The World Is Falling Apart: It Always Is
I keep an old map on my office wall, bought for nearly nothing at a used bookstore and then lovingly framed. It's a National Geographic print from 1942, covering "Asia and Adjacent Areas." The legend informs you: "International Boundaries as of Sept. 1, 1939, the day Germany invaded Poland." A map of the same super-region published just three years later would look much different. One published just 20 years after that would be far different still. The changes have kept coming and keep coming even as I write this. I keep that old map over my desk because I love old maps, and I love old maps because they remind us that Bob Dylan got it wrong: The times are always a-changin'.
We need that reminder today, when the papers and blogs are filled with nervous headlines about Brexit, Russian revanchism, Chinese expansionism and ethnic cleansing, terrorism, economic collapse, the virtual disappearance of our southern border, racial strife, woke/cancel culture, disasters both natural and manmade -- and in the case of California's wildfires, both. And so many more.
A quick glance around Asia's perimeter on my map tells of nothing but change. Japan began a decades-long ascendence over a century ago, but after a losing war and a stunning postwar renaissance, today sits on the precipice of steep demographic decline. Korea, once a colony of Japan and before that a satrap of China, is a fully-independent and glittering economic powerhouse. Well, the southern half is, anyway. "North Korea" was a barely imaginable concept in 1942, but since 1945 it has been and remains a stubborn and troublesome geopolitical fact. Tomorrow, who knows?