August 14, 2009

Big Day In History

August 14 is a big day in modern history, particularly if you have an interest in Asia. Several things that have built the world today into its current shape took place on August 14s over the past 150 years or so.

Perhaps most prominently, August 14, 1945, is the day that the Imperial Japanese government surrendered to the Allies, effectively ending the Second World War. While humilitating to the Japanese people at the time, in the long run Japan has benefitted perhaps more than any other belligerent nation in that war from joining the world of western liberal democracies who conquered it.

It's also independence day for Pakistan. In 1947, on this day, Pakistan (which I consider to be one of the critical nations in the world at the moment) became independent from British rule.

Ten years before that, FDR signed the Social Security Act. Social Security has become one of the most significant issues to address in the ongoing efforts to bring some kind of financial sense to the Federal government. No one today has a clue about how to control the beneift because every American feels like they're entitled to a government pension now. Which was precisely as FDR intended. Trivia for the day -- 7% of the Gross Domestic Product of the United States is spent on Social Security, combining both the value of benefits distributed and costs of administration. It is the largest program of any government anywhere in the world.

And finally, on August 14, 1900, the Boxer Rebellion in China peaked as a combined force of U.S., British, French, and a few other western powers advanced into Beijing to rescue beseiged diplomatic personnel and merchants. The Boxers were a popular movement of people who were concerned about foreign influence over the government and immigration into the country, who combined quasi-religious and para-military sorts of interests with their world view. Their ideology is not entirely unlike that of the Minuteman movement alive in America today. Their rage and hatred of the foreign devils in their midst turn into open warfare as they took up arms and tried to kill any non-Chinese person they could find, so on August 14, an expeditionary force was sent in to rescue them. The big significance of this is that it exposed the fundamental weakness of the Chinese government to either control its own citizens or to prevent the western powers from using their military power at will within China. This weakness caused the eventual collapse of the imperial government, to be replaced by a republic (which survives in rump form in Taiwan today) and then by a communist dictatorship (which continues to govern mainland China today).

And in 1980, August 14 was the date that dockworkers began to strike at the port of Gdansk in Poland under the leadership of union head Lech Walesa. Walesa's strike began the movement that came to be known as Solidarity, which in turn demonstrated to the world that Communist leaders in the Soviet bloc of nations had lost popular support and led, nine years later, to the collapse of the Soviet Union and its client states such as Poland and East Germany. August 14, 1980 was the day the Iron Curtain first started to tear.

May your August 14, by contrast, be peaceful and dull.Stumble Upon Toolbar

1 comment:

zzi said...

Ten years before that, FDR signed the Social Security Act.

Keep in mind that FDR did not pick the age of 65 out of a hat. The actuaries told FDR that more people would die before 65 then live to that age. FDR was literally betting that you were going to die before your 65th birthday.