Maandelijks archief: februari 2014

At a distance

At the time of the incident at the Bay of Pigs and its aftermath, my ship sailed around in the Caribbean, most of the time from Curacao to Venezuela v.v.

After my marriage I came back there and was not very pleased (as a matter of fact was glued to the radio) when the US and the Sovjet Union collided over the Russian missiles on Cuba. We were on the brink of a Third World War (or so it seemed). We were all to glad it didn’t come to that.

It was just a few months before I ended my career as a merchant navy engineer in the beginning of 1963. It proofed to be one of the most terrible winters of the century. My attention shifted very fast from the US to the Netherlands, to my career and my family.

What happened in America came to me through the Dutch media: it was only superficially. I was like everyone else impressed when Kennedy was murdered. But until then our world was dominated by positive feelings about the US.

Maybe Vietnam changed things a little bit. I discovered that my cousin in Denmark had a totally different view of the things that happened in Vietnam and had happened there under American responsibility. That’s why I bought the book ‘De kwestie Vietnam’ (the Vietnam problem). There seemed to be some  discrepancy between official American information and what happened in the field. Later I learned that Vietnam had been a traumatic experience for most Americans.

The world had changed since the fifties. Europe had recovered from the war but acted in the belief  that another war was threatening: the cold war. The permanent threat of Sovjet Union expansion of communism seemed all to real. (I don’t know, whether there really was a threat, but the Cuba crisis was real enough).

The first oil crisis came over us. The Limits To Growth suddenly became clear and loomed in the distance. The world had to wake up. But politicians are not very good in taking decisions that affect us in the long run. For them the effect of short term results are far more important. So measures to counter the long term effects of pollution, and of exhausting the natural resources were not taken or maybe even were taken to late.

Four things happened:

* In the U.S. Ronald Reagan was elected president in 1980. He came at a moment that the economy wasn’t doing so well. He gave the States an impuls by saying: government is not the solution; government is the problem. He started a program to lower taxes and to reduce government expenses.

* The Berlin wall fell in 1989. That gave the impression that the American system with ‘free’ markets was superior. As Fukuyama said: This was the end of History.

* I started my studies to obtain a PhD in management. So I studied organization theory in its historical context. And as much of the intial organization theory came from the U.S. I had to look more intensively at American history. I started with Hugh Brogan’s Penguin History of the United States.

* My son fell in love with an American girl. He moved eventually to Florida and stayed there. So there was every reason for my wife and me to visit the States from that day on.