the last few scenes of the movie, when she reunites whith Saleem after Saleem discovers that Mary is the owner of a factory that manufactures chutney that she used to make for him while he was growing up and she was his nanny.
After receipt of Nancy’s confession the rich man tells his wife he wants to get rid of Saleem. The rich man’s wife tells tells the rich man that Saleem is now their son and if he gets rid of Saleem she will leave him.
As the movie progresses rich man (who is a Muslim) loses his fortune, is financially ruined and has a nervous breakdown as a result of the newly elected Indian government being run by Hindus who hate Muslims.
It is made very clear that the “independent” Indian Hindu government has a vendetta against Muslims. A rich successful Muslim businessman such as Saleem’s father can no longer make a living in India because of hatred of Hindus for Muslims.
Ideas about culture, politics and economics are lurking in the shadows of this movie; embedded in this story are the following historical facts:
- Entrepreneurship was not considered an appropriate occupation for an Indian at the time India became an independent nation run by Hindus.
- After India became an independent country a thriving bureaucracy of red tape, a veritable small business unto itself, strangled any economic ambition.
- India was (and still is) bedeviled by corruption, cronyism, back-scratching, superstition and racial prejudice, hatred and intolerance.
For various political, social, and economic reasons, Saleem is sent to live in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
Pakistan is and always has been a Muslim country. Saleem is sent to live with one the socialite’s sisters in Pakistan.
That Saleem’s mother’s sister is married to a high ranking officer in the Pakistani Army. The sister Saleem is sent to live with is living in a luxurious mansion in Pakistan.
At that time, Pakistan has a President who has been democratically elected President of Pakistan. While Saleem is living with his mother’s sister in a mansion in Pakistan, a military coup that is plotted among the top Pakistan Army military officers, including the sister’s husband, in the home where Saleem is residing.
The goals of the military leaders behind the coup are achieved. The democratically elected President of Pakistan is removed. From that point forward, Pakistan is run by the military officers who masterminded and executed the coup.
While Saleem is living in Pakistan, the people living in Bangladesh break away from Pakistan to form their own independent new nation. This precipitates a war between Pakistan and Bangladesh. Saleem participates — as a Pakistani soldier – in the very bloody war between Pakistan and Bangladesh which ensues.
At the conclusion of what is a disastrous and bloody war for Pakistan, the Pakistani General (in whose house Saleem had been living) surrenders to the Head of the Bangladesh Army.
After that surrender, Saleem meets up with a woman (Parvati) Saleem met and interacted with during his childhood in India. Parvati is one of the 1001 children who were born within an hour of India gaining its independence from Great Britain. Parvati is performing as an exotic dancer at a celebration in a small town in Bangladesh, in which the inhabitants are celebrating Bangladesh’s victory over Pakistan.
Parvati smuggles Saleem who recently was a Pakistani soldier into India. Saleem places himself in a basket which Parvati carries as she boards a plane in Bangladesh that will fly the both of them to India. While Parvati was boarding the plane, Bangladesh soldiers searched the basket. They found nothing in the basket. The reason they don’t see Saleem in the basket is because Parvati has used magical powers to make Saleem invisible.
Saleem knew Parvati has magical powers because Parvati, along with Saleem and Shiva, is one of 1001 children born within one hour of midnight on August 15, 1947; each of those 1001 children know one another. Each of those children has magical powers. Each of those children know the extent and reach of each of the other 1000 children’s individual magical powers.
After Parvati and Saleem return to India together they live together in a hovel in a slum which is Parvati’s home.
One day, in pique at Saleem, Parvati telepathically summons Shiva to have sex with her while Saleem is absent. As a result of having sex with Shiva, Parvati becomes pregnant. There is no chance that Shiva, a top general in the Indian Army who lives a life of luxury will marry Parvati or see Parvati again because of the difference of their status in society.
When Saleem learns that Parvati is pregnant, carrying Shiva’s child, Saleem asks Parvati to marry him. Saleem desires to be the yet unborn child’s father and now pregnant Parvati’s husband so they may all be a family which enjoys family life together. Saleem and Parvati get married.
Shortly after marrying Parvati, Saleem is imprisoned by Shiva.. Shiva imprisons Saleem because Saleem is considered an “undesirable” and Shiva has been ordered to rid India of “undesirables” by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
Shiva tortures Saleem to force Saleem to disclose the whereabouts of other undesirables, the other children born within one hour of midnight.
While Saleem is imprisoned, Shiva orders that Saleem be neutered/given a vasectomy because Shiva learned while torturing Saleem that Saleem and Shiva were switched at birth by Nurse Mary. In Shiva’s mind, Saleem “stole his/Shiva’s destiny.”
Public riots take place; during the public riots and the chaos that ensues, Saleem is released and/or escapes from prison.
When, Saleem returns home from prison, Saleem discovers that his wife Parvati is dead, that their home has been demolished and removed (destroyed) as part of a slum clearance project carried out by order of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and that his “son” is being taken care of by a neighbor who is a snake charmer.
Indira Gandhi [the daughter of independent India’s first leader, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru] is portrayed as a a ruthlessly diabolical hyper superstitious dictator.
[By the way, both Indira Gandhi and her son Rajiv Gandhi after being elected Prime Minister of India were each assassinated while serving as Prime Minister.]
Saleem takes responsibility for raising his son. Saleem intervenes to help other people when their lives are in peril.
Saleem is never indifferent to the suffering of others.
Saleem always exhibits complete self-control.
Saleem does not loose his temper or his position attitude when he experiences adverse or unpleasant circumstances.
In terms of character, valor, honor, courage, and heroism, Saleem is always a person worthy of respect.
Lessons in How People Behave in”Midnight’s Children”
“Midnight’s Children” is about people, cultures, politics, traditions and civilizations: ordinary people, exceptional people, phenomenal people, educated people, uneducated people, religious people, nu-religious people, ideological driven people, colonialism, totalitarian states, the evolution of civilizations and what happens to after a country and the people who live in that country after that country is rid of a colonial power and becomes an independent country.
A. ONE OF THE MANY INTRIGUING QUESTION ADDRESSED IN MIDNIGHT’S CHILDREN IS:
What kind of person turns out to be an exceptional person? What makes a person a phenomenal person?
B. A FEW OF THE MANY INTRIGUING QUESTIONS ADDRESSED IN “MIDNIGHT’S CHILDREN”:
What can we expect to happen next in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Turkey, Egypt, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Bahrain, Tunisia, Libya based on what happened in India after India became an independent country ?
What are the sources of traditions in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Turkey, Egypt, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Bahrain, Tunisia, and Libya today? How does the history of oriental civilizations in those countries different from the history of Western Civilization?
What happened when East met West? When West “conquered East? What has happened in those countries after those countries ceased being colonies of Western Powers?
What will happen next in those countries if they follow the path shown in the movie “Midnight’s Children”?
What Does The Story of Saleem’s Life Make Us Feel We Know About Being An Exceptional Human Being?
Saleem is a person who turns out to be both an exceptional person and a phenomena.
Saleem is not solely the product of nature or nurture, nor a product of the conditions in which he grew up nor the product of family or friends or mentor or mentors. But, Saleem is a product of where he got his or her education.
- The vision that Saleem glorifies in his mind and the ideals that he enthrones in his heart becomes embedded in his soul and influences everything he does.
- Saleem knew how to spot dramatic confrontations and to yank himself out of their toxic grip.
- Saleem did not fear change or feel powerless to take charge of his destiny. He saw strength in his life.
- Confidence was an essential ingredient in Saleem’s life.
- Saleem actively kept a positive vision of his life.
- Consider what Thomas Edison said about his many “failures” while trying to invent the light bulb: “I did not fail 10,000 times. I found 10,000 ways not to make a light bulb.”
- Saleem never considered himself to be a victim.
- Saleem did not get stuck in distraction.
Saleem always had the confidence he needed to rise to the occasion.
It was never difficult for Saleem to make decisions because Saleem knew what his values were.
As one awful thing after another happened to Saleem, Saleem rose above the circumstances in which he found himself, rose above every unpleasant situation he faced in his life.
Saleem knew how to understand others.
Saleem was a creative person. In the creative process, creative people such as Saleem do the best they can until they know better. Then, when they know better they do better. They becomes so carried away while working that:
- They lose all sense of time and awareness of surroundings.
- When their creation is finished, they feel they were not the true creator but were rather the instrument of a higher force.
- Their values and creative power makes them unstoppable.
- They have a lasting impact on people around them.
- Think about what Nelson Mandela said about human dignity on April 20, 1964 while in a Johannesburg Court, in South Africa, while defending himself in a criminal trial in which he was being charge with being guilty of sabotage.
- In Mandela’s opening statement (a more than 11,000 word, opening statement), Mandela discussed the struggle of the African people for the right to live with dignity, and said : “During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the idea of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
Nelson Mandela is an example of the power of a person in real life, at a particular time in world history:
- In 1962 Nelson Mandela was arrested for opposing the anti-black apartheid (“separateness”) policy of the white government, and two years later he was found guilty on four charges of sabotage and sentenced to life imprisonment.
- On February 11, 1990, following a world-wide campaign, Mandela was released.
- In 1993, he and South African president F. W. de Klerk shared the Novel Peace Prize.
- The following year, in 1994, when black and colored Africans were granted the right to vote for the first time, Mandela was elected president of South Africa.
- Mandela’s crowing achievement was to negotiate the handover of power by the white minority and to unite the entire country while avoiding a blood bath.
- Nelson Mandela had spent twenty-five years in prison, mostly on Robben Island, a few miles off the coast of Cape Town, South Africa before being elected president of South Africa.
Saleem never adopted a victim’s “world-view.”
The Power of Deepa Mehta, The Movie Maker Who Made “Midnight’s Children”
Deepa Mehta obviously makes the people working for her feel they are partners with her in a mutual effort to make a masterpiece.
In “Midnight’s Children” film maker Deepa Mehta shows disconcerting power to see into questions, events and persons, and to create a gripping energetic movie.
In a world, where according to a Gallup study of the world workplace, 11% of employees worldwide say: “Yes, I love my job.” and most people clock in and clock out, Ms. Mehta obviously runs a movie production company that is a creative energetic place to be, a place where
- all employees feel they belong,
- all employees feel what they do is important, what they do matters , and
- all employees feel they are significant and appreciated.
This mode of conducting business, unleashes the enthusiasm of employees to work on any project. In such a place everyone works smarter, everyone cooperates, there is harmony, there is no infighting, there is no “us vs. them approach” to tasks.
This is a place where work takes precedence over ego.
The best people in the performing arts come together to work for Deepa Mehta because they know what a person does repeatedly is not an act. It is a habit. And, they know Ms. Mehta’s habit is to make masterpieces.
“Midnight’s Children” was filmed with an enormous cast by an enormous crew in sixty-two locations in Sri Lanka, which was the best place to recreate the India of a century ago.
The story is told, that in May 1945, while touring captured Berchtesgaden in Germany’s Alps, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, commander of three million soldiers, sailors and Marines and Supreme Allied Commander in the European theater, noticed a sign that barred enlisted men. Ike turned to the local commander and asked: “Was it only officers who captured this area?” When the answer was no, the five star General (Ike) suggested “We get rid of the sign.”
Although I have never met Deepa Mehta, I am sure that Ms. Mehta has the same leadership qualities and ability to organize complex activities as General Eisenhower.
That is why everyone wants to collaborate in making a masterpiece with Deepa Mehta.
By the way: Deepa Mehta was born in Amistar, India and studied philosophy at the University of New Delhi before immigrating to the United States.
On February 14, 1989, Salman Rushdie as “sentenced to death” by the Ayatollah Khomeini for having written a novel called “The Satanic Verses”, which was accused of being “against Islam, the Prophet and the Qur’an.
What happened to Rushdie was the first acts of a drama that is still unfolding somewhere in the world everyday.
Rushdie wrote the screenplay and is one of the Executive Producers of “Midnight’s Children.”
Midnight’s Children was first published as a novel in London in April, 1981.
Salman Rushdie is the author of Midnight’s Children.
The movie “Hannah Arendt” accurately portrays the real Hannah Arendt.
Hannah Arendt approached life with ferocious passion, fearless originality, a high level of education, an enormous insightful amount of situational awareness, self-respect, self awareness, courage and boldness.
She was passionate about her convictions and always mentally and emotionally prepared to deal with whatever life threw at her or threw her into.
In one memorable scene in this movie, Hannah Arendt explains to a friend that she wanted to die but she found the determination, will to live and courage to live as a Jew interred as an enemy alien in 1940 in a Nazi detention camp in occupied France during World War II by knowing that her husband would never stop searching for her until he found her when the war was over. That knowledge gave her the strength and courage necessary to survive in the detention camp.
There are many things that made Hannah Arendt an exceptional woman.
She was born in 1906 in Hanover, Germany.
She studied with the greatest German minds of her day – including Martin Heidegger and Karl Jaspers among them.
She received her doctorate in philosophy at the University of Heidelberg, where she studied under Karl Jaspers.
When she grew up in Germany, a common German rhyme was:
Take hold of kettle, broom, and pan, then you’ll surely get a man!
Shop and office leave alone, Your true life’s work lies at home.
That is not the type of life Hannah Arendt lived.
Hannah Arendt’s life was hardly lacking in drama:
- During her life she had a harrowing escape from Nazi Germany.
- She had friendships and affairs with the giants of the intellectual world.
- She was involved in some of the great political controversies of her day.
- She was University Professor of Political Philosophy in the Graduate Faculty of the New School for Social Research as well as a Visiting Fellow of the Committee for Social Thought at the University of Chicago.
- She also taught at Berkeley, Columbia and Princeton.
- In 1975 she was awarded Denmark’s Sonning Prize in recognition of her contribution to European civilization
- In her acceptance speech she said it should be required that all students studying political science study how Denmark protected its Jews during World War II.
The Story Told in the Movie
The film “Hannah Arendt” focuses on her visit to Jerusalem in 1961 to cover the trial of Adolf Eichmann and the report she wrote on the trial for the New Yorker on the trial and the subsequent publication of her book “Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil.”
During the trial and after thinking about the testimony given at the trial, gradually came to think that it was mostly a kind of brainlessness on Eichmann’s part that had predisposed him to become the faceless bureaucrat of death and one of the worse criminals of all time. She concluded that evil comes from a failure to think, or to think from the another person’s point of view.
In her report on the trial she wrote that a lesser number of Jews would have been killed by the Nazis in the countries they conquered, had not the Jewish leadership in those countries facilitated the Nazi’s process of extermination by allowing the Nazis to eliminate a maximum number of Jews with a minimum amount of administrative effort and cost.
Arendt said that had there been no Jewish Organization at all and no Judenrate, the Nazi deportation machine could not have run as smoothly as it did. The Nazis might have been forced to drag out millions of people, one by one from their homes. In such circumstances, she asked: “Could not more Jews have been saved?”
- Compiled lists of deportees.
- Supplied the Nazis with those lists.
- Collected the keys and detailed inventories of vacated apartments for the Nazis to hand over to the Aryans who would be occupying them after they were vacated by Jews.
- They summoned the deportees to show up on a certain day, at a certain hour, at a certain railway station with provisions for a three-or-four-day journey.
- Some Jewish community leaders were well aware that the deportees were going to Auschwitz and not to some resettlement area as the Nazis claimed.
Arendt wrote: “The whole truth was that if the Jewish people had really been leaderless, then there would have been chaos and plenty of misery, but the total number of victims would hardly have been between four and a half and six million people.”
Arendt rejected the notion that everyone is a cog in a machine, thereby collapsing the distinction between responsible and irresponsible behavior.
The publication of her report in the New Yorker and her book “Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil” created a storm of controversy that wrecked a number of close friendships, alienated her from almost the entire Jewish community worldwide, and launched a civil war between intellectuals in the United States and Europe.
Hannah Arendt’s Real Life Moral Courage Portrayed in the Movie
Hannah Arendt was told if she didn’t modify the report she had written for “The New Yorker” people would hate her. In reply she told “The New Yorker” to publish her report without modification.
The government of Israel and her closest friends asked her to not allow her report to be published as a book.
She was forewarned that world Jewry would hate her if she allowed her report to be published. She allowed her report of the trial to be published as book without modification.
In the movie it is dramatically shown that:
- Hannah Arendt wouldn’t be shamed or intimidated into following the crowd.
- Hannah Arendt didn’t change her ideas because of what anyone thought of her or because of what anyone would think of her ideas or what the fall-out would be from having them published.
- She refused to change what she taught in any of the classes she taught, or in any of the speeches gave, or in any of her articles or in any of her books or other writings in order to be popular or in order to avoid criticism.
Hannah Arendt was a thinker who with fearlessness followed where her thoughts led.
Hannah Arendt was headstrong and independent.
In the movie brief mention is made in conversations between Hannah Arendt and her good friend Mary McCarthy that both women had numerous lovers and that Hannah Arendt’s husband was having an affair with one of his young students.
These extra-marital sexual encounters and affairs did not in any way interfere with the tender loving caring relationship Hannah Arendt had with her husband.
They were extremely dedicated to each other.
They both had a intellectual prowess which operated as mighty animal magnetism that made them each of them irresistibly desirable to intellectually inclined people.
Lessons and Dispositions Illuminated in the Movie “Hannah Arendt”
Intellectuals are not in the least interested in the facts but treat them merely as a springboard for “ideas.”
The ability to judge this right and that wrong first and foremost depends on the self-understanding of the judge.
The only meaningful question that can be asked is not whether or not our freedom pleases us, but whether or not we are willing to pay its price.
Hannah Arendt never tired of repeating William Faulkner’s epigram: “The past is never dead, it’s not even past.”
A Major Intellectual Event
The movie “Hannah Arendt” is a major intellectual event by virtue of its unforgettable portrayal of Hannah Arendt’s examination of evil.
The idea that people are evil was not a new idea when Hannah Arendt wrote about the banality of evil in her report on the Eichmann trial in Jerusalem.
In “Gulliver’s Travels”, published in 1726, the King of Brobdingnagian says that men are “the most pernicious race of little odious vermin that nature ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the earth.”
We can see history repeating itself if we compare what is presently going on in the Muslim countries in the Middle East with the description of evil given by Hannah Arendt in her book “The Trial of Eichmann in Jerusalem – A Report on the Banality of Evil” and in the description of evil Hannah Arendt gives in her book “The Origins of Totalitarianism.”
“No history is mute. No matter how much they own it, break it, and lie about it, human history refuses to shut its mouth. Despite deafness and ignorance, the time that was continues to tick inside the time that is.”
Nobel Peace Prize Laurette, Elie Wiesel has said about indifference: When one reacts with indifference to the suffering of others, it is a descent into inhumanity.
“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.
“The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference.
“The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference.
“And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”
In “The Gatekeepers” six former heads of Shin Bet, Israel’s national security service are interviewed.
The reasons “The Gatekeepers” is an important movie are:
- No one can be more committed to Israeli security than those six men.
- Their singularity of purpose to maintain Israel’s security remains constant.
- They provide the insight that from the perspective of the Palestinians victory is seeing Israelis suffer.
- There is no military solution to the current impasse. Therefore, there must be negotiations.
- They are unanimous in their opinion that the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza has been an unmitigated disaster from Israel’s perspective.
- Being an “occupier” makes people cruel.
- There are clear outlines of a political two-state solution
- All six of them agree that Israel must negotiate with the Palestinians about creation of an independent Palestinian state.
- Israel should negotiate with everyone about everything.
One of the interviewees said “Friends should not let friends self destruct. This film should be shown to leaders of Diaspora Jewish organizations who tend to be more Catholic then the Pope on matters of Israeli security policy.”
In these are serious interviews the interviewees reflect on their careers – careers in which they were constantly beset by life-or-death decisions, careers in which hard questions constantly came to the fore.
They describe the life and death decisions they made and the hard questions they answered during their careers.
In addition to external challenges, interviewees describe internal challenges posed by Israeli extremists which they faced during their careers including the threatened assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin – which was successfully carried out – and plans to blow up the “Dome of the Rock” which were foiled.
If casting is the most critical part of a film (i.e., if you don’t cast right, the film will not work), this should be a critically acclaimed film.
The international premier of this film took place last September (in September 2012) at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival.
This movie induces a high degree of reflection on the reason democracy is both essential and so difficult is that we often have no way of knowing with certainty which side in an argument is right.
Approximately one month after the premier showing of this movie, in an interview published on October 22, 2012, Formed Mossad Chief Efrain Halevy said “I realized dialogue with the enemy is essential. There is nothing to lose. Although the claim was if you talk to them you legitimize them. But by not talking to them you don’t de-legitimize them. So this has convinced me that we all have been very superficial in dealing with our enemies.”
Each of the movies mentioned in this review is an object not only of enjoyment but also has tremendous beneficial educational value.
Watching any one of these movies will provoke self-aware contemplation and a better understanding of the way people, think, act, lead and follow others.
Each of the movie makers who made one of the headlined movie is a master story teller:
- Joachim Roenning and Espen Sandberg: “Kon-Tiki”
- Mira Nair: “The Reluctant Fundamentalist”
- Deepa Mehta: “Midnight’s Children”
- Margarethe von Trotta: “Hannah Arendt.”
- Dror Moren “The Gatekeepers.”
If you want to make a great movie, or to tell a great story, follow the formula followed in each of those five headlined movies:
- Frame your story so that the audience is quickly transported to the time and place where your story is taking place.
- Tell your story through the lens of its characters.
- Have action which builds up through the introduction of conflict.
- Help your audience quickly connect to the protagonist by showcasing scenes (action, sets and dialogue) which inform your audience who the protagonist is, and what is driving the protagonist and the major players. Have factual dialogue which informs your audience why all the major players are doing whatever they are doing.
- Provide many facts. Opinions are not a story. Facts tell a story.
- Have your protagonist face daunting odds overcome them.
In each of the movies mentioned in this review the protagonist overcame daunting odds by taking outrageous risks, by not playing it safe, by rising to the occasion.
Have each protagonist follows their interests, sticks with their vision and long-term plans, overcome real difficulties and differences with other people. Have your protagonist be a person who sees over the horizon and helps other people.
Provide context and a clear vision of behaviors in a dramatic fashion that can’t be ignored or forgotten.
Provide a story which is a mirror of civilization which engages the audience on an emotional level.
Ultimately, the bond of all companionship, whether in marriage or friendship, is conversation; inevitably each one of these movies will provoke lively conversation and exchanges of ideas.
The films mentioned in this review should be shown and viewed by students in classrooms all over the world.
If you are by temperament, curious or stimulated by controversy or the cut-and-thrust of lively debate you will love watching any one of the movies mentioned in this review with someone you enjoy talking to.
BRIAN DE PALMA’S ADVICE ON HOW TO BREAK INTO THE MOVIE BUSINESS
After the world premier of his newest film “Passion”, last September, in Toronto, at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival, Film Maker Brian De Palma gave the following answer to the question, from the audience, “how can a newcomer break into the film business?”:
There is no excuse for anyone who wants to break into the film business as a film maker because the cost of equipment is so low today that anyone can make a film.
What you must do as a film maker to break into the movie business is cast the right man and woman and shoot a scene where that man meets that woman.
If there is no spark at that “meeting” you will not be able to make it in the movie business. You should become a lawyer instead.
Once you have shot your film, post it on the Internet.
People will see your talent in your film.
If the “spark” is there you will become “discovered”, people will find you and come to you.
When that happens you will be in the movie business.
If you would like to see excellent examples of “spark” watch the opening scenes, the first two minutes, of “Kon-Tiki” or “The Reluctant Fundamentalist.”
In the first scene, first minute or two, of “Kon-Tiki” a boy runs across a field covered in snow and jumps into a hole in ice onto a ice flow. He falls off the ice flow into the freezing water. He can’t swim.
In the first scene, first minute or two, of “The Reluctant Fundamentalist”, two or three men throw a bag over the head of a man walking on the sidewalk, then rush that man whose head is in the bag into a waiting car.
Jessica Sutherland’s blog (homelesstoHoward.com) also has “spark.”
Jessica posting her story of James on her blog, led to people from all over the world watching Jessica “Sutherland’s” creative blog film, homelesstoHoward.com (see description below) on the Internet.
The number of viewers visiting that blog and taking action requested has guaranteed that Jessica has broken into the movie business.
Jessica did this on her own initiative.
As a result of taking positive creative action on something she is passionate about Jessica is now in the movie business.
By the way, in spite of having been a homeless person herself, Jessica is a 2010 graduate of the USC (University of Southern California) Film School with an MFA in writing for screen and television.
FAIRY TALES DO COME TRUE IF YOU HAVE A GOOD STORY TO TELL AND TELL IT WELL OR HAVE AN APP THAT FACILITATES COMMUNICATION
What is so awesome about social change, as demonstrated in the Jessica Sutherland blog story below, is that “social change” can now be organized and executed faster, cheaper and wider by use of social media on the Internet.
Jessica wanted to raise a few thousand dollars so James could have enough money to start going to college.
As a result of what Jessica did, James’ college education is now paid for.
This is one small example of the power of the Internet, the power of telling a good story well, the power of sharing stories via words and pictures on the Internet.
By the way, Fred Schepisi’s newest movie Words and Pictures is going to have its world premier at the 2013 Toronto International Film festival in a few weeks.
In this movie, prep school English teacher Jack Marcus laments his students’ obsession with social media and good grades – as opposed to rigorous engagement with language. With his job on the line, a performance review looming, Jack comes upon an inspired method of galvanizing student interest in their studies: he declares a war between words and pictures, confident that the former can convey greater meaning than the latter.
I can’t wait to see Words and Pictures at the Toronto International Film Festival in a few weeks.
But consider the real life story of Instagram – the photo-sharing app – which was sold to Facebook for a billion dollars in the spring of 2012: 18 months from launch to offer.
At the time of the offer Instagram had just 13 employees.
But that small crew had managed to attract 30 million iPhone users in just a year and a half by offering a service that allowed a person to quickly upload, prettify through the use of filters, and publish images on the Web for friends to see.
BREAKING INTO THE MOVIE BUSINESS: AN INSPIRING STORY ABOUT A SUCCESSFUL POWERFUL FORCEFUL CALL FOR HUMAN GOODNESS HEROICALLY MADE BY A CRUSADING YOUNG FILM MAKER USING SOCIAL MEDIA VIA THE INTERNET
On August 20, 2013, I was summoned to serve as a juror in the Van Nuys Courthouse of the Los Angeles County Superior Court, State of California, USA.
In the Juror Assembly Room, I met Jessica Sutherland who had also been summoned to serve as a juror on a jury in the Los Angeles County Superior Court system.
While waiting to be called as a juror, Jessica and I chatted with each other.
Jessica told me she had started a blog – about two weeks ago – when Jessica discovered a “homeless” black high school student she had met (whose name is James) had just found out – at the last minute – that due to a change in student loan policy his mother couldn’t borrow money needed by James to pay tuition to attend college because she didn’t have a credit history.
She didn’t have a credit history because she was a homeless person.
She and her son James had been living in a homeless shelter in downtown Los Angeles when Jessica met them.
The purpose of the blog Jessica started was to raise money so James could pay the amount needed for James to be able to attend James’ dream school, Howard University.
Go to Jessica Sutherland’s blog http://www.homelesstoHoward.com to find out what happened within two weeks of Jessica starting her blog.
Jessica successfully raised enough money for James to be able to attend Howard University.
Jessica had the vision that she could help James and was motivated to do so, to create value that benefited another person. Look where that has led James and Jessica.
Pass On What You Have Learned.
We are living in a wide world that grows smaller and more wondrous with each passing year.
These movies teach us about how the human mind works, the bonds that define us and shape our lives, what it means to be human, and how to navigate social seas.
Feel free to pass on this post to anyone you care about.
Here is a link: http://www.garysmolker.wordpress.com.
“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field.
“I’ll meet you there.”
Feel free to contact me by e-mail at GSmolker@aol.com.
Feel free to share your ideas, opinions and facts you think other people should know about by posting something that is informative a on this blog.
(c) Copyright 2013 by Gary S. Smolker, all rights reserved
About Gary S. SmolkerPERSONAL PHILOSOPHY: No enterprise can exist for itself alone. Every successful enterprise ministers to some great need, it performs some great service, not for itself, but for others. Otherwise, it ceases to be profitable and ceases to exist. Imagination, open mindedness and flexibility are the most important factors in unlocking potential. Those who embrace innovation, improvisation, continuous learning, time management, are action oriented, high energy, passionate, creative, purposeful and intense individuals are best equipped to succeed. We all have ideas and the ability to make progress by sharing information and our ideas and also by changing our ideas when appropriate. We should always be on the lookout for teaching and mentoring moments. We hold time like water in our hands; however tightly we clench our fingers, it drips away. But, if it falls on a seed, a seed may grow to become something that will have a positive social impact. PERSONAL INTERESTS: I have a passion to learn, to innovate, to lead, to mentor and to teach. I seek to write things worth reading and want to do things worth writing about. I enjoy (a) driving a fast car, (b) having intense conversations (c) teaching/mentoring, (d) reading and (e) being involved in productive activity. PERSONAL: I believe in cultivating and backing passionate people, innovation, and old fashioned good ideas. I love making human connections and spreading good ideas. I am strongly motivated to achieve in situations in which independence of thought and action are called for. PERSONAL GOALS: I want to live life vibrantly, to be as sharp as a tack until my last breath and to change the world by being me. My personal goal is to be fully engaged in life, to lead by example, to set high standards and to continue to amass firsthand experience and knowledge in all that interests me. PERSONALITY: I love fun and mischief. I relish absurdity. I have an irreverent, facetious and satiric disposition. I dread boredom. I have spent a lifetime reading. I have no bias against people who have lived successful and/or complicated lives. I write to release tension, to get things off my chest. SOCIAL MEDIA: I post articles on the "Gary S. Smolker Idea Exchange" blog at www.garysmolker.wordpress.com, and "Dude's Guide to Women's Shoes" at www.dudesguidetowomensshoes.com. I also post images and comments on Instagram @garyspassion. CONTACT INFORMATION: Gary Smolker, Smolker Law Firm, 16055 Ventura Blvd., Ste 525, Encino, California, 91436-2609, USA. Phone 1-818-788-7290, e-mail GSmolker@aol.com.
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