Age and Politics.

I suppose it’s inevitable for a guy obsessed with the military, I’ll end up in the political science realm.

Geopolitics is an inherently interesting subject. After all, it is the dissection and discussion of how countries operate and interact with each other.

We all know about some of the most famous failures in geopolitics such as World War 1 and World War 2 and the most intriguing and large scale instance of “what if” in the Cold War.

As a direct result of the Cold War, like so many others, I think that is probably the most influential war in shaping how countries view each other and is probably the reason why political science exists as a subject today.

I’m not a political science major by any means (my main subjects in university was journalism and a bizarre choice in marine biology) but I have noticed that with age, I’ve become more invested in geopolitics and the study of how countries wage war or peace with each other.

I mentioned how I thought that an interest in the military propelled me to this newfound interest, but in all honesty, it is probably a multitude of reasons.

The military is obvious, because since 2001, I’ve made it a habit to study the Middle East region as much as possible. I know the ins and outs of that region, as much as anyone with a working internet connection can gather. In particular, the war I’ve been most fixated on is Afghanistan. I’ve researched that country to a nauseating degree.

When you’ve studied the Middle East conflict as much as I have, you soon start to form a less-than-flattering picture of American foreign policy and while you acknowledge a less “shackled” country would have made a bigger mess than the Yanks, you still wish Uncle Sam did a much better job than he did in the decade long conflict.

Did they learn nothing form the Soviets or Vietnam?

Geopolitics and the military go hand in hand. It’s the reality for any soldier. The politicians point, the soldier aims.

So the military connection is obvious. But what other reasons do I have for getting more political?

Age is one of them, as are my personal theories on relationships and my journalism course.

I’m going to take the time to delve into each of these reasons, because I want to understand why I am suddenly so invested in geopolitics and its’ science.

Like all hobbies, it started off with a slow, but burgeoning interest. My curiosity, starved of its’ journalistic outlet, still wanted to be kept up to date with the world. I’m a man who like to be kept abreast of things that happen. Whether it be a hurricane in Japan or a peace treaty formed in the African continent, I like to be aware.

I don’t really have many friends who are interested enough in these things (due to age, which I will touch on later) to discuss with, but despite my lack of ability to discuss the news, I still keep up with them.

To look at my social feed, is to be inundated with news. The only thing that breaks up the constant influx of news from multiple news sources, are my interests in cars and F1.

But everyday, I do my best to read the headlines, and be aware of certain issues, social or political.

Now, as a former journalist, I am not stupid enough to believe everything I read or digest all this horrible news without some type of introspection. After all, I’ve worked and studied in the business.

I am fully aware that modern news companies are corrupted by their business models and that a lot of it nowadays is sensationalised and contain some inherent form of bias.

But I should keep up with the news. It is important to me to do so, because in looking at the issue itself, not the author, I can then spark my curiosity to search for other sources and opinions on the issue.

It is just good, common and logical practice that you always search up other sources on the issue, before coming to your own conclusion. The news may be full of crappy opinions and hyperbole, but the issue itself will always be important.

Which links me back to geopolitics. My favourite section of the newspaper has always been the World columns. I love reading about what is happening outside of Australia, because local news is inherently dull.

We have it so good here, that we can call our Prime Minister a dickhead, and not get arrested immediately. Our governments can have multiple failures in the environmental and infrastructure sector and no one really bats an eye. Australians literally have the freedom to fuck up and no one is asking them to quit or be decapitated on the spot.

Thus, I’d rather read the World columns, because other countries do not have such luxuries. Other governments can’t just shrug off huge natural disasters like we can here. This “drama” is what I believe led to the media’s insane focus on Donald Trump and his actions. The man couldn’t even walk down from his plane without intense scrutiny.

Everyday during his presidency, the Australian media outlets were laser-focused on every single minutiae of Trump’s life. America’s drama dominated so much of the news that local and other regions of the world suffered huge knowledge gaps.

To me, the most interesting parts of the Trump coverage was how he handled America’s allies and enemies. The geopolitics aspect of Trump’s presidency is fascinating. He lacked any of the nuance or subtleties of his predecessors. He insulted allies, slept with enemies and cursed America’s greatest antagonists.

What isn’t there to study during the Trump administration?

And if I am to study the effects of his presidency, it wasn’t going to be from news sources, with their surface level coverage.

I had to delve deeper into academia and lecturers whose sole purpose is to study these phenomena.

This is where my interest start to really develop.

What started as a passing interest in the world, soon became an insatiable desire to learn about certain countries as much as possible.

I have devoured hundreds of TED Talks, university lectures and Q&As. My library is now starting to expand beyond hundreds of crime thrillers to include more political science books and non-fiction.

Strange as it may seems, I’ve always loved this aspect of warfare. The geopolitics of it all. How assets, equipment and politics and

In a lot of ways, I think I would be both an ideal and highly troublesome soldier. To follow orders blindly, isn’t something that I do very well. I always take a second to critically analyse and dissect any command that is directed at me. It’s my inner Sherlock Holmes who won’t shut up and will never take anything at face value.

So if we are going to invade a country, I got to have a strong motive to do so. I need to understand why there is conflict.

This brings me to my personal theories on relationships. I’m not a serial dater or lover. In my entire 28 years on this planet, there have only been 2 women that I’ve loved and am loving. But judged on those relationships and the many friendships I’ve made over the years and my own interaction with random people, I’ve established a lot of theories.

Key of which, is that you don’t start fights with people you know for one reason.

Yes, there are always accounts of random acts of violence but not against people you know.

And in today’s globalised world, there are no countries that you haven’t talked to at least once, no neighbour you haven’t had serious discussions with and no treaty you haven’t signed knowing you’ve made a friend and an enemy at the same time.

Ideology, Security, Technology and Resources all play a huge part in shaping how countries view each other and are defined by each other.

To say that a country invades another for “land expansion” doesn’t make sense anymore in today’s world. This isn’t 1914, when Europe carved up Africa into territories for their own personal gain. Imperialism isn’t a viable nor legitimate reason for invasion.

The Cold War proved that. Superpowers aren’t taking over countries and making them part of their homeland anymore. Borders are still respected and sovereignty acknowledgement is still a crucial part of diplomacy and alliance formation.

After all, being part of the “Soviet Bloc” didn’t mean you were now Russian. You are just an ally of Russia, just like being part of NATO doesn’t make you any more American than some Queenslander holding an M4A1 gel blaster with a Texas flag on his airsoft gear.

Political ideology and crucial resources are now the major factors behind an invasion or “incursion” into a foreign country. Anyone who thinks the Iraq War was all about “security” for the American people, must be truly naive. It wasn’t just about security concerns, real or not, it was also about obtaining and securing crucial resources and spreading American democratic ideals to a country, whether they wanted it or not.

That is what geopolitics is about. Weighing up key factors and concerns, on multiple fronts, when dealing with other countries. It is what makes it so multifaceted and fascinating. We’ve moved beyond claiming land for ourselves, just because we found it “first” like our predecessors did in the 17th century. Now, we have to consider whether it’s bloody worth the effort or not.

The world is now so much complicated, just like modern relationships. You don’t start a fight with your spouse because they happened to slurp their chicken soup too loudly.

No, the fight started because there have been months, even years of resentment building up to that moment.

You’ve always hated how they eat with their mouths open, how they ignore your feelings on the plight of your favourite football team, forgotten your anniversary two years ago or are constantly on the phone when you are together.

It is no different in the geopolitical world.

Countries have always been envious of another’s success politically, their incredible squandering of food. They are sick of their bigger, more powerful neighbour’s self-righteousness over how you police your people or their destructive celebrity influence in your country.

It’s just the stakes are so much bigger. More people are going to die from a bad foreign policy than your parental rights over your child. So there’s less slapping, arguing and punching. Just more summits, economic sanctions and hacker farms disrupting your infrastructure.

No matter the scale though, motives are always complex.

Motives have always been my favourite part of any investigation, whether it’s me being a nosy journalist or an amateur sleuth, reading a stranger. Motives are what make dramas compelling, relatable and realistic. They help showcase what is important to the person or country and reveals a lot about their character and situation.

With so much of my young adult life dominated by fictional crime and personal motivations, I think as I’ve gotten older, I find myself interested in more complex world matters and rationales.

This brings me to the true topic of what I want to discuss.

Age and politics.

It took me a pandemic to realise, but suddenly everyone around me gives a fuck about politics. It is all they talk about. Constant discussions about the local government’s heavy-handed approach to COVID, arguments over Trump’s policies, questions about Israel, damnation over Syria, praise towards Russia, insults directed Scott Morrison, fear over China … the list goes on and on.

It took me surprise because normally this discussion is seldom brought up at the dinner table or in casual conversation.

Then it struck me, as you get older, you really do become that old curmudgeon that whines and bitches about how crap the world has become, when it reality, it’s more or less the same, you’re just more aware and letting the world define you.

Age, when left unchecked without introspection, can really creep up on you and define you in ways you never wanted to.

I remember when I was young, I swore off politics. I could see the damage and effects it had on people older than me. Everyone from my father to his proteges and associates were all wrapped in the embrace of politics.

It’s hard not to be. Leaders create a circle around them, that invites politics in. Especially for an honourable man who has to listen to his advisors and friends before making any decision.

A democracy creates politics. Everyone’s voice must be heard, acknowledged and respected.

Even if they’re a fucking idiot.

I didn’t recognise it when I was young, but any leadership role I took on, I made sure it was the inverse of what I saw in my older peers.

I was your typical military dictator, through and through.

Wider context and information was withheld on a “need-to-know” basis. Orders were barked and expected to be fulfilled to a satisfactory extent. I generally disregarded a lot of other people’s opinions, unless it came to their job. There, I allowed a small discussion about the most efficient way of getting what I wanted done.

It worked. Tasks got done at a speed comparable to light, and I loved the thrill of achieving a lot, in such little time. I loved the efficiency of it all. Doling out “homework” to everyone with a due date, was brilliantly useful, and gave everyone a real sense of progress and accomplishment.

The only problem, was that the key to it all, rested on my shoulders. I took sole responsiblity for all the homework handed out and was the solution provider for many people’s problems. My style stifled initiative and problem solving.

But that is the price you pay in a dictatorship. Efficiency above freedoms. People aren’t individuals. They’re tools to be used, and discarded if they aren’t effective at the job.

What I loved though, was the lack of internal politics. Everyone knew the pecking order and their role. They didn’t need to butt in other portfolios or inject their opinions on stuff that didn’t matter to them. Being placed in a box, meant a lot of people thrived and could do their job properly.

They didn’t need to care about anything else.

So, even as a leader, I wanted to ensure that people weren’t political.

My one rule has always been extremely professional and ego free.

I don’t care what background you have, or what trauma you’ve experienced. Just do your fucking job and be respectful to everyone else around you.

I suppose this anti-political dissent approach has served me relatively well. My festival team are some of the most capable, loyal and brilliant event programmers that have risen through experience not study. My work colleagues generally appreciate that I do more work than they do, leaving them free to experience life, whilst I am confined to a paid prison.

That anti-political stance has been suffused through most of my life too. I dislike watching politician speeches. I cringe when I think about my government. All I can see are the failures, despite the inner voice telling me that the government could be a lot worse.

I just avoid political discussion and always try to maintain a centrist viewpoint. I don’t even like voting. I’ve learned a long time ago, that no matter what colour or party they call themselves, the cesspit is still the cesspit.

Shades of grey. One during election year just happens to be platinum in comparison to the charcoal of the other. Lots of empty promises and slow incremental change, for better or worse. It doesn’t seem to matter whether the government operates for the god or bad of the country, one thing is certain … the leader’s circle and the thousands of sub-circles beneath them, make the government move quite slowly.

This is disheartening to someone like me, who prefers their change to operate at FTL, instead of km/h.

The term “Glacial pace” is both amusing ironically and unironically, considering how quickly everything is melting but change is slow.

That term, can also be applied to how we grow old. It is steady but sure, accelerated only by the stresses of our time and lives, causing us to burnout quicker.

What is it about the dark depths of politics that enraptures us so? Is it because we want to wrestle power back into our hands? Or does it have something to do about much we seem to lose control of ourselves as we get older?

As you get older, you realise that it’s a lot easier to talk big than get big. Running your mouth about controversial topics and the “old times” is a whole lot easier than maintaining a healthy BMI.

How many of us recall our parents talking wistfully about the old days when they were young, fit and healthy with a big pocket full of change?

How many of us actually see anything result out of this talk? Do they start exercising more? Will they take up old hobbies?

Often it’ll just fizzle out. Too much work. You can’t teach a dog old tricks. But you can definitely suffer that dog’s constant barking about the past.

Politics, at its core, is about promoting your views and ensuring no one else pollute them.

Whether you do so with force, lies, bribery, trickery, genuine heartfelt manipulation or sheer charisma, there’s no denying that this promotion of views, revolves around your dominance of the people around you, positive or negative.

Isn’t that enticing?

As you get weaker physically, you can get stronger verbally.

You can impress your views on the younger generation, stun them with your experience, shock them with your opinions and teach them the “truth” behind certain events.

In a lot of ways, politics is impossible to avoid. You have office politics, school politics, genuine internal family politics, and geopolitics. You can be the most apolitical person in the world, but if a country invades yours, you’re involved no matter whether you like it or not.

So if it is impossible to avoid politics with age, then what can we do about it?

Well, I suppose you can get more politically involved. You can find causes that you think are important and champion them. You can argue with people and tell them they’re wrong or backwards. You can correct others on their behaviour and try to claim a moral high ground. You can discuss events overseas and get invested in a conflict.

Or perhaps you can take a more ambivalent and nihilist attitude to politics. You take everything that happens in your stride, keep your opinions to yourself, make a study of what make politics, well, politics and just shrug your shoulders whenever something terrible happens.

At the end of the day, humanity is going to keep on trucking along, making mistakes, doing terrible and wonderful things to one another and the threats that threaten everyone in the world, are the same faced in the past. Is the fiasco currently happening, any different to when another madman designed his plans to take over Europe or a certain Asian warlord took over a continent?

I don’t think either option is particularly good. I’m a firm believer in only taking on a mental and physical load that is comfortable for you. Fighting a crusade against political incorrectness or not giving a shit if another country is suffering a war are both mental exercises that will drain you more than you care to admit.

Instead, choose to maintain situational awareness. Monitor everything. Watch the world move. Be alert to flashpoints, so that you know how it got to that stage. Understanding the build-up to a political disaster is often rewards greater clarity into the actions of both parties.

More importantly, it is a lesson that can help you prevent disasters in the future and apply them into your own smaller scale politics.

Remember, in a fight, no-one is innocent. The blame can be 50-50, 30-70, 60-40 or 99-1. But there is always a tiny bit of blame on the “innocent” victim. Certain demands were not met, respect not given, behaviour not correctly read.

People don’t start fights out of the blue.

Countries, especially, don’t have one cause behind a war. There are always multifaceted reason for every action, especially by a nation.

With understanding, comes introspection. Humanity isn’t exactly original. People in the 17th century probably felt the same way as you do when they beheld a delicious meal or read the news about a crisis overseas.

There’s something reassuring about that isn’t there? That what we experience now, isn’t really any different back then.

A contemporary POTUS speech will still be compared to Pericles’ Funeral Oration.

Politicians today are still the same as they were in ancient Rome. As are dictators and regimes, from ancient Egyptian Kings, to Mongolian Warlords, French Emperors and Russian Tsars.

The world always seem to be one spark away from catastrophe.

There’s a strange comfort also, in our helplessness to do anything about it all. Ordinary people have lived, died and bleed for stranger causes and godlike leaders, but in a way that’s the reality of the situation.

So many of us don’t have the power to enact change like politicians or generals.

So our small political debates and squabbles really don’t amount to much.

All you can do is focus on yourself.

I think that’s the part that so many people miss as they get older. They lack the willpower to continue their own internal growth. So they justify it by latching onto other causes. By talking big game, instead of proving it with actions.

When you’re young, your body grows with your mental strength.

You can still do so, as your get older.

Being fit and intelligent means that everyday you have to fight against the effects of decay.

It takes discipline to watch what you eat, work-out, be up to date with the news, form cohesive thoughts and expand your learning.

In a world that is forever changing, yet simultaneously making the same mistakes of the past, that’s all you can really do.

Be disciplined. Be alert. Be better.

Age isn’t a substitute for wisdom.

~ Damocles.

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