Can Arnold and Jerry save the world? – Tap Telegram
I must grow old. Jerry Brown is starting to make sense to me. Arnold Schwarzenegger looks like an international statesman.
And following the advice of the governors of California now seems to be the best course for humanity.
It’s unlikely that two ex-governors – one known for his head-scratching aphorisms, the other for his silly talk – are now the global voices of reason. It also makes sense, in a perverse way. As the world goes mad and sets itself on fire, where better to turn to wisdom than crazy, flammable California?
Brown and Schwarzenegger’s rises to sage status reflect how California, the world’s fifth-largest economy, functions as its own country, with its governor serving as America’s second president. California governors are a fourth branch of the US government, employing state regulations and laws to control the president, Congress, and the courts.
When California governors leave office, they retain high profile but carry less political baggage than presidents, whose shortcomings are obsessively covered by our polarized media. They use notoriety in a very Californian way, mixing nostalgic references to their own personal stories with dreams of a more peaceful future. Rejecting the knee-jerk right-and-wrong moralism of American politics, common cause with rivals and enemies – the kind of stubborn inclusion that best represents the Californian idea.
Schwarzenegger’s last statement was a short video urging President Putin to stop the war in Ukraine. But the former governor also rejected the increasingly commonplace American condemnation of all things Russian. Instead, speaking in English with Russian subtitles, he drew on his own history of making friends and making films in Russia to express his affection for the country and its people.
The most powerful and heartbreaking moment in the video came when Schwarzenegger spoke directly to Russian soldiers about his father, an Austrian policeman who fought with the Nazis in World War II.
“The Russian government lied not only to its citizens but also to its soldiers,” he said. “When my father arrived in Leningrad, he was excited by the lies of his government. When he left Leningrad he was broken, physically and mentally. He lived the rest of his life in pain – the pain of a broken back, the pain of the shrapnel that always reminded him of those terrible years, and the pain of the guilt he felt.
“To the Russian soldiers listening to this broadcast…I don’t want you to be broken like my father.”
As Schwarzenegger shot hearts, Brown hammered heads.
In a remarkable essay published this month in The New York Review of Books, Brown challenged US calls for greater confrontation with China.
He began by defining the past 20 years as a time of war and suffering unleashed by the United States, killing more than 900,000 people, displacing tens of millions and costing US$8 trillion.
“One would assume that such disastrous results, and the ignominious end to the war in Afghanistan last year, would lead to a period of reflection and introspection,” Brown wrote. “Yet no such investigation has taken place – at least not one that fully addresses the shocking self-deception, pervasive misinterpretation of events and powerful groupthink that led to the longest war in American history.”
Brown pointed to books by “think tank scholars and Defense Department insiders,” like Elbridge Colby’s The Strategy of Denial, to promote even more conflict that increases the chances of a catastrophic war between the China and the United States. These include greater military competition and “selective nuclear proliferation” (in Colby’s formulation) towards friendly countries.
The ex-governor, who heads the California-China Climate Institute, a Berkeley-affiliated think tank, is lucid about the Chinese government’s many sins. But Brown argues forcefully that confrontation will only make things worse.
“Presenting the Chinese threat as irredeemably antagonistic, as many ‘political realists’ currently do, misses the reality that the two countries – to prosper and even to survive – must cooperate as much as compete,” he said. writing.
Brown instead argued for vigorous engagement with China that focuses on disaster prevention. He calls this strategy “planetary realism… an informed realism that confronts the unprecedented global dangers caused by carbon emissions, nuclear weapons, viruses and disruptive new technologies, all of which cannot be addressed by a single country.”
This powerful argument should have added weight coming from someone who has spent four terms governing California, a state notorious for its disasters.
The world needs Brown and Schwarzenegger to continue advising us all. This is a role that past presidents used to fill. But that was before Bill Clinton was sidelined by his foundation’s lack of transparency, before George W. Bush became a painter, before Barack Obama embarked on a bizarre narcissistic adventure with Bruce Springsteen and before Donald Trump attempted a coup.
So maybe it’s time for our last two governors to team up. They complement each other, the Philosopher-Nerd and the Muscleman-Movie Star. Their wise interventions may well save the world from itself.
Joe Mathews writes the Connecting California column for Zócalo Public Square.