International cooperation on data protection, a shoe, and a W.C. Fields quote that’s not his

As I started today’s research (further examples of successful cooperation by international organizations), I face planted on the table at Underwood. No, it’s not because I’m exhausted, though the “Seasoned Traveler” set of luggage under my eyes would beg to differ.

As an American, writing in 2017, how do I encourage anyone to do anything about an issue as important as data protection? My country is truly, I don’t care for all the PC-commentary about how we’re a “work in progress,” a mess. We are a great nation. But, just like any Real Housewife on Bravo, we are both great and a mess.

We cannot tie our collective shoe without focusing on 45’s false Tweet about it, the media’s inflated reaction to the lie/Tweet, a further fact check on the Tweet, a week’s worth of 45’s lackeys discussing the alternative facts of the Tweet, Sunday morning talk shows deciphering Morse Code from Russian spies about the Tweet, questions regarding whether or not the world needs Twitter, Congressional aides demanding the US live Tweet during TTIP negotiations…remember the shoe?

It needs to be tied. And, I’m not proud of this, the US can be the first country to a) distract IOs from the shoe and b) burn the shoe to avoid compromising on how to tie it. Problem there? You step on glass, have no shoe, and you bleed. A lot.

“If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit” used to be a clever quote by W.C. Fields, right? No and no. First, it’s not just a clever quote now, it’s used to wash away sins and make a joke about things like a presidential administration. But, more importantly, it’s not even a W.C. Fields quote and that’s not the quote. “Well, if I can’t dazzle them with my brilliance, I baffle them with my bull.” That’s the quote and no one seems clear on to whom we should attribute it.

As I’m reading the heavy and lofty Constitutions, Conventions, and Mandates establishing these bulwarks (WTO, WIPO, the UN, NATO, etc.), I see it – greatness. They were created and established for greatness. Through absolutely no fault of their own, unless you consider the members themselves at fault, these organizations are baffled by the bull these days.

I have no idea how to get them to focus on my little shoe. But, I know this…they can focus on my little ballet flat now or they’ll have to focus on a cowboy boot the size of Asia later.

Why do the nations so furiously rage?

Studying global relations (law and economics on an international scale) has been full of many lessons I wish every person could learn. Not yet done – but here are just five things I’ve already learned, in Tell-It-Like-It-Is style (i.e. I’m not using fancy phrases, okay, I promise).

  1. There is absolutely no reason for wealthy, developed nations not to get along. There are many excuses (most of which center around the need to “protect” or “isolate” the individual country from the global marketplace), but there are no reasons. In times of plenty, we should not be greedy – we should be gracious. In times of strife, we should not be aggressive – we should be thoughtful. In short? We should work together and base decisions on reason – not emotion. Insert book suggestion: Al Gore’s Attack on Reason.
  2. You are born where you are born, and there’s nothing you can do about that. So, when I have a discussion with one of my colleagues at the Institute as an “American,” I am aware that I am not a superpower. I was merely lucky enough, and I was very lucky, to have been born within the borders of a superpower. We don’t discuss things as countries, we discuss things as humans. We bring our expertise to the table, but the overall discussion is global. What’s good for the world will be good for humanity.
  3. Religion has absolutely no place in when discussing geopolitics. I mean exactly that. The singular reason to discuss religion at all, in serious global discourse, is for the purposes of determining geographical areas of prosecution and intolerance in regard to human rights. There is no place in geopolitics for one’s personal religious beliefs or preferences (coming from a devout Catholic).
  4. Negotiating truly is an art form and this is why. Negotiating needs, at least, two willing and able participants. To be willing to negotiate means one is willing to be vulnerable, humble, and open. To be able to negotiate means one has been given a proxy or authority to do so. Imagine how many times a day world leaders do this without our knowledge? So, if there is hope this can be done countless times every hour, there is hope this can be done (WTO Members, I’m looking directly at you) once a day. Negotiating keeps war, poverty, strife, collapse at bay. It is the entire ballgame, but rests securely on both criteria being fulfilled.
  5. The worst times in Switzerland to hold discussions about international policies are the following: just after lunch, when there is a major news story unfolding, if the sun is shining in the city, if there is snow in the mountains, or if there is no more wine on the table. This leaves a great window: when it is raining, the carafes are full of a good Humagne Rouge from the Valais, and there are men AND WOMEN at the table. This is ideal.

Gotta love Handel and the Bible… They make my point for me.