– Carlos Frota
It’s dark outside. It’s time to follow the news and then, after dinner, to spend some time alone, looking back at the hours of my day, almost finished. It’s time to be with myself. Testing the way I perceive my life in the last twenty-four hours.
But this exercise I commit myself to do every night, before bed, it’s not just an individual, egoistical introspection, or an examination of conscience, recommended by a spiritual director. It’s not just my way to look inward. It’s this and more. It’s also my daily moment of reflection about how the world is evolving, through the international news I follow permanently.
And why does my personal meditation have these two dimensions? Because our inner judgements and conscience are so influenced by the outside world. We cannot exist, even in the quieter, monotonous and anonymous existence, without a window open to the world as it is.
And we cannot build a wall separating us from them, unless we decide to live under the rules of a very strict religious community (a contemplative order, for example) or, by individual decision, to cut ourselves off from reality, despite all the appearances of a normal life.
I am so passionate with international news as a literature lover is of the last best-sellers …
But like a “literature guy,” my passion for news includes events and personalities, like in normal dramas, narrated in our days by TV and radio outlets. Not to forget the internet, from smartphones to other devices.
And in my favorite pastime, I am no more than a normal citizen trying to understand the world as it is,, with people deciding on my behalf, often without mandate to represent me, us, as it happens in questions with huge consequences (peace or war, climate change, epidemics, and so on).
World news, with real events and real personalities like in every fiction. But REAL. Not literary imagination . Real events which can, very quickly or in an imperceptible way, change everything forever. Real personalities because they are the engine behind the events.
And I like to discern motivations behind decisions which affect all of us. Clear, transparent motivations or, very often, interests, opaque interests, making countries or the entire world hostages of particular agendas, mainly for economic gain.
As it happens today with people denying the scientific basis of the climate agenda, just for profit. Or the sensitive issue of arms race, including nuclear ones , not putting an end to such a course through compromises and treaties, just to affirm an illusory superiority. A fatal one for all…
In his next trip to Japan, Pope Francis will stop in Nagasaki , and that moment will be of solemn remembrance of the innumerable victims of an immense tragedy which occurred in that same place more than seventy years ago.
God judged already the aggressors from both sides of the World War II monstrous massacre.
I remember the saying: “Men make History. Even if they don’t know the (kind of) history they are making…”
Because, and this is the substance of the human adventure on earth, common , short-sighted leaders cannot anticipate the future, only visionaries can try to shape the times ahead.
Playing with the sharp contrasts of the personalities, we can ask ourselves if Hitler and Mandela lived in the same planet. We know that they lived in different times, but the question remains: how can a monster and a saint, not in a strictly religious perspective, but following the way their respective legacies are considered today, with the exception of minuscule extreme groups – how can a monster and a saint be put together in the same category of human beings? Just human beings?
The keys of the future
An important leader’s speech, in a particular moment, can make a huge difference. In more extreme circumstances , declaring war or announcing peace. In turbulent times like ours, proclaiming a new era of national egoism, or the opposite, with leaders reiterating the desire to work together, in order to build a more just world community. A fairer community , where in cities of the richest countries (not to talk about extreme poverty in the most poor places on earth) will be empty of homeless people, sleeping at the main entrance of luxurious buildings.
Because, like human beings, nations can be generous or not. They can be friendly players at the world stage or obsessed to accomplish their own goals, without regard for neighbors’ concerns and legitimate expectations. Using the well known image of a human family, nations can be like loving parents or not. They can prepare their children’s future or think exclusively how to satisfy the greedy ambitions of the present generation.
What makes the world move are human actions, right? Unless you focus your attention on natural disasters, occurring without human interference … and there are plenty of them nowadays!
Living in very turbulent times, and with plenty of information available , all of us have, more than in any other time in History, the possibility to think about how countries behave through their leaders, and how the personality, the temperament, the moral background of every one of them matters, on decisions with worldwide implications.
A national leader never forgets, of course, that his country, big or small, powerful or powerless, is an element , just a part of the entire network of world nations. Nobody lives alone. Nobody can say that what is happening in his neighbor’s house doesn’t matter. Because the opposite is true.
And when nations, like individuals, have close neighbors, they can maintain friendly relations or not. They can put emphasis on common grounds or exacerbate old or new tensions. It depends on the historic perception of each other. Historic enmities exist in many parts of the world. It’s a question of perception, nourished positively or negatively by the way in every nation education, culture and politics play together in order to worsen or attenuate these feelings. And again, leadership matters here. Because political leaders can be peacemakers or just the contrary, to keep power.
When I am in front of my TV screen or searching world news from the internet and see what’s happening, my invariable question is: how are the leaders concerned dealing with this specific situation?
Are they doing their best to avoid conflict, or prevent escalation, or are they playing games with others lives or the present and the future of their country just to take advantage, for instance appearing as the saviors of situations they are worsening with their tactics ?
Well beyond entertainment
And my evening passed with the kind of thoughts just explained. If there is a “conclusion,” it will be about leadership. Human history is made by human beings. Many theses were written and are being written about the inevitability of conflicts, and even major ones, in the context for example of super power competition, like during the Cold War years and nowadays in times of this Cold War II, many people already characterize our time. But political and military decisions are human decisions. And human beings can be motivated by prudence of folly, cold determination of tumultuous emotional precipitation.