Friday, March 11, 2011

May You Live in Interesting Times

The title of this post is supposedly an English translation of an ancient Chinese curse, though obviously not everyone sees it that way.  But for good or ill, the present time would certainly qualify.

Many oldsters view of the 1960s and early 1970s as the most interesting and exciting time in recent memory, and until very recently the media has constantly implied as much.  But the early 21st century (especially the decade that just began) in many ways blows the past out of the water.  Here is a quick summary of all the reasons why:

  • Increasing political upheavals around the world--Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and even Wisconsin.
  • Increasing politically-motivated violence of all kinds, despite overall crime rates dropping.
  • Increasing natural disasters, including the Japanese 8.9 earthquake and tsunamis that occurred just yesterday.
  • Increasing man-made disasters, such as the BP oil spill and other ecological problems.
  • A severe economic recession for the past few years, that we still have yet to recover from.
  • Skyrocketing fuel and food prices.
  • Federal and state budget woes from a record-high deficit and national debt.
  • Long, drawn-out foreign wars in which America is still participating.
And there you have it.  Interesting times, all right--for good or ill.  But allow us to introduce a real pearl of ancient Chinese wisdom:  the Chinese word for "crisis" is weiji--two characters that separately mean danger and (albeit very loosely) opportunity.  Which is precisely the best way to view this sort of situation.

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