Win-Win:The New Cultural Silk Road

Multiple Cultures, One Path to Progress

November 22, 2017  National Arts Club

"First, I would like to welcome you all to our luncheon and our discussion today. Hopefully our time together over these few hours can result in The topic that I have chosen to speak about: “Win/Win: The New Cultural Silk Road: Multiple Cultures, One Path of Progress.” It’s slightly long title, but it contains an important idea, which should be discussed far more frequently and thoroughly. That idea is, how does the world become MORE culturally enriched either as a result of, or in some cases despite the results of rapid economic growth?

How do we develop a new culture of economic progress?  Why do we need this? We have seen the tragic contradictions of affluence juxtaposed with despair in areas of the trans-Atlantic world, where large groups of youth are dissidents. They ought to be the dynamic engine of a bright future; instead they're feared as the primary instruments of terror and destruction.  There's exists clearly a Culture of War. This everyone knows. But there's not a Culture of Peace. There's an aspiration toward peace, but despite the work in the twentieth century of Gandhi, of Martin Luther King, no such culture of peace exists. I would like to suggest that the true name of peace is PROGRESS. 

The true name of peace is progress and that the path of progress goes through the land of Classical Culture—that of China, of Greece, of India, of Africa above and below the Sahara, and of Europe. I would propose that the United States, a very young country, yet has the oldest and most successful continuous constitution and republican form of government, and the scientific and technological progress witnessed in Kennedy‘s famous Apollo space program shows that war need not be the primary engine for science.

Some people claim that the space program was primarily a war between the United States and Russia, At American University, and in his September 20 1963 speech at the United Nations, President Kennedy departed from that idea, when he proposed at the UN general session that there be a joint Russian American mission to the moon. He said:

“Finally, in a field where the United States and the Soviet Union have a special capacity-in the field of space—there is room for new cooperation, for further joint efforts in the regulation and exploration of space. I include among these possibilities a joint expedition to the moon. Space offers no problems of sovereignty; by resolution of this Assembly, the members of the United Nations have foresworn any claim to territorial rights in outer space or on celestial bodies, and declared that international law and the United Nations Charter will apply.  Why, therefore, should man's first flight to the moon be a matter of national competition?  Why should the United States and the Soviet Union, in preparing for such expeditions, become involved in immense duplications of research, construction, and expenditure? Surely we should explore whether the scientists and astronauts of our two countries--indeed of all the world--cannot work together in the conquest of space, sending some day in this decade to the moon not the representatives of a single nation, but the representatives of all of our countries.

All these and other new steps toward peaceful cooperation may be possible. Most of them will require on our part full consultation with our allies--for their interests are as much involved as our own, and we will not make an agreement at their expense. Most of them will require long and careful negotiation. And most of them will require a new approach to the cold war--a desire not to "bury" one's adversary, but to compete in a host of peaceful arenas, in ideas, in production, and ultimately in service to all mankind.”

By the year 2050, the most populated continent in the world will no longer be Asia.  It will be Africa. As you know, Africa is a continent that can fit within it, Russia, China and the United States. In 2050, Africa will have one billion people under the age of 18.  Rather than catastrophe as some might suggest, a culture of peace through economic development, a partnership of the 54 nations of Africa with Asia, the Americas and Europe in formulating the blueprint for building this worldwide New Silk Road, can close the door on poverty and war.  It has been done in China and can be done, with African cultural characteristics, in Africa.  Rather than catastrophe as some might suggest, this new cultural dialogue, in which the ideas of scholars such as the Senegalese physicist and historian Cheikh Anta Diop on the Classical language cultures and history of Africa would play a crucial role, could make this new approach to a culture of economic progress one of the greatest opportunities for human development in history.  

Even if that were not the case, clearly the New Silk Road that is the direction of China's interaction with the World will prompt unprecedented cultural exchange which will be moving at hypersonic speed.  A smart education system, for example, can provide the means for truly gifted children all over the planet, to assimilate several world cultures and languages by the time they reach puberty.  (The prospect of deemphasizing fossil fuel transportation systems in favor of building systems of transcontinental high-speed rail, magnetic levitation trains, vacuums train and electric as well as hydrogen cars, means that such a precocious young man or woman from Johannesburg could visit Cairo, London, St. Petersburg and Beijing and return home, in a month long vacation, for relatively little cost. )  Xenophobia, racialism and narrowed regional interest, could be mightily decreased.  Ground breaking scientific inventions and moral precepts could be reproduced.  

The secret to this form of advancement, not merely disrupting civilizations, but upshifting civilization, is to combine the great gifts of the most ancient language cultures with the most advanced sciences. The unity of the two frontier: the frontier of past in the in the forms of great art and poetry, and the frontier of future in the form of discoveries and inventions, frees the human being from dependence on muscle power.  It allows for the convergence of the best in our societies, without a suppression of our traditions and distinctions.  This new Culture of economic progress, represents a new pathway. We are saying that the educated person of 2050 will assume him or herself to be illiterate if he does not have a working knowledge of several ancient and modern languages and familiarity and fluency in the cultures attached thereto.  The successful Chinese experiment of lifting sever hundred million people away from poverty must not only be replicated around the world, a new experiment to incorporate 500 million world citizens into space exploration, research and engineering, will be the new frontier that John F. Kennedy proposed.  

Paraphrasing Alexander Hamilton, "To cherish and stimulate the activity of the human mind by multiplying the objects of enterprise (such as new invention and discoveries), is NOT among the least (is one of the best ways) considerable of the expedience by which the wealth of a nation may be promoted".

Let me conclude by quoting from President John F. Kennedy's speech at the funeral of the poet, Robert Frost, just 28 days before he himself was assassinated on November 22, 1963, of which today is its 54th anniversary:  

"I look forward to a great future for America. A future in which our country will match its military strength with our MORAL restraint.  It's wealth with our WISDOM, its power with our PURPOSE...and I look forward to an America which commands respect throughout the world not only for its strength but for its civilization as well.'"