By Morf Morford
Tacoma Daily Index
There are some basic categories of human existence where there are very few actual “rules”.
Traditionally love and war are the two areas (at least according to pop culture) where standard guidelines do not seem to apply.
But even war does have a few rules.
The International Committee Of The Red Cross (https://www.icrc.org/en/war-and-law) has put together a set of guidelines that most countries of the world have signed onto (whether they live up to them is an entirely different question).
The bottom line is that people have always used, and will presumably always use, violence (in spite of consistent evidence to the contrary) to settle disputes.
And all cultures have, at some times, had the idea that there have to be limits on that violence, if only to prevent wars from descending into barbarity, and especially with current weaponry, the literal end of civilization, if not humanity.
The rules of war generally apply in two areas; protection of non-combatants and (relatively) humane ways of conducting war. Poison gas, for example, widely used in World War I, was banned in World War II.
Technology and the tools (and strategies) of war change continually – as do rules regarding them.
Love, as we see in endless rom-coms or Hallmark specials, has even fewer rules.
But we do expect business and politics to be fair – or at least to operate on a relatively agreed upon set of rules.
A level playing field is one analogy often used.
And may the best person (or product) win.
Those are the basic parameters of both business and politics.
In love, war, business and politics, past isn’t prologue anymore
Perhaps it has always been true, but in our era of technological inter-connection, where virtually everyone has a camera in hand and internet access nearby, if not immediate, there are, as novelists have been proclaiming for decades, no secrets.
There is not always truth, but few if any secrets stay hidden very long.
And in love and war, as well as business and politics, crazy things happen.
Some are semi-predictable, or at least have happened before.
Storms, labor strikes, misunderstandings and conflicts emerge – but in any business, relationship or international dispute, these can be resolved, and, one hopes, prevented in the future.
The situation in Ukraine in March of 2022 is a perfect example.
Ukraine (about the same size as Texas) shares a border, a history and to a large degree, a culture,with its much larger neighbor – Russia.
About a thousand years ago Ukraine was the largest and most powerful state in Europe.
More than 15% of its current (2001 census) population is Russian.
So are Ukrainians and Russians, as Putin put it, “brothers”?
To some degree, yes.
But when you factor in religion, economics and national identity, it gets even more complex.
Will Ukraine be part of the European Union? NATO?
Maybe. Never. Sometime.
Ukraine, once part of the Soviet Union, once (or more than once) independent, subject to German and Russian occupation and essentially self-governing since 1991.
You can see details on the history of Ukraine here: https://www.vanderbilt.edu/olli/class-materials/Summary_of_Ukrainian_history.pdf#.
If Ukrainians and Russians are “brothers, why the need for tanks, missiles and armored vehicles? Being “brothers” by force is no one’s preferred option.
How this situation, like the ultimate messy divorce or family feud, will resolve, is anyone’s guess.
But like every long term relationship fiasco, even when it’s over, it’s not over.
And in the economy we live in
As I write this, two trends are emerging, or at least are in far greater focus, if not dominance than before; homelessness and the prevalence of crime that seems to be hitting every one – especially related to our vehicles.
We don’t expect people we know, even families, to be semi-permanently homeless and we do expect to go about our business without interference or even theft or destruction of our means of transportation.
And we expect businesses to be open and staffed. And to offer the goods and services we have come to expect.
But almost none of that is as true as it was even a few months ago.
And the scale, and speed, and cost of these disruptions in our lives now are boggling – even to the most jaded observer.
Here’s a recent example – a 60,000-ton merchant ship that caught fire last month carrying around 4,000 Lamborghini, Porsche, Bentley, Audi, and Volkswagen vehicles sank in the Atlantic Ocean. You can see the full story here: https://on.wsj.com/3Mfxmai.
In its way, it is a perfect metaphor for our times – 1,000 Porsches and 200 Bentleys on a ship, on fire and adrift and finally sinking in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
A 22 man fire crew attempted to put out the fire, but because of the many electric cars – with explosive batteries – the fire rapidly went beyond their control and became a hazard to all of them.
How many dollars, contracts and dreams sank with those cars?
Who needs a pandemic or a financial crisis when a mechanical fire at sea can cost more jobs and impact more lives than any of us could have imagined just a year or so ago?
There’s an old saying among those who invest in the stock market; above all, the market hates uncertainty.
It is just as true that all businesses hate uncertainty.
As do all those in romantic relationships.
In fact I would argue that every basic premise of civilization rests upon one key principle above all – certainty.
Individual homes, let alone neighborhoods and cities cannot be built without a sense of shared identity and destiny.
The word “civilization” in fact, is an extension of the Latin word “civitas” or “city.”
Home loans or highways or international banking systems cannot exist without a solid sense of certainty.
Business contracts, dynasties, agriculture and marriages cannot exist without a solid sense of certainty.
And certainty itself rests on belief that the system is fair and durable – that a society, an economy, even a family, can, and should, withstand, even prevail in spite of challenges and difficulties that might often seem insurmountable.
Cities and business and even families are built slowly and incrementally on a hesitantly crafted foundation of trust and a simple reliance that what we do matters – and might even matter, and make a difference, a generation – or even far more than a generation – from now.