It’s a small world, but there are still too many borders.
I’ve recently become a fan of country music. It amazes and amuses my wife and children, but I find that country music tells stories that contain some very basic truths.
Brad Paisley sings a song named “Welcome to the Future”. He begins that song by telling his grandfather’s story of being a soldier in the Philippines fighting the Japanese during World War II, and flashes forward to having a videoconference meeting with a Japanese company.
I’ve enjoyed doing business in and with the Japanese for the past 25 years or so. Many of you know that Maplesoft was recently acquired by a long-term partner in Japan, Cybernet Systems Company. I’m writing this from a hotel room in Tokyo, and it’s hard for me to understand that Japan was once our “enemy”.
Germany was another former enemy. Hollywood is still making movies about World War II, and although there appears to be a trend to show the German people of the time in a more sympathetic light, the memories are still strong. When I first started to travel to Germany on business I was quite uncomfortable. My family is Jewish and my wife’s parents are both “survivors” of the Holocaust. There were obvious “issues” to face. It didn’t take long, though, to become comfortable and to establish close business ties and even closer friendships. This takes me back to the Mark Twain quote I referred to in my last blog post.
I grew up during the “Cold War”. As a young boy in school we practiced air raid drills – we crouched under our little wooden desks to be prepared for a nuclear attack (!) from those evil Russians. I didn’t hate them, but I definitely feared them and didn’t trust them. Today I do business in Russia, buy Russian products and have many Russian friends, both in Russia and at home in the U.S.
China – or “Red China” as it was called – was another of our Cold War enemies. Today China is an integral part of the world economy – some say the dominant player one day. Some of my most fascinating and enjoyable travel has been to China. I’m very glad that Richard Nixon began a dialogue with China. That may be the only thing he did that I approve of, but that’s another story.
Many old antagonisms have been buried, or at the very least overcome. Japan does business with China and South Korea. Everyone does business with Japan, and many do business with China and Russia. A friend’s son teaches in Vietnam. My daughter vacationed in Cambodia. And one day I hope to visit Cuba and North Korea.
We have certainly made significant progress, but we’re not done yet. There are still too many borders – not political borders, but borders of the mind.