Surviving and Prospering in a Political Zero Sum Game

One would not think that owning a Bed and Breakfast retreat Center in the Catskill Mountains is very political. In my mind everything but pure spirituality and love is political.

I was discussing the state of the world with some guests and If one looks at current affairs and then follows these events in a reverse sequence going back in history two themes come to the surface concerning human behavior.
1. The first is the merging of hierarchal, and competitive behavior where one individual or groups dominates another in the belief they have some supreme ideological truth or that that “might makes right” and that any negative future consequences for this behavior can be minimized by the person or group in control.
2. The second is reciprocal altruism – the act where one person or group is willing to reduce benefits to themselves and offer greater benefits to others in the expectation that others will act in the same way towards us a later date.

The more morally and ethically driven a person or group is the more likely they are to choose the path of reciprocal altruism. However history shows us that unless all players in a political scenario accept reciprocal altruism as a model for behavior than one group is likely to dominate another group, often with dire consequences that can include social, cultural, economic and religious repression, racism, sexism, enslavement in various forms and even genocide.

Where hierarchal and competitive behavior rules there may be no recourse than to respond to force with force, or with a diversionary skill so fully developed that the person or group in power voluntarily gives up that power.
So if you look at the news today you will see mostly stories about men with guns. Russia and the Ukraine; Turkey, the U.S. and ISIS; The Turks and the Iraqi Kurds, Israel and the Palestinians, Robert Mugabe tightening his grip on power in Zimbabwe; and an apparently honest election in Tunisia. There is some light here and there – In Tunisia it seems that the various opponents have embraced the politics of compromise and inclusion.

I am a patriotic American for sure and I love what the “founding father’s” created and yet I do cringe a bit as the U.S. criticizes Russia’s bad behavior in Cechnya and for bullying the Ukraine. The US had no problem invading Granada, Panama (which exists because the US took part of Columbia and created Panama so that they would let us build a canal), and preemptively invading Iraq over WMDs that didn’t exist.
Global Politics and diplomacy is complex and rife with hypocrisy. What you see is seldom what you get, what someone says is seldom what they mean, and a promise made is seldom a promise kept. And that’s how it is. It is as if lot’s of chess players, are moving lot’s of chess pieces around a board in an environment that is part tsunami, part hurricane, part earthquake and part tornado.

It can all be a bit overwhelming. As I was writing this piece I remembered two movies that address many of these issues.

1. A political/comedy movie from the late fifties with Peter Sellers called “The Mouse that Roared”
Here is the plot that seems absurd…but than again maybe not.

“The minuscule European duchy of Grand Fenwick is bankrupted when an American company comes up with a cheaper imitation of Fenwick’s sole export, its fabled Pinot Grand Fenwick wine. Crafty prime minister Count Mountjoy (Peter Sellers) comes up with a plan: Grand Fenwick will declare war on theUnited States, then surrender, taking advantage of American largesse toward its defeated enemies to rebuild the nation’s economy.

Here is a trailer from the movie

2. “Men with Guns” – A 1997 American drama film written and directed by John Sayles and spoken in Spanish with English Sub-titles.
it is the story of one man’s discovery of what actually happened in the political history of his nation as well as his students. He soon discovers that much of what goes on in the world is determined by men with guns.

Here is a trailer from that movie

Don’t be complacent, ruthless introspection is a good thing.,


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