My sister has always been stronger than me. I’m the oldest, but she got the take-no-prisoners gene. Her stubbornness left its mark on me. Some good. Some? All I can tell you is we laugh often when retelling the story of how our dad took me to emergency several times when I was a kid with yet another broken bone? Asked by a concern-weary nurse what had happened, Dad replied, “She was playing with her sister.” The nurse tilted her head, raised an eyebrow. “Her sister plays rough.”
I learned a lot of street smarts from my sister. That’s the good part. Overall this kept me safe and gave me the common sense I needed, but had a hard time grasping.
I’ll never have her instincts, but I’ve become less Polly Anna. I doubt she’d agree with that statement. And perhaps you won’t either after you read this blog.
We had lots of fights as kids, each of us trying to assert our will on the other. After all, we each had right on our side. Our mother could only stand so much of this bickering. A resilient, take-no-crap kind of person herself, she would reach a point where she declared enough was enough. She didn’t threaten or scream or lift a finger, although I’m sure there were many times she wanted to. Instead, my mother would sit us down, and calmly explain that we had to fix whatever issue it was. She had some chore lined up for us in case we were unwilling to resolve our differences. We sat together, face to face until we made up. Period. There was no other option.
Now I know that global issues are more complicated than the squabbles of siblings. But why are they? Where does it say it has to be so? No matter how big or small the situation is cooler heads must prevail. This is the 21st century. Have we learned nothing from our past ego-driven, take-the-world-to-the-brink past?
Watching this tit-for-tat approach our world leaders have adopted with Russia over Crimea and the Ukraine, I’m reminded of fights with my sister and I’m embarrassed to see it reflected in our leaders.
“I’m not going to play with you if you don’t let me have that doll.”
“I don’t want to play with you anyway. So there.”
Our governments freeze Russian assets, and implement sanctions and travel bans against them. They do the same in return. We insult each other and decide to go ahead with meetings without them. In other words, shutting them out. We’ll show them. With each perceived slight we get louder, more aggressive. They are not going to push us around. Since when do leaders of the most powerful nations in the world lapse into these playground tactics? What has happened to leadership?
Leaders on all sides need to put their egos aside and start thinking about the consequences of this testosterone fuelled bravado?
These are the most powerful countries in the world, the most powerful people in the world. And they are playing games. Who among them is a true leader? The one who will differ from his or her colleagues and say something sane, such as: why don’t we invite Putin to talk. Let’s see what we can accomplish through diplomacy, discussion. I’m hedging my bets on Angela Merkel, the only female in the G8 boy’s club.
Yes, I realize Russia has asserted itself, maybe in places where it shouldn’t have. But which of the other G8 leaders can claim they haven’t done the same before. We’ve all been there, doing things we’re not proud of. Two wrongs don’t make a right, and equally those who live in glasshouses shouldn’t throw stones.
I apologize for the clichés. I guess I’ve reverted to my own childish state.
My point is: if you’re not at the table, talking, what can you hope to accomplish except escalation? There are no good solutions without discussion. Margaret MacMillan, the Canadian historian makes the same point more eloquently in her March 24th interview in the Globe and Mail. Here’s hoping someone is listening to our historians because our politicians have gone juvenile.
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