Zakaria's Point, Sober and Resounding.

Patch Adam Perryman

Photo by Patch Adam Perryman As a gift for my birthday this month, my wife gave me a single ticket to see Fareed Zakaria speak at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall last evening. She'd known for some time that I enjoyed reading his articles and books, but I wondered why she had only purchased just the solo ticket. She offered two reasons when I asked.

First, she explained that the cost was rather extravagant (better than a C-Note for the balcony). As we tend to live on a moderate budget she decided that one would suffice and that I should go and enjoy myself. Second, she told me that her interest wasn't quite as piqued as it would have been for, say, seeing the play Wicked. After all, she was offering me an opportunity to be entertained by a well-received expert as he spoke upon the finer points of politics and power. This was not exactly a Willy Wonka moment for the surreptitious, as my wife regards herself. This was my field of interest and my gift. So, for last night, I was as happy as a post-chocolate-bar-Charlie Bucket.

Dr. Zakaria opened with an anecdote most fitting for both the time and geography of his lecture. In recalling a previous conversation with a friend, he told the audience that when addressing gathered crowds, "You've got to have a point." He explained that you can have several points (as most speakers do), but there has to be a gist to the dialogue. As mired-down as we are -- both here in Oregon and as an entire Nation -- with the uncertainty and shiftiness of our politics as the clear and present focuses, finding a point in our hyperactive news cycles and fanciful punditry can fade and blend into frivolity like the background noise of a cult-classic movie.

Last night's lecture sounded different. For nearly an hour straight, with the occasional injection of humor and the steadiness of a scripted television host, Zakaria made his point -- regarding statecraft and global mistrust -- with confidence and clarity.

Politics remains the only substantive field that has shirked globalization.

As he has detailed in his book, The Post-American World, the largest or most extravagant structures and complexes no longer reside within the United States. The largest Ferris wheel: was London (now Singapore and will soon be Berlin). Shopping Mall: Dongguan, China. Tallest building: Taipei (and soon it will be dwarfed by the structure under construction in Dubai). The list goes on, but the problem he identifies goes to matters greater than municipal attractions.

Vast portions of the rest of the world have actively pursued a global model of financial, entrepreneurial, social and commercial interdependence while the United States has turned turtle by preferring a lackadaisical and highfalutin' style. This is what the United States was seeking, however. A world full of nations that embraced the open exchange of information, labor, technology and goods is exactly what America most sought to create no more than a century ago. Now that world has come to embrace the Yankee Will, it looks at America and finds an skeptical, and cautious observer.

Today's Oregonian article, which covered last evening's event, misses Mr. Zakaria's message with near-equal ambivalence but with a different rationale. Despite the periodical's wonderful support for the World Affairs Council of Oregon -- who organized the lecture series that made Mr. Zakaria's lecture possible -- they focused entirely upon the quirky punchline of America no longer receiving a "free lunch" when it comes to the unchecked credit it has allowed other nations like China and India to create through the purchasing of U.S. debt and government bonds. While it is obvious that the concerns over economic instability in our politics, investment centers and even our pay checks is the lead for most 24/7 news organizations (the rationale I mentioned before), it is too easy a play for The O to use as a byline to cover the event.

Last night's lecture wasn't a sack lunch workshop. Mr. Zakaria offered the audience a meat-and-potatoes dinner full of facts and conclusions, served eloquently with humble pie.

Of the many notes that I scribbled in my back pocket notebook, I can transcribe many of the same insights you would find in his book.

"In aggregate terms, the world is far more peaceful than it has been in modern history."

"The United States spends more on defense today that the rest of the worlds does --combined."

"Stimulus packages -- if used -- need to have coƶdinated efforts to create effective changes in global economics."

There is a global paradigm shift currently taking place in America and the region, and Mr. Zakaria described it succinctly last evening to the assembled crowd of Oregonians, Washingtonians and young professionals. However, I could not consider him an oracle because he reminded me of wife's insights from just four days before. The reasons she gave me as to why she bought me the ticket in the first place were the best insight to the current strategies our experts, politicians and forebarers are offering/have offered.

Though our budget is strained - as are those of many American families - to live within our means is not just a frugal lifestyle. It is the way to create the smallest impact on your surroundings while displaying the greatest regard for them.

Despite her disinterest in attending the lecture, it cannot really be considered terrible that you'd rather isolate yourself from your surroundings simply by declining to interact with them. So long as you remain aware of what's around you -- as she did by realizing my interest in last night's event and undertaking the means to have me attend it -- you're not truly isolated from the world around you.

Lastly, what was missed in oratory by Mr. Zakaria, in nuance by The Oregonian and by my conscious self until my writing of this article is the fact that no matter how the world, nation or state continue to expound the frailty of our communal bonds, there is always room for -- and great benefit from -- altruism.

  • (Show?)

    There was one more matter discussed at the lecture that I wanted to share.

    Mr. Zakaria offered that while it is imperative for the U.S. to work toward producing energy sources based on renewable sources that are both originated domestically and offer scant environmental impact, there are other industries and products in which the United States hold the majority percentages of the patents.

    These industries include biotechnology and nanotechnology and they too will play key roles for future industrial enterprises.

  • (Show?)

    Count me in as another enthusiastic fan of Mr. Zakaria. The U.S. is still very young. The remainder of the world is waiting for the U.S. to grow up.


    Great post!

  • Jim H (unverified)

    I was there too along with my wife (wearing her "I Need My Fareed" T-Shirt I had made for her a couple years ago - we're dorks). The two big takeaways I had were:

    1. Canada is the only industrialized country that hasn't had a single bank failure - and it's because they didn't deregulate.

    2. To fix the banking/financial industry, we not only need to re-regulate, but the rest of the world has to as well. Otherwise, all the capital will go to the "rogue" (my word) nations with lax/no regulations.

  • (Show?)

    Fareed Zakaria was great. As Patch indicates he spoke a steady stream of insights on global economics and geopolitics, especially stressing how fast the world is changing. Before this global recession, he noted that rapid economic growth was taking place across the globe with, in 2006 and 2007, 124 countries growing at a rate of 4% or more. 2-3 billion people (out of a total global population of 6.4) are rising out of poverty to become middle class.

    This growth in the global middle class has enormous implicatons for Oregon's future. These are our future customers and competitors. This is where 80% of global growth will take place in the decades ahead. If we want to have a dynamic economy in Oregon, we need to figure out how to sell to them.

    One strategic response would be to invigorate foreign language programs in our K-12 schools and universities. Next Friday, 3/20, the Oregon House Education Committee will hold hearings on bills to expand Mandarin programs in Oregon K-12 educational system and to create an Oregon High School Study Abroad Program.

  • Zarathustra (unverified)

    I was never a big fan before- I thought he put too much stock in faiths- but I've been extremely impressed and inspired by his reporting and agitating for sense in the current India/Pakistan crisis. I was thinking that already, when I saw this interview he did with Imran Khan . Before the Sri Lankan attack, many were saying that Pakistani cricket was the key to understanding and talking about the situation, as strange as that sounds, so I really enjoyed seeing FZ choose Pakistan's former Test captain, the "Lion of Pakistan", for the interview. Seriously. Folks that paid attention to the cricket angle where pretty sure, as early as 2005, that Pervez was going to step aside and a period of relative chaos would follow.

    Following on David's point about languages, I would like to see provisions made for the licensing of teachers that would allow for "contractors", effectively. They would be persons with a particular skill, not likely found in a 4 year college grad, and lack the usual education requirements. Not saying shelve those requirements all together, but they could be greatly relaxed for specialty teachers. A Mandarin speaker, with a 4 year college language classes and a 20 year old secondary certificate from Illinois, is qualified to teach a Mandarin class, and much less expensive than hiring someone that majored in that in college. If there's advanced classes, sure, invest in that full-timer. Doing so would also allow districts to be much more flexible and rapidly adaptable as far as curriculum goes as well.

  • Zarathustra (unverified)

    Oops. This was the interview. Bit of a shock, that, expecting Zakaria and getting Richie Benot!

  • LB (unverified)

    You wrote, "There are other industries and products in which the United States hold the majority percentages of the patents. These industries include biotechnology and nanotechnology and they too will play key roles for future industrial enterprises."

    You don't need to be a futurist to see the role biotech and nanotech will play. However, the point about patents is an important one. Corporations have patented life forms. They have patented life forms.

    Corporations are given collective privileges while taking away individual responsibility - the individual repercussions for violating the rights of others. They often steal the patents for lifeforms from indigenous communities. The question remains, will corporations control these technologies or will this process become open source. Already, the open source software movement has taken. Now we are seeing blossoming open source movements including open source hardware, open source ecology, and even open source sewing movements.

  • Dil Mirch (unverified)

    Revoke corporate personhood!

  • Harry Kershner (unverified)

    Just as the Pentagon budget has been the prime mover of wealth to the rich from the rest of us, so it is now with biology-based industry. This has nothing to do with "free markets".

    "...funding has been shifting to NIH (National Institutes of Health). Why? Because the cutting edge of the economy is becoming biology-based. So, therefore, the state sector is shifting its priorities to developing biology-based industries. All of this is going on with accolades to the Free Market. You don't know whether to laugh or cry." ("If the U.S. Carries Out Terrorism, It Did Not Happen")

  • Jiang (unverified)

    " ("If the U.S. Carries Out Terrorism, It Did Not Happen")

    Look at the Zacharia still happening.,

    I love the quote from "Alice in Wonderland", "when you don't know where you're going, all paths lead there".

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)

    A good rule of thumb: Be skeptical about anyone with a prominent platform in the corporate media. If you agreed with Zakaria in 2002-2003 during the run-up to the war on Iraq, you would have been in favor of that disaster.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)

    Try a Google for "fareed zakaria israel" for interesting results.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)

    Search Media Matters for "Fareed Zakaria" and you'll get mixed results. Some complimentary and some negative. Other searches for Zakaria were similarly mixed.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)

    My impression of Zakaria is that he is intelligent, well-educated, and well-meaning, but like Thomas Friedman, he is an unrelenting fan of globalization. I believe that globalization, as practiced, is dominated by corporate interests to the detriment of workers, environmental quality, and national sovereignty.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)

    My impression of Zakaria is that he is intelligent, well-educated, and well-meaning, ...

    which could mean he is a member or our current crop of the Best and the Brightest.

  • (Show?)

    I have to confess, I'm a bit jealous of those who got to go to hear Zakaria's speech. Patch, I think I probably would have ended up going alone as well as my I'm in the same boat as you.

    Being here in Korea, I missed out on that one. I did get my hands on The Post-American World (one of the perks of working at a university is at least being able to get your hands on some decent books through publishers) and am almost finished with it.

    My take on his book is that he does a good job of laying out how economic and world events are changing the way the US is viewed.

  • Patrick Story (unverified)

    I have heard more than once that at the time Bush/Cheney were selling the Iraq war, FZ was in on the plan to sell it at the same time he was posing in public as an objective observer. Can anyone verify this or lay it to rest?

connect with blueoregon