Silent Archimedes

Posts Tagged ‘Civil War’

A Letter to America

Posted by silentarchimedes on November 3, 2008

Dear Fellow Americans,

The land of the free and the home of the brave...

The land of the free and the home of the brave...

Tomorrow is one of the most important days in recent American history. It is a day that will affect the short term prospects of America and the standing of America in the world for the next century. The events and actions of the past eight years have accelerated the damaging path the country has embarked on for the past thirty years. The irresponsible actions have left America crippled economically, politically, morally and psychologically. Both parties have been hijacked by the special interests of corporations, ideological groups and personal interests. The values in which America was founded on have been distorted. The decision made by America tomorrow will go a long way in determining if we continue this egregious path of self-destruction.

The debt at the national, local and consumer levels are not only due to the actions of the past eight years. The decision by the Supreme Court in 1978 (Marquette National Bank of Minneapolis vs. First of Omaha Service Corp.) to deregulate interest rate caps at the state level was the precursor to the inundation of credit cards and the mortgaging of personal futures for the present. Although Reaganomics has been credited with bringing the country out of the vitriolic stagflation of the late 1970s, it has had a long term effect that has eaten away at the fiscal responsibility of the federal government. At the core of Reaganomics was reducing tax rates by reducing government spending which in turn was achieved by reducing costs associated with regulation and social programs. However,  unexpected costs from the burgeoning Cold War resulted in large trade and federal budget deficits. In order to cover such deficits, the government began borrowing heavily both domestically and abroad. This decision to mortgage the future of the country for the present instilled a belief that debt is good, even to other countries, such as China, Japan and India. America became a borrower nation instead of a loaner nation, which it had been for decades during its prominence.

The deregulation of these two critical issues are the main causes of the current economic problems. It instilled bad habits at all levels of society. Although quality of life continued to increase the past thirty years, it was mostly at the cost of the future. Both politicians and individuals began feeling entitled to such luxuries and expected it to last forever. However, as analyzed by Pulitzer Prize winner Jared Diamond (Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed), it is this infectious mindset that causes great societies to fail. This country is at that critical juncture. Do we reinstate the values, sacrifices and hard work that made this country great or do we continue down this destructive path?

In addition to the present economic and ideological problems that endanger the quality of life of America, there are many massive elephants in the near future that can derail any sense of comfort in the nation. A fundamental restructuring of social programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid is required in the next one or two presidencies before the effects of the baby boomer population cripple the flow of aid from the system. The high quality of life has left Americans lazy, fat and indifferent, and the medical costs associated with treating related diseases and health issues threaten to destroy the already broken health-care system. The super-highway system that supported the rise of American power is also the bane of the country’s dependence on foreign oil and its lavish automobile lifestyle. Furthermore, the infrastructure of America is crumbling and poses a danger to the lifeblood of a large country like America. A massive government infrastructure initiative is required within the next twenty years. The only question will be where does all the money come from? As globalization continues to redistribute the wealth and power of the world, the education system and America’s ability to compete are also being tested. American children  continue to fall behind other countries at all levels of education, from middle school to college to graduate school. This country has been able to sustain its technological competitiveness partly through the immigration of top-level students from countries such as China and India. However, the current backlash on immigration coupled with the increasing prestige of other countries’ higher education systems, begs the question of how America will sustain its technological edge? Corporations and special interest groups as super-humans continue to eat away at the fabric of America. Their selfish narrow-minded view of profit and ideology permeate all levels of society, from individuals to the government. Ideology has especially polarized the country into two hardened stances, secularity versus ideology. The effects of this has left the country fearful and suspicious of each other. Finally, the effects of the internet and other entertainment-related technologies cannot be understated. Although they have created luxuries beyond anyone’s belief and increased the free flow of information, they have also created a schizophrenic society of 24 hour media frenzy and questionable freedoms of morality. The neutrality of journalism and the mental well-being  of society are at stake. Coupled with the constraints of global warming and moral responsibility, the above problems must be faced responsibly.

These problems will definitely be difficult to face and resolve. Most of these have been simmering for years, but have been effectively ignored. However, what has always made America great has been its ability to come together as a country and sacrifice for the greater good of the country and the world. The sacrifices by this country during the Civil War and World War II for the greater good cannot be forgotten. Although society was simpler and less polarized then, the country must come together once again to face the unprecedented wave of issues that threaten to send America down the road of self-destruction.

Tomorrow begins that choice. Tomorrow the country decides which path to take, one of sacrifice for the greater good or one of continued wantonness. Tomorrow begins the day where America can begin reinstating the values that made this country so great. A country of uniqueness not found anywhere else in the world. A melting pot that protects individual rights and helps others at times of need. A constitution so strong that the thought of a revolution is unfathomable. The land of opportunity and openness. A land of thousands of parks and natural resources. The separation of church and state and the freedom of religion. The land of the best medical care and higher education system. A land of tolerance and hope. And the land of the free and the home of the brave…

Whomever you vote for tomorrow, please think openly and clearly. Without any bias of age, race, religion, and fear, think who will be better for America. Who will lead America towards a path of redemption and strength. A path that requires sacrifice but cherishes American freedoms. A candidate that realizes that what America needs now is a problem solver with pragmatism and humility, and not one fixated on idealism, intolerance and fear mongering. Look closely at your choice, and know that when you go home afterwards, there will be a better America tomorrow. A better America for yourself and your family, and also for its great citizens of today and tomorrow.

America’s tomorrow begins now…

Thank you.

Silent Archimedes


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How responsible are you for your ancestors’ or predecessors’ actions?

Posted by silentarchimedes on September 12, 2008

This question has been raised in some form or another regarding individuals, corporations and governments/countries in recent years.

The Corporation

Allianz SE

Allianz SE

In an article today, some people have been criticizing the football  Jets and Giants for considering selling naming rights to their new stadium to Allianz SE, a German financial services provider with ties to the Nazi party back in the 1930s.

From Wikipedia’s entry on Allianz’s links with the Nazis and Third Reich:

Gerald Feldman’s book Allianz and the German Insurance Business is a look at the links between the Nazi party and big business in 1930s Germany concentrating on Allianz’s relationship. According to Holocaust historians and legal experts, such as Professors Michael Bazyler and Gerald Feldman from the United States, Allianz insured the concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau as well as other death camps.

Previous Board member Kurt Schmitt was a German economic leader and the Reich Economy Minister from June 1933 until January 1935.

Eduard Hilgard, a general director of Allianz AG and head of the Reich Association for Private Insurance during the entire National Socialist regime.

Allianz’s leadership, represented by directors Kurt Schmitt and Eduard Hilgard, led a policy of drawing nearer to the Nazis, even before they seized power. Already in October 1930, ties were forged with Hermann Göring. These contacts were realized through company dinners and by providing private financial loans. Heinrich Brüning and Franz von Papen tried without success to get Schmitt a ministerial office.

There are several ethical questions to consider regarding this situation. Are there any current ties to the Nazi party now in Allianz? How much has Allianz admitted its Nazi past? And if they have, how apologetic are they?

The question I am interested in in this post is the first one. If there are no current ties to their past actions, how much should they be vilified or discriminated against? How much is the current corporation and governing board responsible for its predecessors past actions? Now obviously you can go into a case by case basis and closely investigate how much of the corporate culture of the past still exist today or if the current company is essentially a new company with the same name and industry as its former. But from a simple ethical perspective, should a company be currently punished for its historical actions many years ago?

The Individual

Henry Ford

Henry Ford

As we have witnessed, this ethical question is not limited to corporations. Many individuals have been affected by links to controversial ancestors. Henry Ford, the founder of Ford Motor Company, had associations with Adolf Hitler. Hitler was known to have said, “I regard Henry Ford as my inspiration.” Ford was also awarded the Grand Cross of the German Eagle, the highest medal awarded by Nazi Germany to foreigners. Even the company itself has had to fend of allegations of Nazi collaboration. However, this has never had much of an impact on Ford’s descendants and even the company. History has judged him more for his inventiveness and pacifism (He was strongly against both world wars) than Hitler’s admiration of him. This is apparent today as his Ford Motor Company continues to be one of the major automobile corporations in America and his great-grandson William Clay Ford, Jr. (executive chairman) continues a long line of Ford descendants as major players in the company.

On the flip side is the question of whether descendants take too much honor in the greatness of their ancestors. For example, as the Yankees play their last season in the old Yankee Stadium, or “The House that Ruth Built”, many of the families of Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle are clamoring for more celebrations to honor their great ancestral baseball players. It makes sense since they are the bearers of the Ruth and Mantle names, but they themselves have not done anything for baseball on the field. Even the descendants of Thomas Jefferson feel some sort of pride and responsibility in upholding the sanctity of the Jefferson name.

The Country

Finally, we must broach this ethical question in regards to countries and governments as well. One of the main examples has been the question of whether the United States should pay reparations for the heinous culture of slavery before the Civil War. This example actually analyzes both the responsibility of the country and the individual. One, should a government be responsible for actions it caused over one hundred to three hundred years ago, considering no one in the government was alive during that time? Second, if they are, should the descendants of slaves get the awards their ancestors should be entitled to, considering none of the descendants are or were slaves? These are very interesting questions to consider and will probably never be resolved. One possible sticking point has been who is considered a descendant of a slave, since the Census did not keep track of slaves and slave owners.

My Opinion

This leads back to the original motivation of this article, Germany and its Nazi past. I stayed in Munich, Germany for 3 months last summer and it was definitely hard to fathom that it was the center of Nazi culture. Germany is a much different place now. It almost has a non-feeling atmosphere, where everyone still feels guilty of its past, where everyone is afraid to show any form of nationalism. The past 60 to 70 years have been very difficult for most Germans to comprehend. I definitely believe that although Allianz had connections to the Nazi party many years ago, no one in that company does now. Germany has become one of our steadfast allies, and although there is some negative symbolism in naming one of our football stadiums after such a company, I think we also have to have some sense of closure and acceptance at the new realities.

As what was strongly stated in The Corporation, this whole discussion lends credence to the fact that corporation indeed can be perceived as superhumans.

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