Radical Second Things

"Stand at the brink of despair, and when you see that you cannot bear it anymore, draw back a little, and have a cup of tea." +Elder Sophrony of Essex

Thursday, November 24, 2016

American Ideology in 2016

The election of Donald Trump may be a blessing in disguise. Like most non-reactionaries, I was nervous, enraged and a host of other negative emotions about his rise. It seemed like a failure, after all the supposed progress that we were supposed to have made, that such a crass bigot would become the nominee of a major political party in America and ultimately president.

However, now that it's over, those feelings are gone. Friends of mine have echoed the same sentiment. Trump's campaign succeeded in airing out the dirty laundry of America and how its residents see themselves, nullifying many of the delusions that people abroad especially have but that many of its residents still hold on to.

It has also shifted the political spectrum. Liberals say that, with 2 million more popular votes, Hillary Clinton is the true winner. However, the electoral college is the system America has chosen. Most republics have a proportional representation system - Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom are parliamentary systems - I could be ignorant but I'm not aware of a democratic country that doesn't have that and goes straight by the audit of the people. Trump's election goes along with the rise of nationalists everywhere from France to the Phillipines - liberals can't blame the Electoral College for that.

Liberalism is more wounded than any time in recent memory, as are other traditional ideologies. Radicalism is now mainstream as the systems we mostly all assumed to be permanent now seem shaky. I thought it would be a good exercise to look at these ideologies as they stand now, to help us figure out a next step forward. Note - this is mostly in reference to U.S. ideology. It would be much longer if I incorporated the whole world.

Liberalism  - Conservatives long bemoaned Hillary Clinton as a herald of the "nanny state," a reference alluding to maternalism, in which the government is mother to all its citizens, doing things for them, treating them like children, with various dos and don'ts. They may have been right on that mark. The worldview of urban liberals in America seems very much like a nanny or mother, attempting to shelter from the big bad world by telling the child what's good or unreasonable (political correctness) or debilitating its progress by infering all sorts of disabilities or handicaps.

Political correctness has been its death knell. Trump's rejection of its norms alone may have been the reason for his ascent. Trump could talk about rebuilding infrastructure and universal health care all night long but be seen as a right wing hero thanks to his crass rejection of "PC culture," the most popular acronym.

PC culture is hell. As someone socialized largely in America's left coast, I can say that it makes friendships and relationships really, really hard. People in America's big left cities - Portland, Seattle, the Bay Area, etc. - have a habit of shutting out people whenever their tone gets difficult. What was intended as socially shaming crass racists and misogynists became an excuse to basically shut out anyone upset with you or who disagrees with you on even the most minute thing.

All sorts of prejudice exists in PC culture as well. The way urban liberals see the world is bizarre. Certain parties are designated victimhood status not by their history but by the image adopted of them in the United States. For example, noted liberal comedian Stephen Colbert showed little shame in showing an animation of Vladimir Putin ripping his shirt off while saying "Touch my sleek Slavic biceps" in an accent that sounded like Dracula. One can imagine his same audience would be very offended if that animation had been of Barack Obama in a Kenyan accent and had him saying "Touch my sleek African biceps." And before you say that's because blacks have been "historically disadvantaged," consider the history of Russia. Yeah, things aren't as clear cut as American liberals like to think.

The paternalism of liberals in America is married with a need to protect and flaunt their privilege. Hillary Clinton was the embodiment of this - she had no qualms about shutting out the popular candidacy of Bernie Sanders while her husband encouraged Donald Trump to run. Her sense of privilege was so great that she both thought that was her right and that her trap wouldn't blow up in her face.

Despite their own use of prejudice, American liberals are forever looking for a reason to be offended because that is the basis of their world view. There really is nothing else there. Without something to point at and be offended at, they would have no answers at all for the questions of poverty, loneliness, alienation and discord in the world.

They would tell widowers "women don't owe you anything" when they're lonely, tell young men from broken homes that they have ADHD or autism (as if those are the same thing), tell young women that they are bipolar and are only a success if they are professionally successful (and subsequently to look down upon women who pick a more traditional role for themselves) or tell the begging poor to apply at a start up. They shut out, ban and block anyone outside of their worldview when they don't really have one - all without registering that the best way to push someone to the extremes of the periphery is to push them away. Hillary Clinton tried to use Donald Trump to play on that element. It didn't work for her.

Conservatism - While ten years ago we may have seen a conservative like George W. Bush and then acendent liberal Barack Obama as worlds apart, (Their fans certainly did) the last few years have changed that perception. Conservatism in America was everything that liberalism was - the sense of paternalism married with privilege.

The Bush administration had all sorts of policies that carried this sense of paternalism. The efforts to curb AIDS in Africa were a great success but the act of giving free health care to poor Africans while standing in the way of such efforts in the US was galling. Doing the former made Bush supporters feel good, while the latter challenged their status. American Christian programming was loaded with this mentality and its popularity has not been revived at all by Donald Trump's Republican victory. Jerry Falwell Jr. and the like seemed more along for the ride with Trump than really a part of it.

The differences in every day culture, however, are real. If you grow up in a conservative town in the USA, you are much more likely to get married. The PC culture is not there at all and that was true before the rise of Trumpism. Culture still revolves around family and church, which are present mostly as alien artifacts in urban culture. There are pluses and benefits - I get exposure to alot more culture in the city - but once you pass the plateau of 30 years or so, it begins to seem a lot less attractive. In 2016, even the old reasons why you wouldn't live in the country seem a thing of the past - I hear as many ugly slurs as I ever did out in the sticks in the Bay Area.

White Nationalism -  I became aware of the Alt Right after working for the Heritage Foundation in 2010. I warned about it to great hostility and ambivalence. You now here the term everywhere. I recommend people read Alt Right and nationalist material. It seems like common sense but it has to be articulated that because you listen to something or read it, that doesn't mean you accept it 100 percent. White nationalist or the various European micro-nationalisms are not going to go away even if this is their 15 minutes. The human instinct in times of difficulty is to avoid or combat the source of difficulty. Given the absence of genuine socialist institutions, ethno-centrism is the easiest option. After all, people like you will relate more than people not like you.

All groups have nationalist groups and ugly ones too. Even groups that have been historically disadvantaged. Trevor Noah, the host of the Daily Show, compared Donald Trump's campaign rhetoric with Jacob Zuma, the president of South Africa, and the infamous Idi Amin, the brutal president of Uganda during the 1970s. There are clearly Russian nationalists and Jewish / Israeli nationalists, despite their shared experience with the Nazis in World War II.

White nationalists are a bit different in the United States than they are in Europe, which are different than white nationalists in Russia and Eastern Europe. Groups like Golden Dawn in Greece are genuine, as is Vladimir Putin, a Russian nationalist who has nonetheless been able to engage many different leaders from various cultures.

American nationalists, however, don't know who they are or what they are doing. Many don't know their ethnic or cultural identities or are only recently cultivating them. Their icon, Donald Trump, didn't talk like one of them for most of his entire career until he decided to run for president. He seems to have stopped talking like the Alt Right and "disavowed" and "condemned" them even before becoming president. That doesn't mean they'll go away but they may be very disappointed. No one likes getting led on or scammed.

Even if he disappoints a core cotengent like the Alt Right, Trump could cascade in to re-election simply on the formula he has maintained in contrast to the post-modern left. As the US declines as a world superpower, the average person will only more want the basic necessities of life - a family, a community and the means to feed them. If post-modern liberals are going to keep calling men who want a family as akin to rapists or belittling their economic fears by pushing away radical voices, they should expect to stay in the wilderness.

Marxism / socialism - The ascent of nationalism has come with an ascent in socialism. It would have been unthinkable ten years ago that Bernie Sanders would have gotten as far as he did. He was going up against an opponent who thought the presidency was in her hands, however, and blocked the path of Sanders while "elevating" Trump's candidacy, paving the way for the rise of her decades long friend in to the White House.

Despite the Cold War and historic American hostility to socialism, there are other stars in American society. Kshama Sawant, who is from my hometown Seattle, helped to start the rise of minimum wage initiatives in the US. Her opposition to Donald Trump raised a good deal of racist attacks, which has only accelerated her fight. There will be more like her. Tulsi Goddard, a supporter of Bernie Sanders, has also interestingly been in talks about joining the Trump administration. With her views on Syria, she would be an unreal improvement over the last few people in that office.

Marxist collectives have also physically confronted the Alt Right several times, something I encourage but certainly would never participate in. (Gotta look after myself.) I imagine if socialist figures keep getting hate drawn their way like Sawant, there will be even more conflict. It's not the end of the world - although it is the end of the American empire. This is an ideological pattern that didn't just happen during World War II but has played out in most of the world. Americans just thought themselves immune from it due to their massive material privilege.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Assessing Donald Trump's Win

Hello.

I was going to do a video blog but decided this was my more natural environmment. As a political and religious blog that I like to think is serious, I felt that I had to talk about the election of Donald Trump in all its facets and from my unique perspective. Feel free to comment!

I didn't vote in this election. After nearly two years of campaigning, I felt like I got to know both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump well enough to not like both of them equally for completely different reasons. Clinton flirted with World War - Russia baiting was rampant in the three debates, along with a good degree of hawkishness on the Middle East, with a particular obsession with getting rid of Bashar Assad, one of the only figures keeping Syria together.

The whole thing reeked of some level of scam too. I still think that, even though Donald Trump won. It still seems weird that people who knew one another for that long happened to run for president in the same year. It's anyone's guess what that scam was - many of Trump's proposed policies are actually very progressive and only clouded in conservative language. This went from his gun policy to health care, where the policies, when actually looked at, seemed more progressive than anything Obama ever proposed. It may be possible that they were covering all their bets.

I had just moved from Portland back to California and by the time I got here, the deadline for voting was approaching. I couldn't get myself motivated enough to do it in time, even if I found a polling place to vote for Bernie Sanders back during primary season. Apparently half the country's eligible voters felt the same way.

The social climate continued to deteriorate as Trump's brash campaign continued. I had a roommate who went insane in Portland, forcing me to leave. He talked about the world not getting any better and threatened to kill himself while talking both to me and to a friend of mine. I encountered someone just like him at the aforementioned friend's house. Friends seemed to snap and scream and shout at the smallest thing and I witnessed it with other people as well. Everyone sounded racist and weird. I have one person who blocked me as a consequence of Donald Trump's election as we speak (I won't go more in to that here).

One other friend of mine from Mexico recently said she'd like to visit me but that "the situation between my country and your country, I don't think so." I do lay the blame for that at Trump's feet, who took Mexico and its immigrants as a population to pigeonhole in order to gain power. There have been overt Ku Klux Klan rallies, a happy David Duke and riots as a result of this campaign. There have been even worse things in the world as a result of Hillary Clinton but these things can't be ignored.

Trump is a piece of shit, a con man and scumbag. Given that, such a man reminds people of reality. Whereas the charisma and perceived prestige of a man like Barack Obama belied many of the destructive policies that occurred during his reign, a scumbag like Trump might be so reviled that the absolute worst and least is expected. His agenda, absent the mass deportations, actually sounded good - his health care plan would benefit me much more than Obamacare did and his plan to rebuild infrastructure is something sorely needed in a country with creeking, collapsing bridges. Other scumbags like Richard Nixon and Theodore Roosevelt managed to bring us trade with China and the National Park System when they weren't breaking in to hotels and being a "Bully," respectively, both legacies I prefer to Obama's continuation of George W. Bush's interventionist foreign policy in to five new Muslim countries, spurring a wave of jihadism like nothing previously seen.

I could be wrong. Glenn Beck could be wrong.  Neville Chamberlain was infamously impressed with Adolf Hitler, while many of Germany's Jews belied any harm that would come to them at the hands of the Reich. A man like Donald Trump either could be the absolute worst in the history of the United States (and the current social climate certainly makes that seem like a possibility) or he could be one of America's many scumbags, who managed to actually help the people because they enjoyed the attention and gratification.

Likewise he could be neither and just be a goofier and more verbally offensive version of the last two presidents - jettisoning his friendship with Vladimir Putin (something that would not be without consequence) for a continuation of the Middle East interventions that are necessary to keep America's petroleum based lifestyle going. (Obama talked about closing Guantanamo and the country's many Middle East wars when he ran for office initially.) We really don't know. It will be interesting to say the least.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Judaism, Catholicism and Carrying On Marx's Torches

I identify as a Jew. I look the part, as do many of my family members, and I suspect heritage on both my grandmother and father's side, geneaology that has been overlooked by alot of my mom's research. A great deal of my friends either are Jewish or grew up immersed in the world. I was playing with dreidels and lighting the menorah when I was a little kid, the whole thing.

It's easy to find who is Jewish in almost any intellectual group, even the most reactionary ones, by who conforms the least. Jews are natural iconoclasts and free thinkers - they come up with the ideas that later become cliches for everyone else. It's no wonder that reactionary movements loathed them - the Jewish enigma was unpredictable, creating new ideas of both left and right. People who wanted to go back, to before Christianity, communism or capitalism (all Jewish concepts) would naturally see the Jew as the problem.

Nevertheless, while Jews continue to be the social movers and shakers (even today, the film industry is dominated by Marvel projects, all created by the Jewish genius Stanley Martin Lieber AKA Stan Lee) in the world, the Jewish religious world is null and void. It's ancient - modern Jewish figures often looked at religious Jews with disdain (Moshe Dayan famously rolled his one eye at rabbis praying at the Wailing Wall, saying "What is this? Vatican?").

When I worked at Tikkun, a religious magazine in Berkeley, this really crystallized for me. While most the people working at the magazine were Jewish, the contributors were not. The most frequent contributor was Matthew Fox, a very venerated progressive Catholic writer. I contributed several articles about the Catholic Church, which was more dynamic than anything coming from the Jewish world in my view, at least.

It's true that religion has fueled so many wars in human history, continuing with the West's struggle with radical Islam. However, for most of the world, religious institutions still provide education, health and renewal. Catholicism, with the ascent of liberation theology, very clearly rooted in Marxism, to the point of papacy, seems the only religion to really absorb the goals and ideology of communism.

Catholic radicalism is really odd in that regard. The religious practices of Christianity are Jewish and liberation theology is rooted in the ideology of Karl Marx, who very much was a Jew in both ethnicity and ideological tradition, even if he rejected religious dogma (though his thoughts on the matter were more nuanced than those of his acolytes). It seems as if, whether or not they are aware they are doing it, many Catholic radicals have carried the torch of Jewish radicalism while others have simply turned Judaism in to another form of ethnic nationalism. By applying Marxist principles to a historically reactionary organization like the Catholic church, liberation theologians are putting the praxis of Marxism, i.e. "taking control of the means of production," in a very literal way. Pope Francis' daily addresses of solidarity seem in line with Marx while what you hear from Israel stops just short of the sort of talk that made its establishment necessary in the first place.

When you read a great deal of Jewish magazines, a really reduced ethno-nationalism seems present. While thought provoking Jewish magazines like Tablet or the aforementioned Tikkun continue in the US, out of Israel especially you will find publications like Jews News (yeah, it's really called that) or the Times of Israel that seem about as thought provoking as a nationalist newsletter from Sarajevo. The demonstration of several Jerusalem demonstrators chanting for American presidential candidate Donald Trump made me wonder if being "Jewish" in 2016 was little more than another form Eurasian style nationalism, albeit rooted in thousand year old landmarks in the Middle East.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Nix and the Science of a Great Novel

I recently finished The Nix, a novel by up and coming novelist Nathan Hill, which fits all the standards for a really great novel. Great novels, despite the fluidity of good literature, do tend to follow a formula - a formula that a great artist (and writing is an art) is able to adept to and mold in to his own creation.

A great novel is sweeping. Sweeping or sprawling. These are descriptions you often hear of great books. Benjamin Percy described The Nix as "culturally relevant, politically charged, historically sweeping, sad, full of yearning, sometimes dark, but mostly hilarious." This is something that could also be described with another great American novel, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon, which one critic refered to as a novel with "epic sweep."

Chabon's book swept through roughly three decades - the three protagonists met in the 1930s and only resolved their problems and tensions in the 1950s. Nathan Hill's characters range in storytelling from the late 1960s in to the 2010s, with one character, Faye, depicted from her teenage years in to her late adulthood.

The tensions that set the book are set up in the 1970s and, interestingly enough, do not boil over until our times. Alot of people have said that the Obama years were a return not only to a domestic social climate a hell of alot like the 1970s but a world climate much the same. Hill's book illustrates that this may be true almost to a T. He describes race and gender driven riots that adeptly reflect the tensions in American society today nearly to a T. National Guardsmen are depicted as cheering on the Russian invasion of Prague, reflecting modern conservative reverence for Russian president Vladimir Putin's leadership, while one passage told of conservative viewers of Walter Kronkite turning on him as he started to sound more and more lefty, something that made me think quite a bit of the strange exodus from the right that once conservative zealot Glenn Beck seems to be enduring.

I don't want to spoil this book too much for you - it's really quite good. I read it after To the Finland Station, a sweeping historical account written in the form of a novel back in 1940. While the topics were much different, Finland Station was an account of historical Marxism, both books illustrated that there may actually be a pretty simple formula to writing a great novel - albeit a formula that you have to have talent to deliver on. Nathan Hill has that talent.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

No More Rev

So I was working as a transcribor for Rev for the last four months. I stayed on despite a few very bad ratings. Over the last few weeks, my ratings were on point, regularly getting 5/5 and bringing home 3 figures each week.

I got great ratings this week and then abruptly, tonight, I got this message sent to me: 

Unfortunately, we can no longer keep your transcription specific account open. This is due to your accuracy and quality being below our acceptable average. Your transcription account is being deactivated today. If you have any other account type with us, that will remain open. This decision is final.

You will be compensated for all completed work. Here are your performance metrics for August 6 to October 5.

So, given that message, I would assume that it's time to school my self-esteem, right? I'm obviously not fit for this line of work. Well not quite. Look at the metrics they sent me:

MetricYouRevver TargetRevver+ Target
Accuracy4.34.24.6
Formatting4.74.24.6
% On-time submission100%75%90%
Commitment Ratio *9815
Volume (minutes)967-400
Sincerely,
The Rev Team

According to this graph, I was actually above average in many respects. The abruptness of this message, combined with a graph that actually complemented my abilities, just tells me something internal went wrong. 

If you're thinking of working for them, I won't stop you but I guess just keep my experience in mind.

Michael

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Obama, Putin and the Prospect of Being Wrong About Everything

Due to colonialism and world events leading in to World War II, including the rise and fall of fascism and then the Civil Rights era in the United States have solidified a notion in most people's head, even if it is not outwardly expressed - persecution and oppression is a fault of white men, with "people of color" always the oppressed.

This assumption of how the world works is so deeply ingrained in the minds of many that it takes on religious proportions. As a transitionary global conflict seems to engulf most of the world, violence between the black community and the larger US community (and it needs to be remembered that it is both groups who perpetuate it) is amplified and politicized while other groups caught in whatever it is going on get not nearly as much attention given to them. It's an act of hanging on to a fading narrative as the world transforms and re-aligns itself on a level that could be even more dramatic than the second world war.

Unfortunately, that narrative just doesn't apply. It's not "white men" that are scaring the crap out of the world and using the tools of genocide to dominate and instill fear in 2016 (at least not in the sense of what Americans seem to think of as "white," as many Muslims probably are technically "white," if white really is even a thing). It's Islamists, who from Orlando to Paris to Aleppo, are carrying on a path of genocide like nothing seen since WW2.

And on their side, making the whole job easier, is a political class of neoliberals - the likes of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Angela Merkel and neoconservatives like George W. Bush and his camp before them. An implied belief of "post-racialism" and diversity engulfed all three of them, even if they seemed seperate from one another in US politics. What would happen if this class of American and European leaders became historically tied, through oafishness and greed, to the rise and acceleration of one of history's abominations?

Imagine the last two American presidents tied in history as helping to coddle, create the environment for and then even defend radical Islam. Then imagine Vladimir Putin in the role of a historical hero - a Russian Dwight Eisenhower or George S. Patton - who has helped to sweep ISIS and Islamism from the world with the harshness that requires. The current contrast between Russian and American behavior could not be more stark. The United States allows terrorists to gain weapons domestically to kill its own people while then bombing the Syrian Army, which is fighting ISIS. On the other hand, Russia clears towns of ISIS and then holds Bach concerts for survivors. Who is really the civilized country?

If Russia, with its "sovereign democracy," and a host of authoritarian but socially stable countries, often with senses of national identity that would seem bigoted by US progressives, in tow came out from this current crisis relatively unscathed, how would that change how we perceive this world? I'm not sure how we would but I'm confident that such a result, which seems to be what we're headed for, would absolutely devastate the social assumptions that American and other western progressives have taken as a given. The world simply is not like they think it is and it is proving it every day.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

How The New Silk Road is Flattening the World

Hey everybody,

For the last month or so, I have been working steadily with the Blue Ocean Network, a Chinese based content provider. I have the sense that the east is the future and it has been a great pleasure to write for Chinese publication after so much time spent in the US publishing world. Please check out my work for them, "How The New Silk Road Is Flattening The World:"
"Knowledge and innovation are key factors in economic growth and poverty reduction." - The World Bank

The growth and development of China's economy over the last forty years has been unprecedented. The opening and reform of the nation began with western powers, such as the United States, reaching out in hopes the struggling Asian country would be a good client for its brand. The game has flipped.  America is nowhere close to the sort of superpower it was when President Richard Nixon met with Chairman Mao and China is the undisputed global manufacturing leader, making nearly a quarter of the world's goods.With such output comes integration, to ensure Chinese goods can reach every corner of the world, including traditionally underserved regions. The most audacious act of Chinese infrastructure is certainly the reconvening of China's ancient Silk Road which, in today's context, is a series of freight and transit lines binding China with the former Soviet Union, Europe and the Middle East. 

Drivers_on_a_block_train_in_Chinas_less_developed_interior.jpg

Drivers on a block train in China's less developed interiorThe Silk Road takes its name from an economic infrastructure established two millennia ago. The creation of it precipitated an era in which Asian and Middle Eastern empires, from the spread of Islam to the Mongol empire, ruled the world. The recreation of the Silk Road may represent a new pivot toward the East after centuries of Western dominance.The most diversified element of the initiative is arguably the Zhengzhou-Hamburg rail line, crossing from the heart of China all the way into the lungs of Europe, with a detour through the outer regions of the former Soviet Union.

The_block_trains_from_Zhengzhou_pass_through_the_steppes_of_Kazakhstan.jpg

The block trains from Zhengzhou pass through the steppes of Kazakhstan

These underserved regions include the former Soviet republics, many of which – due to their role in the outskirts of the Soviet empire – are very new to the game of global capitalism. One prominent country that could benefit from this is Kazakhstan, the country whose perceived backwardness was famously mocked by Sacha Baron Cohen in his hit film Borat.The Zhengzhou-Hamburg rail line crosses into the former capital of Almaty, an urban center of almost 2 million people. I can attest from experience how valued the goods this new Silk Road will be to many of those. A friend of mine from the Ukraine (also a post-Soviet state) was sure to make the most of a Chinese-made computer he acquired when he arrived in the United States. This equipment allowed Sergei access to his Russian based bank from Portland, Oregon and to buy specialized products such as survival food for his extensive bike trips through the United States.Laptop ownership is almost ubiquitous in the United States but far from it in many parts of the world.The website of The World Bank, an organization dedicated to relieving poverty in developing countries, is a huge repository of information on such projects as the ambitiously titled One Laptop Per Child and their own work in the development of technology commercialization within the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan through a program set up with the country's Ministry of Education and Science. The cooperation led to several developmental research projects through Nazarbayev University, including one aimed at creating filtration nanostructures that would help curb bacteria and viruses before they spread.Nazarbayev_University_in_Astana_Kazakhstan.jpg

Nazarbayev University in Astana, KazakhstanA recent BON video took me further west along the New Silk Road to a terminal in Hamburg where Samir Turkovic, a young crane operator, talks of his appreciation of Chinese economic integration and the small role he plays helping freight containers on their journey between China to Germany. Speaking of his job, Samir says,

"With the train, I see what China is for this world.”

What that is, of course, is still very much the world's workshop, but with an intriguing new element of the ability for that workshop to drop its goods off at your front door, and perhaps even rebalance the cultural world order.Laptops and electronics will remain significant for the Zhengzhou region – companies such as Sony and Hewlett Packard, mentioned prior, intend to maintain large levels of their supply on the freight. Hewlett Packard has even been called a pioneer of the route that other companies are following.Easy access to a supply of cheaply produced laptops would give Kazakhs and others from the former USSR economic leverage traditionally not afforded to them. The "global flattening" from this kind of supply chain disruption will be familiar to readers of Thomas FriedmanBut the benefit of greater integration is not simply afforded to the developing countries surrounding China. Labor costs in China's eastern cities have surged in the last decade, so manufacturers are trying to reduce costs by moving production west to the nation's interior. Trucking products from the new inland factories to coastal ports is costly and slow. In fact, China is so big it is in the process of flattening itself.  That is, the poorer, interior regions are also now benefitting from the New Silk Road in the same way as Kazakhstan.

"China is so big it is flattening itself."

In the midst of China's economic growth comes the threat of enmity and prejudice. I currently live in Berkeley, California. The city enjoys a flood of Chinese students and investors who provide a great deal of energy and new thought in otherwise stale and decaying American social and economic climate. I have overheard Americans speak with disdain at the new-found leverage that Chinese have in Northern California. As China increases in power, size and influence, I expect this to continue.China's growth and development is a double-edged sword. It's a blessing to countries like Kazakhstan to be able to own computers and equipment usually afforded to a sliver of the world's population. However, China will have enormous, possibly unprecedented leverage due to its economic infrastructure, possibly retarding the economic development and redevelopment of much of the world. There is, for instance, nothing even close to the Silk Road in development or even proposed in North or South America or Africa. Hopefully, as more countries benefit from China's integration effort, they make efforts of their own.
Author description Michael Orion Powell–Deschamps has been writing professionally since he was a teenager. Born in Seattle, Washington, he started at the newspaper for Roosevelt High School, graduated to the local Pacific Publishing Company, the San Francisco Examiner and on to the Heritage Foundation in Washington D.C. Currently most of his time has been dedicated to writing for the political website Dagblog, his own website Radical Second Things, and contributing to Asian themed websites.