Two sides to the (TPP) Trans-Pacific Partnership | Diplomatic Outreach or Corporate Steal

On the 21st of January, in the Southwestern corner of Berlin, Germany, I attended a lecture at the American Academy, an organization created to augment cultural and intellectual relations between the United States and Germany.

The American Academy in Berlin, Germany

The American Academy in Berlin, Germany

It was founded in 1994 by the U.S. Diplomat and Ambassador to Germany at the time Richard C. Holbrook, to encourage a transatlantic dialogue between the U.S. and German corporate, political, academic and cultural communities. This particular talk featured the American diplomat Richard N. Haass, who is the current President of the Council on Foreign Relations for the United States. Haass was formerly Special Assistant to President George H.W. Bush (Sr.).

Haass spoke to a cozy room of diplomats, academics, journalists and students. His talk specifically aligned to foreign policy, outlining some of the points of his recently published book “Foreign Policy Begins at Home”. He stressed that the United States has had an over-reach abroad and under-performance at home. Perhaps suffering, In his opinion, from ‘intervention fatigue’.

Besides emphasizing the need to put diplomacy over military, he also stressed that our current biggest challenge is to come up with a political and intellectual consensus. He mentioned that quality of education is the most important investment. A proponent of ‘investment partnerships’, he prefaced his discussion of global trade agreements by saying that the United States has had a growth of isolationism. He talked of the need to develop partnerships, saying that Asia is the fastest growing region with which the U.S. should specifically concern themselves. With this in mind, he spoke favorably of the TPP as an obvious strategic tool, essential for strengthening ties. The (TPP) Trans-Pacific Partnership is an extension of the 2005 (TPSEP) Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement. As of August 2013, the countries included are: Australia, Brunei, Chile, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam – listed in alphabetical order, not by measure of the implicit hierarchical power structure.

Pacific Rim Countries

His words ‘made perfect sense’ in light of his persuasive argument. Following his talk, the Executive Director of the American Academy, Dr. Gary Smith closed with the profound words that “Ideas Matter” and “Ideas Migrate”. It was the following day that I noticed that quite a different perception of the TPP had migrated into my inbox. 350.org, an environmental action movement, was on ‘high alert’, corresponding with the onset of the 2014 World Economic Forum, fortressed within the mountains of Davos, Switzerland.

World Economic Forum 2014 Davos

World Economic Forum 2014 Davos

Mentioning that though they don’t typically speak out about political affairs, 350.org nevertheless could not disregard the need to send out their timely message ‘the TPP is shaping up to be the worst kind of corporate power grab’ imaginable, with grim repercussions for the earth’s environment. Wikileaks had just leaked documents confirming that the United States TPP negotiating team is walking away from supporting strong environmental safeguards; protections from land use, logging and climate pollution. According to 350.org – an environmental organization and international grassroots movement founded by Bill McKibben aimed to reduce the CO2 emissions to 350 ppm – “the TPP would empower corporations to directly sue governments over laws and policies that they claim would reduce their profits. Legislation designed to address climate change, curb fossil fuel expansion and reduce air pollution, could all be subject to attack as a result of the TPP, cloaked as a free-trade agreement. In response, 350.org assembled an online activist form enabling people to contact their representatives, encouraging them not to support this highly secretive and expansive free-trade agreement between the United States and eleven Pacific Rim countries.

Davos, Switzerland location of 2014 World Economic Forum

Davos, Switzerland location of 2014 World Economic Forum

The World Economic Forum taking place in the secluded mountains of Switzerland, even drew criticism from one of their speakers, referring to the forum’s inherent elitist exclusivity. Kavita Ramdas, stating the ‘Tiny Elite’ Shouldn’t Run an Inequality Discussion’. It was the butt of jokes, by Jon Stewart on Comedy Central’s “the Daily Show”; referring to ‘Mountain Few’ and the ‘Money Oscars’, since Davos is not only elusive (to get to physically) but also exclusive, fabulously expensive.

And an even more scathing and hard-hitting idea migrated into my inbox from the Tomdispatch blog. With respect to the corporate grab, read the Tomgram by Greg Grandin about the “Terror of our Age” and “The Two Faces of Empire”. This view pretty much 180 degrees, diametrically opposed from the U.S. diplomat’s words that first alerted my ears to the TPP.

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Carol Keiter the blogger

Carol Keiter the blogger

Pursuit of Happiness  | IDEA  | Authentic Happiness  |  PERMA | Motion

In my pursuit of happiness, a couple months ago I decided to take a trip. It appeared to be pretty spontaneous, yet I had intended to eventually make this circuit, after having lived for the last 6 years in Europe. I had moved to Barcelona in 2004 and then Berlin, Germany for a second time in 2005. It had been a while since I had physically visited these former communities and friends living there, upon returning to the United States on the eve of Christmas, 2011. My first prompt was to reach San Francisco by the day of the How Weird Street Faire http://howweird.org, which would certainly bring a lot of people together in one place, from among the community of people I knew while living in the ccc warehouse, back in the day when my housemate Brad Olsen had established the first How Weird. En route, I decided that I could visit friends in Taos and Santa Fe, New Mexico, as I made my way to the West coast. I was originally drawn to Taos, a high desert town not far from the Colorado border and nestled in the lower reaches of the Rocky mountains, for snow skiing. I had worked at the ski area there teaching skiing for several years, then later lived in Santa Fe in 2003, teaching skiing at the Ski Basin. The point of this trip was to assess where I might wish to relocate, if it happens to be in the United States, and also to visit with friends who I hadn’t seen in a while. As I mentioned in the last blog, I found a flight to Denver, with the intention of hitch-hiking to Taos, as my first destination. After staying in Taos for the first stretch, I continued hitching on to several additional New Mexico locations, and further on to California. I successfully made it to the street fair on time, and really had a delightful visit throughout. I cut my journey short however, because of a number of reasons. Though my initial incentive was to investigate Portland and Seattle as well as Los Angeles, as potential places to consider relocating, I opted against them. Basically, I intuited that probably each of these towns offer a combination of what I’m looking for in a residence; lots of opportunities for people to participate in music, cultural, art related and outdoor sports like mt. biking, ultimate frisbee and nearby mountains for skiing and snow boarding, as well as having a solid infrastructure for bicycle routes along with a good public transportation network (with the exception of LA). However, what I would miss, is the accessibility of dipping into different European languages on a regular basis, which is typical in Berlin. I studied cultural anthropology and am fascinated by languages and the movement of them along cultural migratory routes. I have to admit that I am not too keen on monotone weather either, and really prefer the dynamics of four seasons.

My visiting adventure came to a poignant exclamation mark wrap-up, when I found myself seated on a return flight to the East coast next to a woman who had just written an article http://positivepsychologynews.com/news/elaine-obrien/2012053122448 in Positive Psychology News about health, fitness and general well being. She was touching on the subject of happiness, which I’ve ironically been blogging about numerous times. The mantra of many of my friends is ‘there are no coincidences’. Elain was returning from the 2012 IDEA Health and Fitness Convention, and had just published an article about it, writing specifically about the association. Here are their publications. http://www.ideafit.com/idea-fitness-journal

With her aura of helpfulness and kindness, Elaine was ebullient as she offered information about the subject of fitness, health and Kinesiology (movement). Years ago when I lived in San Francisco and was sketching a guy sitting next to me at a bar, he asked me to draw my ‘favorite thing’. I responded with an impromptu picture of concentric circles, indicating that this was an image of the concept of motion. Here’s the original sketch on a napkin

and a subsequent version on a card I created.

Motion

I spontaneously revealed that motion is my favorite thing; both geographical, intellectual, physical, spiritual…indicating that through moving to a new place/perspective, can one acquire a new insight. I later read Elaine’s article and saw a quote of Plato’s prominently placed at the beginning: “Lack of activity destroys the good condition of every human being, while movement and methodical exercise save it and preserve it.”

Elaine writes that Peter and Kathie Davis started the group IDEA, to ‘inspire the world to fitness and wellness’, back in 1982, which has now grown to 65,000 members worldwide. They wanted to create “an association where fitness professionals could learn from each other and from the experts”. According to Peter, “Fitness professionals focused mostly on the body for the first 25 years. What we at IDEA have tried to do in the last few years, is to encourage fitness leaders to understand the mind, the body, and the spirit together in a wholeness model. Through this, we can inspire wellness and positive transformation.” Their incentive is to re-frame the way that people look at health and fitness, to recognize how integrally these are related to the pursuit of happiness. They wish to inspire people to make healthier behavioral changes towards wellness.

She also quotes Tal Ben-Shahar, “Exercise feels good, enhances self-esteem, induces calm, improves thinking, makes you feel more attractive, has virtually no negative side effects, is legal, and is free.” He teaches a course on ‘Happiness’ within the Positive Psychology department at Harvard, University, and has written a book “Happier”. Interviewed on The Daily Show, he mentions that students claim that the course makes them feel happier. He hopes to raise the level of happiness and quality of life in the community.

How do we understand happiness and how can we apply this to our lives? There’s a growing movement in positive psychology and for the first time a ‘science of Happiness’. A study done by the Nobel Prize winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman, not to be confused with con man’-)) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_Kahneman has found that people are less happy if they are too distracted. Therefore, this is not merely about physical fitness and motion, but the necessity of being ‘present’ in what you’re doing. In addition, studies demonstrate that meditation can actually affect how the brain works, so that people can feel the positive emotions more fully and be more resilient to deal with negative ones. Incidentally, my frustration with my refusal to specialize, and insistence in juggling multiple projects in disparate areas, sometimes causes me to feel like I’m not making enough headway. A few weeks ago as I was sensing this, I decided to ‘randomly’ pull a magazine out from a pile of “Utne Readers” to see if the one I picked might synchronistically deliver a message. Ahhh, the one that I slid out from near the bottom of the stack spoke ardently about my ‘problem’.

A Focused Life

It was the issue with the theme of “Focus” and “Why We Are So Distracted and What to Do About It

My airplane neighbor Elaine also talked about Dr. Martin Seligman, the Director of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania. It’s more than serendipity, that his homepage is “Authentic Happiness” His website welcomes visitors to use the tools and resources available for free.

An excerpt of his book, “Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being” “What Is Well-Being? The Original Theory: Authentic Happiness” describes that we not only make choices because something makes us feel good, with more measurable happiness; such as pleasure, comfort, delight, joy, ecstasy. But we also can really derive happiness by being ‘in the flow’ of an activity, when we are totally engaged. This is when time appears to stop, because we are so completely absorbed in an activity that we lose track of time. Engagement is different, even opposite to positive emotion he says, because people often become so involved in an activity that they are aware of nothing, and are not thinking or feeling. The flow involves having to employ your highest strengths and skills. With respect to this, I like to make the analogy of Luke Skywalker in Star Wars, when he talks about “using the force”. Seligman states that the third element of happiness that he defines in his book, is meaning. Summarizing his well-being theory since revising it further, it is encompassed in these measurable elements which all contribute to happiness, expressed in the acronym PERMA. Positive emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning/purpose and Accomplishment.

I like the fact that my journey pulled me back to these same themes, motion and happiness, which I am engaged in perpetually, in my pursuit of happiness, fulfillment and meaning. My intention is to aspire to and maintain health, resilience and awareness, balanced with forever engaging in what I love to do, so that I can somehow contribute to inspiring and guiding others to find their own path.

https://carolkeiter.wordpress.com/2009/10/20/happiness/

http://digesthis.wordpress.com/2010/03/10/guides-to-living-longer-happier-lives-right-here-right-now/

http://digesthis.wordpress.com/2011/11/20/speaking-of-happiness-laughter-yoga-giggling-guru-madan-kataria/

http://digesthis.wordpress.com/2012/02/03/happyness-making-the-best-of-what-you-have/

http://digesthis.wordpress.com/2012/04/12/gross_domestic_problem_-why-measurement-of-wealth-depends-on-a-healthy-environment/