Expounds on principles of Power, Money, Business, Success & Politics through the lens of the Bible.
The unapparent connection is more powerful than the apparent one – Heraclitus 535 – 475BC
This is the news from the first quarter of the 21st century…
China is on a resurgence and begins to flex its muscles as an emergent world economic power, amassing foreign reserves in excess of $1.2 trillion, the largest in the world. Her trade deficit with America rises to $232b in 2006.
The Chinese government begins to court African nations for mineral resources, establishing language bureaus and China towns. Chinese corporations like Huawei win big contracts in Africa and buy oil blocks in Nigeria, the world’s 8th (2005) largest oil exporter. The Government makes foray into the American economy by setting up corporations in America, strategically nursing them into global brands. Examples of such corporations are Acer, BenQ, Haier and Lenovo.
The Neo Cons (Neo Conservatives) take over the American Government and introduce the concept of preventive deterrence, leading to the 2nd invasion of Iraq, the ancient empire of Babylon.
Al-Qaeda, the fundamentalist terror network, executes a most dastardly programme of terrorism, slamming a plane into the Pentagon, the symbol of American military might; and eviscerating the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre, the symbol of global economic might. The death toll reaches 2,752. Al-Qaeda is headed by a disillusioned Saudi prince, Osama bin Laden. Though a centi-millionaire, he was at the battlefield with the Mujahideen in Afghanistan against a former super power, the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union pulls out of Afghanistan in 1981 in defeat.
The September 11, 2001 attacks inspire extremists to commit further atrocities in Riyadh, Madrid, London, and Bali. The attack in Madrid led to the electoral loss of the Prime Minister, José María Aznar, 3 days later in a general election. The OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) begins to focus on dramatic vulnerabilities to natural, technological and terrorism hazards.
Petronas Towers, another twin tower of Babelian reputation is erected in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It becomes the symbol of Asian economic aspiration as it assumes the temporary status of the world’s tallest building at 452 metres. China followed with Taipei 101 at a heady 509 metres. The Arabs in Dubai soon unveil their tallest world building design, the Burj Dubai, although the exact height is yet unknown. It is built not only to be the world’s tallest building but also to top Toronto’s CN Tower as the tallest freestanding man-made structure on land. The CN Tower is 553 metres. With talks of the Burj Dubai topping 800 metres, the record will return to the region. The Great Pyramid of Giza had held that honour until 1300AD.
In essence, in the 21st century, branded concrete and steel has become the icon of ascendance. Indeed, branded economic assets are the symbols of 21st century dominance. The 19th century was characterised by industrial might, while the 20th century was characterised by military might.
World War II (1945-1950), bifurcated the 20th century into two halves and created a new world order through the emergence of the United Nations, the European Union (EU), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the International Bank for Reconstruction & Development (better known as the World Bank). It also led to the emergence of the United States of America as a military might, overthrowing the United Kingdom which dominated the 19th century.
Google, an innovative upstart internet corporation achieves net dominance replacing Microsoft as the generational equation. Founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, both 33 years old, become internet billionaires. At IPO (initial public offer), Google shares traded at $483.36 ahead of Microsoft $29.78, Exxon Mobil $72.58 and HSBC Holdings $89.89. Google was originally offered to Yahoo, another symbol of the abstract wealth age for $1b. Yahoo didn’t snap up the offer. Google’s market capitalization (2007) is currently $147.98b while Yahoo’s is $37.71b. The source of Google’s income? Income from brand promotion – providing a technological platform for advertising. The company raked in $2.69b from advertising in 2006. It soon moved into offline advertising through its recent acquisition of dMarc broadcasting, a radio company.
Brad Pitt, one of Hollywood’s most ‘bankable’ stars (Seven, Legends of the Fall) leaves wife for Angelina Jolie (Tomb Raider, Girl Interrupted), a beautiful and kindhearted Hollywood star with sting bee lips. They become unwed parents with the birth of Shiloh Nouvel Jolie-Pitt who was born in Namibia, one of Africa’s poorest nations. Angelina had earlier adopted 2 children and between them they have 3 previous marriages. Madonna meanwhile sparks a row of her own with the adoption of a baby from Malawi (East Africa) in controversial circumstances.
Meanwhile, Tom Cruise, a movie star becomes an evangelist for Scientology, a religious order that believes in extraterrestrial civilizations and alien interventions in Earthly events, collectively described as space opera. He uses his star power to push the religion.
Enron the energy trading company goes bankrupt, the largest in the world. Following on its heels are Worldcom, Global Crossing and Adelphia, taking down many lives and pensions, including the life of
J. Clifford Baxter, former Vice President of Enron who committed suicide; and the chairman, Kenneth Lay, who died not too long after he was convicted of all six counts of securities and wire fraud for which he had been tried. He faced a total sentence of up to 45 years in prison.
Game boxes become a cultural recreational staple with the Sony Play StationTM, Nintendo Game CubeTM and the Microsoft XBOXTM raking up massive sales. Gory games like Dead or Alive and Mortal Combat (Armageddon Edition) become children’s favourites.
Alexander Litvinenko, an ex-Russian spy is poisoned in a London restaurant with a radioactive substance and later dies in a London hospital, sparking international outrage. The amount of polonium-210 found in the Russian’s body could have killed him 100 times over, and would have cost as much as £20 million to acquire.
Lakshmi Mittal, an Indian billionaire buys Arcelor Steel, effectively buying into Old Europe. The merger between his steel corporation, Mittal Steel and Arcelor, becomes the world’s largest steel combine. It is Andrew Carnegie and US Steel all over again. Meanwhile the Dow Jones Industrial Average hits 12,029.50.
In 2005, China further buys into America through the purchase of IBM’s PC operation and thus becomes the world’s third largest PC player. Lenovo Group, the acquisition vehicle, was created in 1984 as Legend Group, one of China’s first capitalist enterprises.
J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter book series sold over 300 million copies worldwide. They have also given rise to popular film adaptations produced by Warner Bros., all of which have been successful. The first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, ranks number four on the list of all time highest-grossing films at an estimated $968.7 million. The films have also spawned five video games and have led to the licensing of over 400 additional Harry Potter products (including an iPod). The books are tellingly about witches, wizards and spells.
The Passion of the Christ, an unusual movie by Mel Gibson focusing on the last few hours in the life of Jesus and riskily dramatized in Aramaic, Latin and Hebrew, with English subtitles, is a surprising box office hit ($604.37 million). It becomes an evangelical tool in the hands of Christians. Mel, a Catholic, is lampooned by the Press for portraying Jews as ‘Jesus killers’.
Meanwhile, the movie, Da Vinci Code is released to roaring box office success. It depicts Christ as having a living descendant and being secretly married to Mary of Magdala. It sparked enormous outrage in the Christian world. National Geograhic airs a documentary proving the book a mangle of deceit and assumptions.
Discovery Channel broadcasts The Gospel of Judas. It justifies the betrayal of Jesus by Judas as making the salvation of the world possible.
A British Airways hostess is sacked for wearing a tiny cross on her neck in the course of duty.
Hurricane Katrina devastates the southern coast of America, submerging New Orleans. Swiss Re – a reinsurer of insurers issues a $1.2b bond note to hedge against Atlantic hurricanes, European windstorms and earth quakes in California and Japan.
Economic damage from nature’s fury tops $230b in 2005.
Fashion goes rag and the waist band of trousers drops 2 to 3 inches. Hybrid cars debut as the cost of energy rises. In 2005, Lexus, owned by Toyota, makes history with the first luxury hybrid SUV and the hybrid luxury sedan in 2006. Ethno-nationalists blow up oil pipes in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. Energy prices soar.
The iPod becomes a mainstream cultural icon as a ‘cool’ gadget with total iPod sales of 67,635,000 units between 2002 and 2006. Apple, the manufacturer of the iPod, is headed by Steve Jobs, an entrepreneur who wears only black turtle neck and jeans. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak gave birth to the era of the personal computers in the early 80s with the introduction of the Lisa, the first mass market personal computer with the then revolutionary graphical user interface (GUI).
Digital convergence platforms evolve. The concept of a ‘quadruple play’ is introduced into telephony. It’s a combination of fixed and mobile telephony, broadband internet access and multi-channel television. The quintuple play is already in the works. The fifth factor is either wide area Wi-Fi coverage or mobile TV. Pundits opine that the ‘third screen’ after the TV and PC should enable the watching of television on your phone.
Bono, the world’s hugest rock celebrity, champions the cause of poor African nations, pushing for jubilee through debt relief. Leaders of the G8, the group of the world’s largest industrialized nations comprising of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States accede to his demand, and agree to wipe out $40b in debt owed by 18 of the world’s poorest countries.
China is admitted into the World Trade Organization (WTO). Meanwhile Turkey’s admission into the EU is delayed despite enormous efforts to meet the criteria for admission. Seemed the goal post kept shifting. Bulgaria joins the European Union on Jan. 1, 2007, with less fuss.
Lady Diana dies in a car accident in France under controversial circumstances. The mother of the future king of England was in consort with Dodi Fayed, the son of the Egyptian billionaire, Mohammed Al-Fayed, owner of the British department store, Harrods, Fulham Football Club and the Ritz Hotel, Paris.
Same sex marriage (the partnership union) becomes legalised in one American state (Massachusetts). It is also legalised in South Africa, Belgium, Spain, Canada and the Netherlands. The first openly gay bishop, Canon Gene Robinson, is ordinated by the Anglican Communion.
AIDS figures rise. The number of people living with HIV/AIDS in 2006 is now 39.5 million (Africa alone accounts for 83.44% of the figure).
Prozac, the anti-depressant, becomes a major prescription drug in America.
Dr. Atkin’s famous diet is on the rise; and in an unconnected incident, a Brazilian model, Ana Carolina Reston, 21, dies from extreme anorexia. She weighed only 39.92kg (88lbs) at death.
50 Cent, the gangster rapper releases the hit movie, Get Rich or Die Trying to critical acclaim. It is autobiographical in content and very emotionally disturbing.
Paris Hilton becomes famous for being famous. Reality TV debuts and Girls of the Playboy Mansion goes into 2nd season.
The Ansari X Prize for commercial space aviation is won by Burt Rutan and Paul Allen of Mojave Aerospace Ventures. Paul Allen is the billionaire co-founder of Microsoft. Virgin Galactic is incorporated to take tourists to the outer edge of space.
A young turk, Shawn Fanning, introduced Napster- the nemesis of the music industry. Napster eventually runs foul of the law for enabling piracy. At 26, he moves on to his next act, Rupture, ‘a virtual social community for online gamers’. He developed Rupture to make it easier for the 7.5m players of the fantasy game, World of War Craft, to communicate with each other. The critical puzzle is, how in a true sense can a virtual community be a ‘social’ community?
A survey of 1,755 parents in top US companies showed that their kids’ after school life was a major worry and stressor. To quote BusinessWeek, Dec. 11, 2006, ‘the worries transcend race, gender and income categories, with parents more concerned about unsupervised daughters than unsupervised sons.’
Economist headlines an article on the growing power to change human nature. Science, it says can be a little scary. ‘Its potential to transform life itself has led to predictions that we might rewrite our own genetic make-up or merge our minds with machines… Real possibilities of changing our human nature are creeping up… More and more drugs developed to treat diseases are turning out also to offer the potential to “enhance” the cognitive powers of healthy people, and to push life expectancy much further… The transhumanists – a loose coalition of scientists, technologists and thinkers who seek opportunities to enhance the human condition – see change as desirable.’ To quote Nick Bostrom, an Oxford University philosopher and advocate of transhumanism ‘… we shall eventually manage to become post human, beings with vastly greater capacities than present human beings have.’
“The era of biochemical alteration of human nature has arrived.” (The World in 2007, Economist).