What Is the Best Legacy?

A legacy is something that one can leave behind to the people who come after them to “enrich” their lives and better enable the followers to remember the forbearer and continue to make their lives and society better.

Most people think of a legacy primarily as money or property. Many recipients no doubt prefer that aspect of what they get. But like so many things in life, what people get for nothing, they tend not to attach much value to it.

Another aspect of a legacy can be a deserved reputation for honor, rectitude, and community service, which carries with it something of an expectation that the recipients should continue that reputation — that is sometimes seen by those folks as a wet blanket, burdensome to carry, particularly if a parallel monetary portion is not large enough to make that easy.

Sadly another kind legacy can be a heavy anchor to carry. To be the follower of a sociopath, who leaves a widespread name of shame, must be a heavy burden to bear. A new community or name may be the only real solution to that problem.

Still another type of legacy is a habit of togetherness and shared interests and hobbies. This carries the fewest costs and burdens except perhaps for people who hate crowds and want to go their own independent way. So it is important to be clear that no one has to follow the crowd. Making use of that should be optional which perhaps increases its value when it is utilized.

When the creator of a legacy contemplates his/her hoped for legacy, presumably the intent would be to combine most of the best elements one could hope to achieve.

Thus, if a successor were to say without prompting, “Boy did my forebear have a great life and to top it off left me the means to have an even better life than otherwise I might have deserved” — that would likely rock the grave in which the forebear rested.

But there is still one better possibility.

When successors without realizing what they are doing, seize the very things a creator hoped to pass on as their own invention and the way of life they are pursuing, while the creator is alive to see it all happen, that creates unbelievable pleasure and satisfaction for the creator.

That often happens in the summer when flocks of offspring crowd around a loved summer place to share the joys and pleasures of life.

Wouldn’t it be nice if that happened more around the calendar!


Russia Today Versus the World

We just returned from a boat trip across Russia, from Moscow to St. Petersburg, to see firsthand the world Peter the Great began for Russia in the 1700s. Objective observers are vividly struck by today’s Russia and how it is generally seen in the West in ways quite different from its observable current reality.

Two earlier exposures to Russia — in 1956 and 1978 — further sharpen the vast changes wrought over the last 30 odd years. The shift to market-based economics has, with help from very high oil prices, enlarged the middle classes to the point that both those leading cities now suffer from an engorgement of cars (virtually all Japanese, European and American models), to the point that traffic in those cities is becoming the biggest choke to their growth prospects. Their system evidently failed to anticipate those amazing numbers, despite building many modern roads and highways.

The people of Russia throughout the trip, despite daily news from the Middle East and Ukraine including the tragic downing of a commercial airliner, are clearly prosperous, relaxed and enjoying their unusually warm summer weather, apparently barely aware of global issues.

One-on-one chats with everyone who could be engaged in a private conversation (about a dozen people, all told) disclosed that they: [1] deplore the Ukraine situation; [2] support the Crimea annexation; [3] love America and its people; [4] support the Russian government; and [5] are worried about the attitude of the American government.

One young man from a small town on the Volga River married with two young children and a working wife, whose basic job is as a manufacturer’s rep in the food industry and has a family income in dollar terms of about $20,000 said:

“I work hard. Our life is relatively good today. We have confidence in Putin. Why he wants to take on the problems of the Ukraine is a mystery to everyone. We trust and like American people but worry that your government does not trust us or our government. All we want is a chance to continue to improve our lives. Seeing interested Americans visit us gives us all more hope. Thanks for visiting us.”

A constant theme was Russia has always needed strong central leadership and Putin has been all of that for them. He has presided over the boom years following the difficult first years under Gorbachev and Yeltsin, and they credit their current relative prosperity almost completely to him, and seem not yet to grasp the possible consequences of current events on their personal lives.

While Ukraine’s drift toward the West holds some possible adverse economic consequences in due course for Russia, it hardly needs Ukraine to prosper. Russia is a powerful, fully modern society.

Nor is Russia in need of more territory. Perhaps they might wish to be lower in latitude on the globe, more like Europe and the US, but that is how their cards were dealt way back and no amount of hostility or ambition is going to change that reality.

It strains credulity that Russia stands to gain in any way from nurturing hostility with either Europe or the US.

At the periphery, Russia’s global interests in projecting power in the world are its activities in the Middle East. But beyond appearances of influence and playing games, the stakes between Russia and the rest of the world seem to be more clearly aligned than ever before.

The aptly named (by history, anyway) Peter the Great had vast vision, boundless energy and compelling powers of persuasion. He saw the need to understand and bring European sophistication into the life of Russia. The path since then to the present has been fraught with complications and troubled times — wars, revolution and economic communist stagnation, yet Peter’s vision seems finally close to being realized, if today’s conditions can be sustained.

Russia, the United States and Europe have much more in common than not, and if we all could get reciprocally clearer pictures of each other deeper than Cold War era stereotypes, to the point that leaders feel that throb, this just might be the right moment in time where there could be a collective hegemony among all our peoples.

We get bogged down in daily squabbles in the news. Perhaps it is time for a bigger, broader vision to be advanced on the world stage.