Oh Race, when will we cast you from our minds, when will we be free?

There are vast amounts of human energy trapped in dysfunctional relationships. Energies that can be put to good use and so ease the burden of pain we live with. Energies which can be channeled constructively to improve our lot and pave the way for those who come after us.

In the mind of the racist lives the desire to seek advantage. To get ahead. Just as it lives in the minds of those who are not racist. We need such impetus to move forward, to battle whatever our circumstances and push ahead.

It is tempting to wish to narrow the field we compete against by devaluing others.

Say that, since times past, people with the color Orange had been assigned a certain minus (-) value, for whatever reason. 

When we inherit that notion, and choose not to challenge it, then it is easy to attempt to exclude Orange people from our interactions.

This exclusion, however, carries consequences. The implicit devaluing means we will not benefit from whatever gifts nature has given them.

I use Orange to designate anyone – non white – now comprising nearly 90% of people on earth.

Our history offers some telling examples of how devaluing people suppresses energies.

At the outset of the Civil War there were clear differences in the strengths of the economies of the North and the South, the economy of the North being the stronger. Racism lived in both the North and the South but in the South it was overwhelming. African Americans escaped from the South to the North, not the other way around. In other words, the relative freedom of African Americans in the North contributed to the greater wealth of that section of the country.

In time, their power and strength would be marshaled into the Army and they would go on to play a decisive role in the victory over the South. Without them, victory would not have been possible.

Sadly, after the war, in one of the most shameful periods in our history, prejudice prevailed, and the country would go on to endure racial repression in forms overt and covert until this day.

Now think of how much farther ahead we would be today as a nation if we had confronted our prejudices?

In today’s world, it is Asian families that are the richest (2018 figures). Do we take on that challenge? Do we set out to release the energies trapped in our dysfunctional race relations?

We are proud to say that we live in a country where the rule of law and self determination prevail but, in fact, they are constantly undermined. The already advantaged continue to find ways to persuade others to give them even more advantages and so, with growing inequality of opportunity, the differences in wealth, level of education and health keep increasing.

The population of our prisons is a stark reminder of all that we have been doing wrong. Step into one and you see masses of African Americans and Latinos – whites being the minority.

What happened? Why are African Americans and Latinos so disproportionately represented in our prisons?

Why did they so disproportionately violate the law?

The answer is so clear that it is hard to accept.

Had they had the same opportunities you and I had they wouldn’t be there.

But clear as the answer is, we struggle to embrace it.

Every race has the same potential for development as any other race. That one group gained an initial advantage, was an accident of history.

When we take in that notion, then we open our minds to allowing for the development of others, even as we strive to maximize our own.

We will see the other who is troubled as someone who needs help to connect with their strengths and build on them.

Look a little closer still and we see something surprising. We see ourselves in them.

We do because they are us.

Us without the benefit of the advantage.

Us without the benefit of affordable housing.

Us but for the burden of poverty.

Us but for the drag of inferior schooling.

Us except for police brutality.

Us except for the chance to develop what abilities we have.

Yes. All of that.

Lots of work has been done to close the gap between the development of white and Black people in America, but we must speed up the pace.

To do that we have to stay open.

To stay open we have to talk.

Talk without blaming,

Talk without hating,

Seeking to understand,

And using our imagination,

To accept and forgive,

Forgive ourselves,

Perchance even to embrace the Orange people,

The Orange people that is us.

Oscar Valdes is the author of Psychiatrist for A Nation. Available on Amazon.

Oscarvaldes.net.

Trump, Tariffs and the Reelection Bid.

Battle for the Nation (3)

There is no question that the tariffs Trump is imposing on China and the threat to impose them on Mexico are a burden to the American taxpayer. Both sides are hurt by them but Trump is betting that they will hurt the other side more than us. Tariffs have not yet derailed our economic expansion but they may well do so.

Are there problems with our trade with China? Of course. Do they need addressing? No doubt. But what happened to gradualism? Wouldn’t that approach give our industries and every other nation’s enough time to make the necessary adjustments?

Yes, it would.

The reason Trump is rushing headlong with tariffs is clear. He is convinced that they are his ticket to reelection. He appears to think that pushing tariffs will project him as the great American gladiator, the sublime avenger of all injuries inflicted upon us.

But we will not beat China on tariffs. They will fight back and even endure much pain rather than bow to Trump’s demands. In the 80s we could impose tariffs on Japan and stem their rise because we had defeated them in WWII. We did not defeat China. She was not even a nation.

China has become a formidable opponent. Their brand of state sponsored development, their drive and ambition, has challenged our position in the world.

Their commitment to technological superiority, their advances in 5G and artificial intelligence, all make it evident that their push for world dominance is here to stay.

Should we be frightened? It depends on how capable we perceive ourselves to be. 

China’s rise and defiance should be seen as a warning that we have to reorganize our economy and the way we connect to ourselves and to the world.

To do that we need to think clearly as to what our priorities are.

Take immigration: immigrants have contributed enormously to who we are now and what we have. A Russian immigrant is Google’s cofounder. Apple’s Steven Jobs’ father came from Syria. Intel’s Andy Grove, a leading figure in the company’s growth, came from Hungary.

Present day Silicon Valley is filled with first or second generation Indian entrepreneurs.

I live in California. There are several buildings going up near where I live. The major component to the labor force pushing up those structures are Latinos.

When I go for medical care the likelihood is high that the nurse or doctor assisting me will be a first or second generation immigrant. And so too when I go to the pharmacy to pick up my meds.

Same at the bank or when I go for coffee or to get something to eat.

We are immigrants. That’s who we are. We have needed the numbers and immigrants have provided them.

China’s story is different. They have the numbers. But they started to thrive quickly only when they opened to the world. It was that influx of ideas and technologies that, coupled with their drive and ingenuity, lifted them to their present status.

Again, openness.

In China’s case, however, selective openness. They have not been willing to import democratic ideals and so their population remains severely bereft of individual liberties.

The West bet that trade with China would inevitably stir a strong desire from within to transform their communist ideology. It hasn’t happened but it does not mean that it will not.

We got wrong the time table for political change but the central concept remains. Sooner or later China will open up politically.

Trump’s intemperate push for tariffs betrays a sense of panic.

China announces their desire for being the worldwide leader in technology and Trump frets that we will be at their mercy.

He bangs his tariff drum – the louder the better – thinking that it will deter China.

It will not.

The Chinese must love that our president is showing so little confidence in all the pain and effort that it has taken to build America. But Trump has little sense of history.

Our concept of liberty is the distillation of hundreds of years of thought and discussion, struggles and wars.

China has not done that work. They went from a near feudal economy to world prominence in a very short time. Much like South Korea did, except that we could exert political influence there because we fought for their freedom.  

Why then are we panicking with China’s rise?

There is no need to do so. In fact, it is counterproductive.

To panic is to doubt that our model of governance is effective.

It is effective not only because of our economic and military strength but because it keeps attracting millions of people from all over the world. And yet, it needs to be fairer.

As we embrace greater fairness we will help release the fullness of our citizens’ productive capacities.

Rather than panic with China’s rise, we should welcome it, for it challenges us to remake our society.

Let us not forget that our society is not in its final form. Far from it. It is designed to be in a continuous state of flux because the complexity of life demands it.

China’s spectacular growth has contributed to the rise of nationalism both here and abroad. But reacting in such way is going in the wrong direction. We must not lose faith in man’s thirst for freedom and how it unleashes their creative forces.

China lags way behind the West in allowing the fundamental freedom that man has long aspired to. In time, and with visionary leadership, they will come around.

Immigration needs reform in that the nation must have control of its borders. Let’s tackle that. Let’s discuss it. Let’s do a referendum on the issue.

But let us not allow a leader without a sense of history, to throw us into a state of panic that leads us to question the fundamental values that we have struggled so hard to maintain.

Oscar Valdes  oscarvaldes.net

Two American Businessmen in China. Circa 1995.

You wonder if there was a time, many years ago, when American businesses first began to access the Chinese market, when they might have said, “Hmm, the Chinese are wanting something in return for granting us access to their markets. They’re offering the cheap labor (plus land and low taxes) but they want more. They probably want to copy our products, then mass produce them themselves, and eventually replace us.”

Bob, who was CEO of a company making widgets in the north of China did, indeed, have such thought. One day he picked up the phone and called Tom, who was CEO of a company making plickets in the South of China.

Tom listened to his friend Bob’s concern and then said, “You’re right. We’re getting pressure from the communist party telling us that we need to transfer the technology to them. Never mind the patents.”

Bob thought about it for a moment, then asked, “What’re you guys going to do about it?”

“Look,” said Tom, “We’re already invested and we’re making good money. We figure that nothing lasts forever, so we give in a little, make as much money as we can while the going is good and then leave.”

“How long do you think that will take?” asked Bob.

“I don’t know. But it could go on for a long time, couldn’t it? The market is huge. And my retirement package is getting fatter and fatter so I’m not complaining.”

Bob’s own bonuses where getting bigger too, and he wondered whether they could get even bigger. At the same time, he thought that America (while pursuing its self interest) was helping China build itself up and that the Chinese would be grateful.  Additionally, over time, the example of American entrepreneurship would inspire the Chinese to develop a strong middle and business class that could undermine the communist party and China would become more like the United States. Bob was bullish on China and saw the possibilities for joint enterprises expanding. In fact, looking ahead and seeking to put his children in an advantageous position, he had already persuaded them to start learning Chinese. He had got them private tutors. His oldest daughter had a Chinese boyfriend also, so she was making the most progress. Still, now and then, it occurred to Bob that back home, on US soil, many Americans were losing their jobs and that the government was not doing enough to train those folks for other employment. It was his social conscience nagging him, but he reasoned that he could do only so much. Bob figured that the widgets his company made, being cheaper than those made back in the US, would be his contribution to the growth of the American nation. That would be it. Not the taxes that his company paid, because it paid zero taxes, the result of hiring an excellent team of accountants, mostly former IRS auditors, who switched sides so they could fatten their own retirement packages.

“Look,” continued Tom, “The Chinese know what it’s like to be ruled by Western nations and Japan. They know what they have to do.”

“What’s that?”

“Strive for self reliance.”

“But do you think that, eventually, they’ll challenge us?”

“Hard to say, isn’t it? It’s easy to see that they’re smart people. Ambitious, too.”

“True,” said Bob.

“Of course, there’s always the chance that, if we neglect our own, one day they’ll leap ahead and we’ll all be speaking Chinese,” said Tom.

Bob chuckled. Still he worried. Shouldn’t American businesses be raising the issue of patent infringement more vigorously? He hadn’t talked to Tom in a while but he had always enjoyed his candor.

“We’re neglecting them now, aren’t we?” said Bob.

“You’re talking about the loss of American jobs from our companies leaving in search of cheap labor?”

“Yes.”

“Bob, good buddy, please don’t lose sleep over that. Economic competition has always been ruthless. That’s the name of the game. If it were you or I in a factory town in the Midwest and the main employer gave notice that they’d be pulling out, neither you nor I would stay put, would we?”

“You’re right,” replied Bob, feeling a bit relieved.

“We would right away get to thinking of where we would have to move next to make a living. That is, unless you came up with a business idea of your own to make it worthwhile staying behind.”
“Pretty much,” said Bob.

 “It’s the American spirit, my friend. Innovation. Change. Now, I grant, I’m all for giving a helping hand to those who’re temporarily rattled and confused. But that’s up to government which is way we pay our taxes. I have my hands full otherwise.”

“Did you guys pay any taxes this last year?”

“Actually, we didn’t. Not this year, but we have in the past. Did you?”

“Not this year,” said Bob.

“Which is why we pay lobbyists in D.C.  Everybody does it. Why not us?”

“Right.”

“There is a common good, of course, and Americans should help other Americans. I’m all for that too. But you have to show some initiative. That’s how I see it.”

Bob reflected on that for a moment. He had a cousin who had got depressed when she lost her job with a firm in Seattle that sent their jobs to China, and he knew that she had been an ambitious person. “Tom, sometimes people get depressed. Maybe that’s what happened to a lot of Americans when the companies they’d worked for many years pulled up and left.”

“Depression or no depression, you got to get over it.”

“It may not be that easy. People have kids, parents…”

“No check coming in, you got to go. But does American business think of the common good?”

“Do we?”

Tom hesitated for a moment. “We do,” said he now with wavering conviction. He, himself, had some distant relatives who had lived in a former steel town in Pennsylvania but he had lost touch. They were hard working, too, as he recalled. Maybe they were still there. Stuck.

“If, all of a sudden – continued Tom – the big money was in Africa, we’d go to Africa, wouldn’t we, Bob?”

“Yes.”

“We bombed the heck out of Vietnam but I guarantee you that one day we’ll be doing business.

And we will because capitalism is not racist. Incidentally, I once heard Noam Chomsky tell me that, personally. I went to a talk he gave and afterwards had a chance to get close to the man. I asked him something about capitalism and he told me that. ‘Capitalism is not racist.’ So there you are, we capitalists go where the money is. That’s it.”

“I’m sure that wasn’t an endorsement of capitalism but I like the thought,” said Bob.

“But I do think about the common good,” returned Tom, “the idea of nationhood, and what we could do to make the US a better place to live.”

“Sure, I do, too.”

“There has to be a good leader, though, someone who reminds us of the need to share, to help our fellow Americans become stronger.”

“I think a woman president would be a good choice,” said Bob, who had three daughters.
“Eventually, sure. Hadn’t thought of that. I don’t know why, since they’re over half our population. Maybe in the next century. But businesspeople wouldn’t make good leaders, I know that.”

“Why?”

“Our concerns are too narrow, and leading a nation needs something else. That much I know.”

Bob wanted to get back to his worry about the pressure the Chinese were putting on American businesses to share protected information.

“Regarding technology transfers…”

“Forced technology transfers,” said Tom.

“Right, shouldn’t we be raising the issue? If we did we might get collective action to stop it. I mean, we could negotiate something, rather than just give it away. I don’t like that. We’ve worked hard for our patents…”

“I doubt it.”

“…That way the Chinese would feel we’re a more integral part of their growth, and we would be teaching them something about fair play.”

“Bob… I don’t think we would be able to get our people to agree, let alone the communist party. We’re all making money here. What do you want to do, piss off the Chinese and go back to Wisconsin?”

“Tom, they need us and we need them.”

“Sure, but if it’s not us then it would be the Europeans, the Russians, anyone with ideas.”

“I think we should take a stand, for our own good,” pressed Bob, “Better now than later.”

“It’ll take care of itself… down the line. Don’t worry so much.”

“I’d feel better if we were doing more for the people who’ve lost their jobs back home and standing up for patent protection would be a step in that direction.”

“Bob… I think you have too much money that you’re worrying about other people. I don’t.”

But Bob did worry. “If we pass the buck now, then later on it will be worse. We’ll end up electing a president who will want to start a trade war.”

“Bob… relax. You’re thinking too much. We don’t do trade wars, we compete and beat everybody at the game. We’ve never been afraid of competition. As far as China is concerned, they will rise because they must… and as they do they’ll change, and we’ll marry them and they’ll marry us, and we’ll live happily ever after. Did I tell you I divorced Joan and married Biyu?”

“No, I didn’t know. Congratulations.”

“Thanks. She’s from Chongqing, beautiful city. Met her there on a business trip. She’s a translator. Went to school in Texas. Has a little drawl too.”

Bob laughed.

“That’s how we transform, my friend, the capitalist way, we coalesce.”

But Bob still worried, worried that doing nothing was passing the buck and that years later it would be worse.