Good and evil in international affairs (and construction marketing)

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The Ukraine-Russian border in 2004 (from a Susan Astray photo on Flikr.)
The Ukraine-Russian border in 2004 (from a Susan Astray photo on Flikr.)

There’s a classic bit of motivational advice I’ve always elected to ignore: “Turn off the news.”

The concept — you can’t do anything about the mayhem, hate, war, and chaos in the international affairs, so you should retune your mind from the daily (or hourly) news and focus on more positive things which you can control, like listening to motivational tapes and recordings in your car radio (and of course you can purchase these motivational tools from the people giving you the advice to turn off the radio.)

Considering my background, I’ve always felt this advice to be absurd. I’ve always been interested in the bigger world and fascinated by the correlations and relevance of events and decisions far away from home.

Of course, I realize not many young Canadians come of age by heading off to Africa to overland the continent and then return to live as a journalist through a civil war’s conclusion.

i sometimes wonder where I’d be today if I were in my 20s. Probably not Iraq — I was always quite rational in my risk-taking (avoiding, for example, Idi Amin’s Uganda) so I doubt, with my Jewish heritage, I would have wanted to risk capture by ISO terrorists.

Maybe Israel, but probably not. There’s nothing wrong with advocating and believing in the rightfulness of one side or another in a complex dispute, but a true journalist needs to retain a much broader perspective. I think I’d be too close for comfort there. (Who is right, and who is wrong, when I meet West Bank settlers who talk the talk and walk the walk of white Rhodesians — yet when the Israelis pulled their settlers out of Gaza, they encountered Hamas hatefulness in their place?)

So, I sense I would have been in the Ukraine, perhaps trying to digest the complex and even mysterious ironies of that conflict with Russia.

Today, the motivational speakers would say I spend far too much time monitoring, observing and following these conflicts. And, yes, with the rarest exceptions, the current international news stories have absolutely no relevance to your business, career, or marketing initiatives. And you really cannot understand the issues simply by watching the news. I’ve read dozens of books on some of these issues; clearly you may find better value for your time to obtain in-depth knowledge of your relevant interests.

Yet, the stories interconnect. If you’ve experienced conflict, fear, propaganda, maybe even put your life on the line (or had family members do that for you), you’ll appreciate that your lessons learned from living experience will transcend anything you encounter day-to-day, whether it be unethical competitors, honourable clients, or simply  life’s forces, ironies and opportunities.

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