January 1, 2020
Philip C Johnson, Ph.D.
Happy New Year from Kraków, Poland! Again, it’s hard to believe that another year has come and gone – but this time, we can also reflect on the conclusion of a whole decade. The 2010’s have taken their final bow and the 2020’s are ready to “roar” and reveal where we’re all headed.
But before we get too far into this new year and decade, I will wallow for a few moments in the past. There’s no way to cover EVERYTHING that’s happened in the last 10 years, but what follows are my impressions of things that stood out to me – as well as some specific thoughts regarding 2019.
THE DECADE: 2010-2019
Looking back over the last 10 years, the amount, frequency and speed of change is nearly unfathomable. Changes in a culture or society that traditionally took 20 years…maybe 40 years, have happened nearly overnight. Do you remember a world where spandex-clad Avengers didn’t dominate movies? That’s only been since 2012. Do you recall when same-sex marriage was a controversial topic? All that changed with a Supreme Court decision in 2015. Technology, cultural values, social media and global politics are moving at lightning speed. Let’s take a look back – in no particular order:
DEATH OF STEVE JOBS:
Much of the technology and knowledge that we carry around is because of the vision of Steve Jobs, who died in 2011. Less than a decade after his death, it’s hard to imagine life without a super computer in your pocket – for better or worse.
Few things dominated the last decade as overtly as Netflix and the origins of binge-watching an entire TV series (or three) with a box of Oreos. Catch up on every episode of your favorite shows without bothering yourself to think about the outside world, commercials or the need to stand up and allow the blood in your legs circulate. Look how far we’ve come!
SNOWDEN AND GOVERNMENT SNOOPING:
2013 was the year that Snowden revealed that “conspiracy theories” had become reality. Yes, the government was watching you (or at least your data) via the NSA’s PRISM program. While the controversy continues over whether or not Snowden was a “whistleblower” or a traitor for leaking the information, one thing is for sure: Not much of your life is or has ever been private in an online-always-connected-cloud-based world.
Originated by Tarana Burke on MySpace in 2006, to raise awareness of sexual violence, #MeToo became ubiquitous by the end of 2017. People will continue to discuss the trickier aspects of the movement as people at work and other social groups try to sort out the ever-shifting rules of engagement. Has the movement gone too far or not far enough? In the coming year – know this – if you ask a colleague out for coffee, or mindlessly hum, “Baby it’s Cold Outside,” you’re taking your reputation into your own hands.
WHEN CHINA TALKS, EVERYONE LISTENS:
Anything to keep from offending China: Bad guys in movies have been changed from Chinese to North Korean. The film “Pixels” changed a scene showing aliens attacking the Great Wall of China to blowing up the Taj Mahal instead. (The Indians apparently don’t mind…) And Google and Apple will do just about whatever the Chinese government wants.
The Pope seems willing to go along to get along – as long as he still gets to name the Bishops of State approved churches in China. And according to French newspaper La Figaro, China wants Christians to rewrite (or retranslate) the Bible to make sure it falls in line with Communist Party Ideology. The only person playing hardball with China seems to be President Trump – at least on trade and his support of Hong Kong protesters.
When YouTube started in 2005, no one would have guessed that by the 2010’s someone could have a full-time job as a YouTuber. A YouTube iPhone app didn’t even exist until 2012. Now, most of us cannot imagine a world without YouTube and the massive amount of content its creators provide on every conceivable topic.
DEATH OF AL-BAGHDADI:
ISIS was without a doubt the Terror Organization of the Decade. Its leader, Al-Baghdadi was reportedly killed by a US military raid in northern Syria in October 2019 ending the life of the man who led ISIS since 2010. While President Trump declared ISIS defeated in 2018, this put one more definitive nail in the coffin.
ELECTION OF DONALD TRUMP AS PRESIDENT:
2016 was the year that people realized that polls were not reliable and that what the media and permanent government bureaucracies wanted was not necessarily what America wanted. Following the surprise election of Donald Trump we’ve been saturated with phrases like
Russian collusion, Fake News, quid pro quo, and impeachment. All the while, the U.S. has generally had a great three and a half years with record economic growth, low unemployment, beneficial deregulations, oil independence, no new wars and smart trade deals. The “new style” Trump Presidency is probably the story of the decade.
THE YEAR: 2019
Now, let’s take a look at the specific year that just completed itself. It would seem unfair to speak about the decade without giving 2019 its own sendoff! The following is simply a list of how I related to these past 12 months:
THINGS THAT BORED ME:
Impeachment. It was filled with weak charges, personal feelings-based testimonies, voting along party lines, and constantly finding out that “bombshell” reports were nothing of the sort. Now we don’t even know if our President has been officially impeached by the House of Representatives because House Leader, Nancy Pelosi, won’t send the charges over to the Senate. Evidently, she is keeping the articles of impeachments in her favorite handbag until she can negotiate control over how the Senate tries the case. Which is really none of her business.
Bottom line: Impeachment has been a waste of time, divisive for America, and Trump won’t be removed. Let’s just move along.
THINGS I LIKED:
- Record stock market prices – we’ve added 17 trillion dollars of wealth to our nation this year.
- Pushback against abortion. Yes, killing babies is bad. This should not be confusing.
- The “Storm Area 51” Event. The fact that 2 million people RSVP’d to the event online to finally find out what the government has been hiding at Area 51 was fascinating. The real event turned out to be much, much smaller. No secrets were uncovered. No aliens were invited out for coffee or cupcakes. (Which I have always assumed is what aliens have really been after.)
- The spirit of the Hong Kong protesters who understand the value and cost of freedom.
- Thanks to new elections in the UK, there is hope that Brexit will now at last happen.
- That I finally got to see the 9/11 Memorial in New York City. A place where the world as we used to know it, changed forever.
FAVORITE TRAVEL EXPERIENCE:
I was in 15 countries these past 12 months that included Scotland, Italy, Israel, China, Iraq and Korea. All were special. Working with U.S. student groups is always rewarding. Teaching leadership courses in Iraq is more than special. Interviewing a Kurdish government official who reveals state intelligence secrets and then panics when I publish that information, well, that’s just priceless. 🙂
But I would probably say that the location that most touched me was seeing the Atomic Dome in Hiroshima, Japan. Standing in the place where a new and terrifying weapon was first used, seeing how the city has rebuilt and how a new generation is thriving reminded me of how much change could occur in such a relatively short time. Our world, in the shadow of nuclear warfare, has certainly changed. Standing at places that changed the world is one of my favorite things.
FAVORITE QUOTE OF THE YEAR:
I spent some time in Hungary this year interviewing numerous people about the National Populist Government of Hungary. Hungary isn’t likely to bend to the will of unelected officials in the European Union. They like their sovereignty and the ability to make decisions regarding immigration and traditional marriage that reflect the will of Hungarians. But the powers of globalism are breathing down Hungary’s neck. I spoke to experts on both sides of the issue. But my favorite comment came from Mr. Zoltan Kiszelly, a political scientist, consultant and adviser to President Orban’s administration. I asked him, “In the end, who wins? The one-world globalists, or the national populists?” His response to me was as direct as any response could me: “In the end, the globalists win, freedom loses. Right now, we’re just buying a little more time.” I liked the honesty and I agree with the sentiment. Use the freedom you have now, while you have it.
MOST ANNOYING PEOPLE OF THE YEAR:
- Congress-folk, Adam Schiff and Nancy Pelosi. I cannot even begin to understand what Schiff and Pelosi are doing, how they process facts and information, how they view truth and how they define impeachment-worthy crimes. It’s stunning to watch, baffling to decipher.
- Climate Change Activist, Greta Thunberg. Greta – it’s just too much. Your desperation, judgmental attitude and faux outrage are not moving. And your bouncing around the world in a “green way,” is not nearly as “green” as your movement would have us believe.
MUSIC TO LIKE:
I’ve listened to lots and lots of music this year from many different genres. But for my musical 2019, I’m going to choose two young pianists who have breathed great excitement back into classical music.
- My favorite is Daniil Trifonov, a stunning Russian pianist. When he plays, the distance between his fingers and the music is nearly non existent. His Rachmanioff is perfect. So is his Chopin.
- Here’s a sample of some small pieces from NPR’s “Tiny Desk” Concerts:
- My second favorite is Alexandre Kantorow – a French pianist who won the most recent 2019 Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow. Here’s 22-year-old Kantorow at the final round of the Tchaikovsky Competition in June, 2019: And the fact that he’s French and not Russian means he actually won the competition. 😛 I’m not saying that the Russian-sponsored competition has ever been accused of favoring Russian contestants, but… you know… Russian collusion. 🙂
BOOKS TO READ:
- Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race and Identity – by Douglas Murray. Social justice issues have turned us into crazy people.
- The Case for Nationalism: How it Made Us Powerful, United and Free – by Rich Lowry. Nationalism is NOT a dirty world.
- Talking to Strangers – by Malcolm Gladwell. People really do not do well when trying to read others. We need to get better at this, but I’m not sure Mr. Gladwell provided any real solutions.
- The Diversity Delusion: How Race and Gender Pandering Corrupt the University and Undermine Our Culture – by Heather Mac Donald. How about diversity of ideas? Is that ever going to be OK?
- Justice on Trial: The Kavanaugh Confirmation and the Future of the Supreme Court– by Mollie Hemingway. Watching the process play out on TV was pretty grim. Reading what was going on behind-the-scenes was even worse.
THINGS TO REMEMBER IN 2O2O:
- Simple is better than complicated.
- Live as beautifully as you can.
- Always choose to disturb the universe when you have the opportunity.
- Decide to find more opportunities.
Happy New Year! Welcome to 2020!
– The Globalnexter