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FOREST INK: The wisdom of history

Wisdom, justice, courage and moderation are the basis for a moral and successful life

Living next to a super power has both advantages and certain pitfalls like the so-called fairtrade agreement.

While our nearest neighbour is our largest importer of lumber as well as a number of other products some internal forces directing the softwood lumber agreement has been a thorn in our side for some years and doesn’t seem to be going away.

While we may take advantage of a certain level of protection from our neighbour we are obliged to show our solidarity when it comes to how the U.S. deals with other countries like the other super power, China.

Fortunately our democracies and capitalist system also allows us to have China as our second largest forest products importer.

The recent recognition of the one-year anniversary of the storming of the U.S, capital which many Americans considered to be a threat to their democracy should also be of a concern to us as well.

I found a recent book and video useful in understanding how our neighbour has arrived at this point in its history.

The Wisdom of History by J Rufus Fears was useful in using past events to highlight the rise and fall of many nations in the past and in particular what may be in store for the U.S.A. Professor

Fears starts with the ancient Greek and Roman democracies on the which the U.S. Constitution is based and describes their rise and fall.

In the last two lectures the following advice is given:

From the birth of civilization in the middle east from 3,000 BC to the 21 st century we have seen the same mistakes made repeatedly.

Science and technology are of enormous hope but they alone will not help us avoid the mistakes of the past.

Freedom is not a universal value, history teaches us that foreign countries are often not welcomed as liberators. Trying to plant democracy where it is not valued may arouse resentment and revolt. Power is the supreme motivating force of history along with spirituality and religion.

The best American statesmen used power to make the world better and failed when they did not use power for good. Empires rise and fall because of human decisions, not anonymous social, economic and climatic forces.

A true statesmen (in contrast to many politicians) has a bedrock of principles, a moral compass, a vision and the ability to build a consensus to achieve the vision. The wars of democracies last longer and are more destructive than wars by individual despots.

The Chinese chose to accept the benefits of order and authoritarianism rule over the awesome responsibility of self-government. Democracies are fickle, voters change their opinions often.

The last chapter deals with the wisdom of history and the individual. Nations around the world, in all places and times have recognized common values including wisdom, justice, courage and moderation are the basis for a moral and successful life.

Misuse of power (hybris) “pronounced hubris” results from outrageous arrogance of the powerful to abuse the weak.

Any person who stands by while someone weak is harmed by the abuse of power is just as guilty as the abuser.

Each individual by knowing their priorities, gifts and limits along with using power justly can make a contribution, great or small that will leave the world a better place.

READ MORE: FOREST INK: Some favourite reads over the year

Jim Hilton is a professional agrologist and forester who has lived and worked in the Cariboo Chilcotin for the past 40 years. Now retired, Hilton still volunteers his skills with local community forests organizations.

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