Srdana Pokrajac, MIB, BSci
During one of my high school history lectures in Croatia—a little more than a decade ago—I was a bit bored and I had scribbled on a piece of paper, among other random thoughts and drawings, “Who can be the president of the world?”
When the history teacher walked by me and saw my question, he gave me a hopeless and worried look saying, “Nobody—it’s impossible.” I have to admit, I was not fully aware of what I meant. I was only 14 at the time and quite clueless about politics. However, all I saw from the media and around me was a lot of suffering, and, after all, in a history class the story that the teacher is telling usually involves some sort of war or conflict that seems to be repeating over the centuries.
Well, it might be impossible that one single person could be a global leader, but what I meant with my question was “Can we have a united world, ruled by peace, with no hate and wars, and with sound global leadership that has as its first interest the well-being and security of civilization as a whole?” (I was also partially getting my education from old music records from the 1960s).
The ongoing and periodically intensifying conflict in the Middle East—ironically (or not) when I was 14 in that history class we were just discussing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—and the current tensions between Russia and Ukraine are really worrisome. Even though so many years have passed since that history class, I still can’t figure out what it is deep in human nature that perpetuates such violence and hatred.
Peace and democracy have become the most important values of our modern (or post-modern, if you will) society. Even though in the Western world we have managed to keep peaceful relationships among “democratic” states, how good of an example are we to the rest of the world? I ask, and I am sure many of you do, “Is it in the interest of current leadership and politicians to actually have worldwide peace, or are people in conflict much easier to manipulate and control?”
In the Price of Civilization, Jeffrey Sachs calls on the United States and explains how Americans can regain their economic strength and most importantly, faith in the leadership of the country. This is important not only from the perspective of having a strong economic power and for the safety of its citizens alone, it is also important because of such a strong influence that the United States has in the rest of the world. Is the United States losing its thought leadership and how can restoring faith in their leadership in-house also influence its reputation in the rest of the world?
Globally we are so interconnected—information technology has helped bring down many borders, at least mentally—and it has helped bring people together in such a way that physical borders between countries seem, in fact, trivial. Sadly, we still act as enemies to each other, and we are scared of each other. How can we have peace if we don’t have trust?
Sachs is calling for sustainability and long-term thinking, and for an environmentally aware and mindful society. However, who is ready for this type of thinking at the moment? The United States and other developed countries might be—and some of them are doing a great job already (think Scandinavian and some European countries). But again, do people touched by conflict in the Middle East, for example, now care about environmentalism? Would they, if their political and economic situation was more stable and safe? How can we get everybody on the same level of readiness and care for humanity?
The Buddhist mindfulness Sachs elaborates on is certainly deep—but God (pun intended) knows what it takes for people to become more mindful and aware of others. Just think of the goal for ISIS (seeking an Islamic State of Iraq and Syria). Sachs’s focus is on the Western world and maybe issues and solutions are a little oversimplified—the United States is after all a bubble of its own kind, where the standard of living is among the highest. It takes a lot of effort to change humans, and I wish Sachs’s book could be a starting point of reflection on a wider scale. The future of the world really depends on every single one of us.
Srdana Pokrajac, born in Croatia, currently lives in San Francisco and is a candidate for an MPA in Sustainable Management at the Presidio Graduate School. She has earned a Masters in International Business from the Hult International Business School, and a Bachelor of Science from the Zagreb School of Economics, and is an advisor to HIP Investor.