Turning Points

I’m listening to the audiobook “Upheaval: Turning Points for Nations in Crisis” by Jared Diamond. Diamond talks at length about the decisions around turning points in his own life and their parallels with those changes in governments and societies. And Fall is when I start thinking about turning points in my life.

A few tidbits of insight in Diamond’s “Upheaval” penetrated my meat neural network and percolated out into a dramatic internal epiphany about the turning point our country begain experiencing over the past 10 years and is likely to reach a climax next year at this time. I’m hopefully confident that society will step back from the brink of division and authoritarianism and follow the lead of Finland and Germany rather than those of Chile under Pinnochet.

> "I am an optimist. It does not seem too much use being anything else."
>                                        --Winston Churchill

I was struck by the heartfelt appology of Patricio Aylwin at the war crimes trial of Pinnochet’s henchmen and generals. In November 2020, we can only hope to be as fortunate as Chile was when they elected Aylwin. Aylwin was elected with only slightly more than 50% of the vote and 40% of voters still supported Pinnochet. I imagine that when we elect a Democrat to the Whitehouse in 2020, we’ll a similar level of continuing support for our own sociapathic president.

Aylwin’s example shows how our next leader can be most effective with a humble, moderate, and circumspect view of one’w own capability and practical awareness of the views and of others. He pleaded for clemency for those that he’d opposed – those that had threatened him with torture and assassination. Even with murderous, genocidal leaders, Aylwin was able to swallow his own ethics and values and do what was best for the country to help bring them together and return Chile to the liberal democratic path.

Of Diamond’s deep list of insights is the realization that successful countries, companies and individuals have exceptional adaptability and practicality when faced with outside forces that limit or threaten their core values. Historically they demonstrated an ability to understand and negotiate with those with oposing views and values.


Imagine how emotionally politically difficult it would be for the prime minister of Finland to negotiate with the Communist Soviet Union about core liberal democracy values like freedom of the press and impartial judicial system within Finland. They had just lost more than 20% of Finnish male citizens to a war with Russian armies.


In contrast I was struck by the political polarization in the US that developed as they strugged to deal with the economic collapse caused by Salvador Allende, 1 and the sociopathy of Pinnochet who overthrew him. 2 Diamond gives a nod to the parallels with current trends in US politics. He was a charismatic, attractive leader whos government imprissoned, tortured, and murdered more than 1% of the residents of Chile. The descriptions of the horrific torture endured by prisoners reminded me of the recent torture and assination of Jamal Khashoggi. 4 Atricio Elven managed to “overthrow” Pinnochet in a democratic election after the US eventually withdrew support for Pinnochet. 4

Written on October 24, 2019