Fwd: This speech by Mark Bruzonsky was given at the VISION & INNOVATION ANNUAL FORUM on 2 August 2014 in New York City

This talk by Mark Bruzonsky was given at the VISION & INNOVATION ANNUAL FORUM on 2 August 2014 in New York City.

North American Chinese Association of Science, Technology & Commerce - See more at: http://blacktiemagazine.com/society_2014_august/CSSPENA.htm#sthash.ewzNBaDg.dpuf
Sponsored by:  North American Chinese Association of Science, Technology & Commerce - CSSPENA
North American Chinese Association of Science, Technology & Commerce - See more at: http://blacktiemagazine.com/society_2014_august/CSSPENA.htm#sthash.ewzNBaDg.dpuf


I'd like to begin with my conclusion:  The greatest challenge of our times is to get our two great countries with such different histories and cultures, the US and China, to work together as allies rather than to be protagonists and adversaries.  For even if we avoid war -- which these days can be political, economic, covert, and cyber, as well as military -- we have to start using our combined talents and energies for positive purposes, not for conflict preparations.   We can no longer afford to squander our resources preparing for conflict with each other.  Rather we have to use everything we have to jointly and collaboratively fight the grave problems that truly threaten all of us human beings on this small endangered planet.

The geo-political trajectory our two great countries are on will sooner or later lead to confrontation which can take various forms.  We are already in the early stages of such hostilities.    If you don't think this is the case I urge you to simply read some of the public statements made by both Chinese and American military leaders in the last year and to imagine the kinds of war games they are playing in private.    And if you need a little help imaging the war games look no further than the very popular American TV program 24.  In the most recent weekly episodes in fact, China, for the first time, sends an aircraft carrier into the
Mediterranean.   The Americans then sink it killing everyone.   The Chinese in response decide to attack the largest American military base in the Pacific, that's Okinawa Japan.   But then, in a twist, the Americans at the last minute convince the Chinese that their aircraft carrier was sunk by mistake because of a false attack order caused by a covert Russian plot to get the US and China to go to war with each other!

Just a few other historical reminders about how when nations prepare for war and start threatening and sanctioning each other they risk a war igniting for unexpected reasons.   This month is the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I.  No one then imagined an assassination in the Balkans would lead to a multi-year war killing 17 million people.  No one then imagined that the way this War to End all Wars would end, as it was known then,  would set the stage for World War II and all the wars that have taken place in the Middle East since the 1918 Paris Peace Conference, now known as the PEACE TO END ALL PEACE.    Even in recent years think 9/11, Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Sudan, Balkans, Palestine..and now Ukraine, and not that long ago Korea and Vietnam, and now the military build-up being undertaken by both of our countries in the Pacific.

And so our overall task as Chinese and Americans must be to change this trajectory from fear and huge expenditures for confrontation preparations to understanding, appreciation, and cooperation.  Only then can we responsibly deal with the real dangers all of us should be collectively, synergistically and urgently confronting.

I know that most of you are business people concentrating on building your own companies.  And we all know how time-consuming and difficult that is these days even for the most talented and well-educated and connected among us.

But even as you concentrate on your own lives and businesses, at the same time we are all citizens of the two most important countries as well as citizens of the now globalized world.  And we just happen to be alive at this sui generis, unprecedented, unique time in human history.    Our world is literally pregnant right now with immense dangers, as well as with great opportunities, as never before.

I've come from Washington DC, modern-day Rome, to be with you today.  And I want to sincerely thank the organizers for inviting me and making this special event possible for all of us.

I went to law school here at NYU and spent 4 years representing the International Student Movement at the United Nations up the street.  I didn't pursue business, or law, but rather became a journalist, traveled to many countries on some 200 international trips, making new friends with people all over the world and learning from them in many intense exchanges how they see the world so differently.  Along the way I've gotten a little older than many of you, so today I feel the most valuable thing I can do, in the few minutes we have together, is to share with you my conclusions, my fears, as well as my hopes.    I am independent, not representing any government or business interest, and thus free to say what I really think and believe.  Hoping to make this short time we have together worthwhile for you I will be blunt, not diplomatic, about what's going on in our world and what we should all be extremely concerned about.

The bottom line is that never before in human history have we all collectively faced such global and urgent dangers.    The list includes:
  • climate change is now our mutual, universal, great enemy
  • we must work together to end poverty, disease, and war
  • we must work together to insure basic food and water for all
  • we have to use science and technology to advance all of human society while avoiding using these same means to destroy ourselves.   
  • we have to prevent the arms race from going into space and prevent war itself from being sanitized by robots and drones who will fight proxy wars in our names but killing others rather than ourselves.
The bottom line is that our two countries  -- China and the U.S. -- now have the future and fate of humanity in their hands.  And well-educated privileged people like us have the future and fate of our countries in our hands. 

This is the huge challenge of our lifetime.  It just happens we are alive at what may well be the turning point for human beings planet earth.  The generations ahead of us, tragically, have not solved our great problems, but rather have brought them about.   Now in the 21st century all of us wherever we were born, whatever countries we are citizens of, are inter-connected with each other daily as never before, in ways even our parents just a few years ago could hardly imagine.  

I was born and raised American and Jewish, in Minnesota, and like each of you I have my own evolutionary story.  In my case I became, in my own mind and heart that is, politically a citizen of the world and religiously an existential humanist.   These are not just words, I will explain.  After law school when I went to graduate school at Princeton to study international affairs, I was awed to find myself walking the same paths as did Albert Einstein, the Man of the Century, in his final years.   For me it wasn't Einstein's theories of space and relativity that inspired me, but rather his succinct summary about the task of life and the value of human beings.   Please let me share what he said with you:
"A human being is part of a whole, called by us the 'Universe,' a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest -- a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us.  Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty...  The true value of a human being is determined by the measure and the sense in which they have obtained liberation from the self.  We will require a substantially new manner of thinking if humanity is to survive."
Einstein wrote these powerful words as World War II was approaching and with his awareness that unprecedented atomic and other scientific breakthroughs were looming.

Today, as we go about our individual lives and businesses and relationships, we must constantly be aware that humanity itself is now at risk in our time.   The threat of global nuclear war remains real, even if we don't focus on it as we did years ago.   The threat of global warming that already has the potential to destroy human civilization is real -- even the U.N. Panel of Scientists said specifically this in their unprecedented report earlier this year.   The threat of pandemic disease, global hunger, worldwide economic catastrophe -- these are all very real, not science fiction, not something for future or just past generations.  And the threats resulting from human hatreds -- fostered by terrible injustices and inequalities and horribly unjust wars of conquest and occupation like today in Palestine -- mean that there will be new generations and more non-state actors seeking both liberation and revenge.  And they may turn to bio, chemical, dirty nukes, and other weapons they can develop in addition to becoming suicide bombers.

And so the overriding challenge for all of us is indeed to promote serious "new ways of thinking", and of acting, now -- in our own lives, in the policies we advocate for our countries, in what we must demand from our international and transnational institutions which includes our multinational corporations and global organizations.

As we try to pursue the urgently needed "new ways of thinking" we should all be facing some basic facts that all too often are glossed over or avoided.

Right now in both of our great countries the political and economic systems are in urgent need of basic structural reform.   China has one controlling establishment party, mine has two wings of what is also a controlling establishment party.   In  both of our countries self-serving rich and powerful elites have control and all too often work primarily to benefit themselves and those few nearest to them (think Einstein).  I'm no expert about China so I'll only say that we all know there are very basic issues of human rights, poverty, corruption, and repression of free thought and association that China must deal with.   Like the extremely serious smog pollution in China there is also basic values pollution that has not been handled very well so far.   This said I'll primarily focus on my own country. 

First of all some of us Americans have avoided drinking the jingoistic nationalistic militaristic cool-aide.   We know our country is not a democracy but rather a kind of corporate oligarchy now in decline. 
We also know that while we may look good to many in comparison to other countries, things are not really so good for Americans if you take into consideration all of the advantages we have had for so long, our potentials versus our realities, and how far we have strayed from our own basic principles, values, and aspirations.

In my country the oligarchs using their huge sums of money not only control the means of production and investment, they have more and more in recent years used their financial power to take control of the means of governance and legislation as well as the means of information.   We have a cleverly created deceptive veneer of democracy that is purposefully designed in fact to mask these realities.   

In my country some 400 families have the combined wealth of about half of our entire citizenry...that's 400 families versus 150 million people!   In my country the super-rich mini-class has figured out how to use their money to buy and control the political system in order to propagate the laws and regulations that make them even richer and more controlling!  It has also figured out how to buy up and control the so-called "Main Stream Media" enabling them to manipulate public opinion and counter any and all who dare challenge their exploitation and fiscal crimes.   In more recent years they have also greatly infected our major think-tanks and our best educational institutions so that professors fear to speak up and students get short-changed in what they learn and discuss among themselves at a formative time in their own lives.

In America we desperately need to change our campaign finance system because it's very purpose is to
legalize the social, political, and financial corruption all around us.   We also need to create a firewall between those who have economic power and those who control government, media, and education.   These concerns  about how to most fairly govern society  go back to Plato and Socrates...but now in the 21st century we are running out of time.
  We don't need philosopher kings.  We do need educated, worldly, independent, principled, socially-concerned, free-thinking men and women who understand why Einstein said what he did.

Many of you may not realize that in the US today we also have very serious and growing social and economic problems.  The wealth divide is greater than at any time since the Depression.   Belief in government institutions -- in Congress, in the White House, and in the Courts --  has never been lower.   1 in 5 of our families are near poverty living on food-stamps and welfare.   Even in Washington DC one in five children are growing up in poverty,  in major parts of the city some 40% of students do not graduate high school,  and about 1 in 15 are HIV infected.   In some sections of our big cities gang killings are daily occurrences and our for-profit prisons are full of small-time non-violent petty drug offenders.  We have by far the greatest percentage of our population in prison, mostly the poor and black.

Yet, in just recent years, even with such problems here at home,  my country has invaded and destroyed other countries in the Middle East at a cost of millions of lives, many more millions of refugees, and trillions of dollars, most of which we have borrowed from China and others to feed our dangerous military-industrial complex even at the expense of greatly weakening our financial infrastructure and future.  

Just in recent years in fact my country has helped foment civil wars in
Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, Bahrain, Sudan, Yemen and most recently Ukraine.  Egypt is now ruled by a terribly repressive military Junta — also US trained and armed.  Pakistan is on the brink filled with anti-U.S. hatred.  Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Jordan — all more bastions of severe repression and all with giant US military and clandestine CIA bases in addition to American "contractors" and NGOs — are collectively bulking up buying more than $100 billion in arms from the same US military-industrial complex.

Furthermore, I'll say something many  Americans believe but don't want to talk about even with each other.    The actions undertaken by many top US government officials clearly make them international war criminals by the standards I learned in law school right here at NYU. 

And so the starting bottom line is that in both of our countries major political, social, and economic reforms are urgently needed always keeping in mind that the purpose of government should be to benefit society as a whole not to further enrich the already privileged and empowered.

That said there is another very major change that is urgently needed.  We have to stop letting ourselves be manipulated by the fear-mongers, the war-profiteerers, as well as the super nationalists and ideological zealots among us.   In this regard I urge all of you to watch the amazing BBC documentary, THE POWER OF NIGHTMARES, which, by the way, even though it deals with 9/11 and major issues of our day, no American network has been willing to broadcast.

The great dilemma of course is we cannot count on those who currently have accumulated self-serving economic,  political and media power to make the changes that will limit and in fact end their special  privileges.    For that to happen we who are journalists and academics, as well as business people, somehow working much more together than we have so far, have to constantly expose the corruption and hold those in power accountable.

As another of my mentors, this one I knew personally, the great journalist I.F. Stone said:  "The purpose of journalism is to comfort the afflicted" -- that is to tell the stories of the powerless, the helpless, and what needs to be changed -- and he added, "TO AFFLICT THE COMFORTABLE" -- that is to hold those in power accountable for their failures, their corruption, their self-enriching narcissistic ways.

Thus we who are the privileged, the educated, the first globalized generation -- we who have the luxury to attend such conferences as this and who are so fortunate to have each other as friends and colleagues -- we have huge responsibilities and challenges ahead of us all.   We must stop finding excuses and start looking for new, creative, impacting ways to engage with each other.   We should relish the opportunity to work together to greatly improve the way our world is governed and how our critical talents, energies, and resources are used.  

This is how we can at least have a fighting chance of bringing about Einstein's "New Manner of Thinking" and being able to truly work together for the rest of our lives to urgently solve the global human problems that now bedevil our world.

Phone and WECHAT:   12024951235
Skype and WhatsApp:   MarkBruzonsky
Email:   Mark@Bruzonsky.com