“There has never yet been a man in our history who led a life of ease, whose name is worth remembering.”- Theodore Roosevelt
“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.” Ronald Reagan
“It is difficult to free fools from the chains they revere.” Voltaire
“The only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history.” German philosopher Friedrich Hegel
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” George Santayana
“Without memory, there is no culture. Without memory, there would be no civilization, no society, no future.” Elie Wiesel
(Day 72 of the federal guidelines for social distancing)
This week is a momentous one of remembering for me. Memorial Day can easily become little more than a day of barbecue and picnics if we are not careful. Forgetting is easy, but remembering requires hard work. The problem is, we forget at our own peril. Remembering requires discipline, structured thinking, and self-awareness.
We generally begin our thinking processes by making assumptions about what is, and what is not. Without the fuel of our memories, or the substance of history to inform us, or to make sense out of life for us, we are nothing more than a listing ship without a rudder, adrift on the open sea of the days ahead, without direction or the ability to propel ourselves forward.
Remembering is extremely important in the area of global security and risk management. Everything we do to aid our practice of better security management stands on the shoulders of those who have walked before us. Every threat that we assess emerges from the shadows of previous attacks. Remembering is essential if we are to keep our families, companies, and communities safe from looming crises.
Memory is the foundation of culture and identity. Our enhanced capacity for memory is what separates us from all other living creatures. Identity is rooted in knowing and remembering our origin and history, whether it be that of an individual, a family, an institution, a country, or even a religion. In addition, identity and meaning are strengthened when we gather and share our stories.
The earth, its many nations, and its 7 billion people all face a vast and sometimes overwhelming array of threats, an increasing number of which are existential. These threats are not necessarily new. Each and every one of them stand on the basis of previous threats. Knowing the stories of these threats makes us better equipped to deal with the realities of the crises that are certain to be ahead of us. What kinds of threats exist in the world today to which we should pay attention? These threats include:
- International multi-nation wars, such as are in Syria and Libya today.
- Internal or civil wars (e.g. the current conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which has led to millions of military, guerrilla and civilian deaths)
3. Genocide and large-scale human rights abuses (e.g. Darfur, Rohingya Muslims, Christians in Africa)
4. National and international terrorism (e.g. ISIS attacks, la Qaeda resurgence, Boko Haram in Africa
5. Paramilitary groups and criminal organizations that can facilitate terrorist strikes (e.g. the IRA, FARC, and right-wing extremist groups in the US)
6. The proliferation of nuclear, radiological, chemical and biological weapons
7. Pandemic threats due to infectious diseases (e.g. the 1918 – 1919 flu pandemic, SARS, MERS, H5N1 strain of avian flu pandemic and the current coronavirus pandemic)
8. Other widespread diseases, especially AIDS/HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria
9. International financial instabilities, such as the 2008-2010 financial crisis. The current pandemic created the global financial crisis
10. Protectionism, especially the EU Common Agricultural Policy and Chinese subsidies for crops and minerals that have had devastating effects on developing nations and their populations
11. Global climate change, global warming, and other environmental threats
12. Natural disasters, including earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, tornados, and tsunamis
13. Poverty, hunger, and malnutrition
14. Imbalance of energy supply and demand, particularly with the emergence of nations such as China and India as major demanders of energy
15. Failed and failing states.
16. The growing threat of cybersecurity
These are just a few of the global threats to which all heads of corporations, families, and governments ought to be paying attention. We all need to be reminded that we cannot sit on our laurels of yesterday and not consider deeply the root causes and implications of each of these global threats.
Only by remembering and studying the past will we be able to make heads or tails of current realities, as we reach for solutions to this day’s current threats. A day such as Memorial Day ought to serve as a clear reminder that we do not live in a vacuum. Many have gone before us, and have made enormous sacrifices. Some tried and failed. Others tried and succeeded.
We need to, not only content ourselves with the successes of our predecessors but to study their failures as well. Learning about the failures of the process is as important as learning about the successful outcomes of their contemporaries. We will soon discover that with every failure or success there is always an element of more than meets the eye. It is not enough to see what glares in front of us. We need to look deeper, beyond the din of presumptive facts into the shadows where reality often lives, beyond the scope of our casual eyesight.
Holidays like Memorial Day remind us of the wisdom of living in the present moment, while not getting stuck in the past. I also know that we can become “stuck in the present’ when we fail to remember how much our present, identity, and culture are each shaped by our history. Memorial Day weekend provides us with the perfect chance to balance both the present and the past.
The coming days will be fraught with un-before-thought-of realities, or so they may appear. Without a measure of global security competency, every tragic occurrence will seem like a unique event. We will soon discover that every terrorist attack, along with every jihadist threat has its inception in a historical precedent. If we learn from historical accounts, we will be forearmed to handle the inevitable crises that loom on our horizon.
As you read this, many will turn to 9/11 and point to the tragedy of the Trade Towers as a unique event that was unforeseen, because it had never happened before. What most will fail to see however, is that New York’s World Trade Center held iconic status for terrorists even before 9/11. Shortly after noon on Feb. 26, 1993, a bomb planted in a van parked in the center’s underground parking garage exploded, killing six people and wounding more than 1,000, the 9/11 report said. “The bombing signaled a new terrorist challenge, one whose rage and malice had no limit,” the 9/11 report said. “Ramzi Yousef, the Sunni extremist who planted the bomb, said later that he had hoped to kill 250,000 people.” Yes, even a catastrophic event such as 9/11 had its historical precedent.
Become informed. Maximize your decision-making capacity as a leader by becoming a better reader. Being a better reader is not simply about reading more. It is about learning to broaden the scope of your reading, resisting the temptation to just follow a consistently singular line of thought.
1. Get your news from multiple reliable resources.
Be judicious in obtaining information by using social media. Here are a few relatively reliable websites that could help us wade through the myriad of facts. They may not be perfect, but they attempt to discern the truth, within their own limited worldview.
2. Value primary resources.
A primary resource is essentially a person speaking strictly for themselves or giving an account of their own experience. A secondary resource is someone’s interpretation of the events or a person’s character. Even if you don’t like certain groups or individuals, your position or argument is stronger if you at least understand how they describe themselves first, without anyone else’s spin on it.
3. Avoid resources with obvious biased language.
A news article should be able to clearly get right to the point. The moment they use euphemisms, slurs, nicknames, or any other indication of bias, this resource might not be good enough.
4. Be willing to unlearn some things.
It’s hard to unlearn what you have been taught for a long time, but it is a great opportunity for growth. As a human being, you are allowed to change your mind or to shift your worldview as many times as you want. Having to re-learn doesn’t mean you’re a bad person or that you’re wishy-washy. It may mean giving up false information or assumptions. It’s not a fun process but it means that you will be more perceptive to more factual information and that you will likely be exposed to more viable solutions.
5. Set thought out boundaries.
Part of being open to all kinds of viewpoints means setting boundaries. Otherwise, it’ll feel like drinking from a firehose. It can be detrimental to your mental health if you’re exposed to the news 24/7. Commit to an hour of research a day, for example. If you find harmful resources, block them, or unfollow them so you spend your time reading neutral, constructive information.
6. Avoid the urgency of the 24/7 news cycle.
You have heard the phrase “scooping the competition.” “Scooping the competition” can often mean that the writer may not have taken the requisite effort to dig into a subject deep enough to get a full picture of what actually happened. We see explosive news stories every day. We almost always need to wait for more information to avoid claiming something we may regret.
We have instant access to other people’s opinions but that doesn’t mean we have to offer or pass along that instant opinion on a matter. Your analysis of a problem will be more logical and credible if you ponder all the information and calmly form an opinion.
7. Challenge commonly held myths and misunderstandings about the world and human societies. The things we think we know and even information that sounds reasonable isn’t always true.
8. Have hope in something.
If there is a problem, there is always a solution. There’s always a way out. Some problems are more complicated than others, but it’s worth it to try. Part of solving real human problems is to take steps towards a better future. Have hope that you can make a difference, even if your actions aren’t public or grandiose.
NATO allies alarmed, annoyed by US Open Skies exit… https://www.dw.com/en/nato-allies-alarmed-annoyed-by-us-open-skies-exit/a-53540717?mc_cid=7052129802&mc_eid=5c234a7378
Tanker carrying gasoline from Iran reaches Venezuela, defying U.S. sanctions… https://globalnews.ca/news/6979643/iran-venezuela-tankers/?mc_cid=7052129802&mc_eid=5c234a7378
For your comments or questions about any of our digests please feel free to write to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org