Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Pride, Logic, and Real Estate

A few years ago I read an article that said that for the amount of money it cost us to fight the war in Vietnam, we could've given every Vietnamese person $3000, and not have lost a single American life. And just think of how far $3000 per person - not per family, but per person - would have gone there.

But there's something about us that thinks it's dishonorable to "bribe" people to do things our way, or that makes us feel that we're condoning blackmail if we pay rather than fight. I'm not so sure about this. I think that $3000 per person would've been a very good idea, and might have earned us a lot of friends very early in the game, instead of the enemies we ended up with.

All of this leads me to think about real estate. Some of the most contested real estate in the world.

The stuff in the Middle East.

Call me incredibly naive, or call me an amazing realist, but I'd like to sit representatives of the Israelis and the Palestinians together in one room and ask the Palestinians this very important question:
Is your issue with Israel about real estate, and the just compensation for it, or is it about pride?
The answer to this question is very important. Because if it's really just about real estate, this whole thing can be settled in a few days with the writing of a couple of million large checks. But the cynic here suspects that as much as the Palestinians may say that it's about the land that was unfairly taken from them when they "abandoned it" (as the Israelis might say), it's more about pride and still wanting to drive the Israelis to the sea, no matter how much money they had to offer.

It's as if we were actually smart enough to offer $3000 to every Vietnamese man, woman, and child, and they turned it down.

I think about the borders drawn in the divvying up of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I. Borders that have caused nothing but trouble, because they weren't really based on the ethnic and cultural realities of the region, but on what Europeans thought would be a good idea for themselves. I think about borders that have been the backdrop for conflict after conflict ever since; and may well be considered the continuing battles of World War I.

And I wonder why Florin can't just offer Guilder so much money to buy the contested land once and for all, without a shot being fired?

The answer, of course, is pride. They would rather spend even more money, and lives, to try to seize the land "for free" than just peacefully buy it outright.

And if they could do this, if they could just buy the contested land from the other country, and didn't have to spend money on soldiers and weapons, maybe they could put their remaining funds to use on making life better for their own citizens.

Ah, too often pride gets in the way of logic.

Logic which would allow them to live long and prosper.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

I'm Back!

I’m back!

So where have I been all this time? Nowhere really. Right here where I’ve always been.

So then, why haven’t you heard from me in a long time?

The simple answer is that I just got too busy. Life got too complicated, there was too much for me to try to do, and not enough hours for me to get it done in. A 30-hour day would come in very handy for me.

Add to that the fact that I’m very fussy about what I write, and you can see where I’d have a bit of a problem on my hands.

Really, you have no idea how long it takes for me to write a 600-word piece. Oh sure, the ideas pop into my head like you wouldn’t believe. I’ve got a list a mile long of possible topics for this blog. But getting each topic down to 600 well-written words…well, that’s another story. I agonize over every sentence I write, because I want to get it just right. Especially when people compliment me on how well I write. With that kind of pressure on you, you can’t afford to put out a piece of dreck.

But I’m back! I’ve got a lot to say, and I’m gonna work hard on getting a new piece out every Tuesday. I suppose this means sitting down for an hour every Wednesday with no one around to disturb me. [cue laughter]. Who knows, maybe over a weekend or two (or a school break), I can even stockpile items to be posted automatically later on. That would be great.

Well, for now I guess just around 300 words is enough. But believe me, next week you’ll start hearing from me again in earnest.

And I can’t stress enough the importance of being earnest.