EU and Brexit

The European Union (EU) began in 1951 as the European Coal and Steel Community consisting of 6 founding members (France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands). It has grown to the present size of 28 countries with free trade, labor movement and a single currency in a market exceeding 500 million people. Its integration effort also extends to a wide range of other areas including immigration, trade and environmental policies. France and Germany are the two pillars without which the EU cannot survive. They are strangely the victor and vanquished respectively of World War II, and also are logically the two largest economies of continental Europe.

In 1963, Great Britain applied to join the EU (then known as the European Common Market). Its application was vetoed by French President Charles De Gaulle. In hindsight, De Gaulle correctly thought that Britain could only stay as a half-hearted member due to its legacy of a great empire and its special relationships with its former colonies particularly the United State. After the passing of De Gaulle, Britain joined the European Common Market in 1973. More than four decades later in June 2016, Britain decided to leave the EU after a narrow referendum. The actual secession will take place in March 2019 whether or not a deal can be struck with the EU.

Brexit has made Britain a divided nation. More than four decades of EU membership makes it very difficult to disentangle all the laws already put in place, not to mention the economic lives of the citizens and corporations. There has been talk about a parliamentary or popular vote to reverse Brexit. Scotland has voiced its opposition to Brexit, which may lead to another Scottish referendum to leave the United Kingdom. The existing open border between the Irish Republic (EU member) and Northern Ireland (British territory) is another flashpoint due to its importance for keeping the peace in Northern Ireland. The Labor Party now in opposition is waiting to assume power if the divided Conservative Party fails to execute a satisfactory Brexit plan. All of the above represent major political risks, which pale in comparison to surrendering some political sovereignty to Brussels while being an EU member with veto power.

While Britain is divided, the EU countries are surprisingly united in their collective bargaining with Britain over the terms of Brexit. They insist on Britain paying its dues for membership in exchange for all the benefits of a common market in Europe. The EU countries understand that as long as France and Germany form a united front, they can afford to lose Britain with an economy ranking in size second only to Germany’s.

The adverse economic impacts of Brexit will be felt in Britain in the years to come. There have been reports about higher prices of foods and drugs, and also shortages to be expected. The impact on Britain’s large banking sector remains unknown. What will the British banks do about their existing connections with Europe? The Brexiters should think about the loss of EU economic subsidies flowing to their less-developed regions, which their own politicians have never made known to them.

If Britain leaves the EU, can it count on separate trade deals with the rest of the world? Yes if you are a pure optimist. Britain should not count on its special relationship with the United States that seldom brings economic benefits. Theresa May was among the first leaders to pay a visit to Donald Trump who was also for Brexit. What did she get in return? Where is the special trade deal she was hoping for? Bilateral trade deals take years to negotiate and require approval by the legislatures on both sides. Britain must shed all its current entanglements with EU laws and regulations before other non-EU countries want to start the negotiation.

Britain’s special relationship with America stems from the old military alliance during the First and Second World Wars, but things are different now during peace times. The special relationship now only involves voluntary frequent consultations between the top leaders of both countries that seldom result in bilateral trade deals or formal treaties except the sharing of sensitive information and less-than-total support for each other’s policies. Examples: America sided with Britain in the Falkland war in 1982 despite being a member of the Organization of American States (OAS). In 2003, Britain joined the US in the invasion of Iraq in a “coalition of the willing”. However, things may go the other way. During the Suez crisis of 1956, President Eisenhower refused to support Britain and France who joined Israel in the invasion of Egypt, the reason being that America could not facilitate any military design of empire expansion against a third country.

What about Britain’s special relationships with its other former colonies around the world? They were all packaged into the so-called British Commonwealth that has been nearly phased out after 1973 when Britain joined the European Common Market. What remains of the Commonwealth now covers the non-binding and mostly non-economic relations between Britain and its former colonies. The Commonwealth members range from the wealthy (Canada) to the poor (Bangladesh). They possess divergent national interests. By comparison, British national interest is much more convergent with those of the other EU countries.

The British special relationship with the United States is much weaker now except for the English language being shared. Interestingly, we Americans, isolated by two oceans, tend to think of the British as a people who speak with a strange accent and drive on the wrong side of the road. Despite the fact that American society is multi-ethnic, there is no such distinct minority as English or British Americans. On the other hand, it is easy to name several minorities such as Black, Jewish, Irish, Italian, Cuban, Latino, Filipino, Chinese and Vietnamese Americans, who are increasingly able to articulate and influence US policies affecting their cultures and ancestral lands. Regardless of what the British think, the American public has good reasons to believe that Britain belongs to Europe and must work closely with its neighbors of the same league such as France and Germany. After WWII, Great Britain is no longer a superpower. It is no longer an “empire where the sun never sets”.

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Public Perception of Kavanaugh

In the Senate confirmation hearing of Brett Kavanaugh, politics cannot be avoided even for this supposedly non-political job of US Supreme Court Justice. The reason is that the candidate must be nominated by the President and the full Senate must vote to confirm him. All of them except the candidate have been elected by the people in a political competition. However, the political maneuvers and emotions for this confirmation are the worst in the public eye due to the present toxic partisan atmosphere, and the accusation of sex assault by Dr. Christine Ford and two other women. Since a Supreme Court Justice serves for life, consideration for the job must cover the nominee’s character, temperament and ideological orientation besides mere career achievements in the legal profession. Any extraordinary bad behaviors in the past should be brought to light.

The key political calculus is that the Republicans in the Senate has a slim majority of 51-49. They cannot afford 2 no votes among themselves in the final confirmation step. Right now, 3 Republican Senators are sitting on the fence: Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and Jeff Flake who does not plan to seek reelection this year. As a consequence, the Republicans try their best to rush through the hearing process and the Democrats try their best to stall it as the 11/6 mid-term election draws near. This is fair game, and the two parties attacking each other’s political maneuvers is fair game, too.

The Senate hearing is not a criminal trial, but an effort to consider the nominee’s professional works, ideological thinking and personal character because it is a very important lifetime employment. You may correctly say that it’s an inquiry by two political parties. In laymen’s term, it’s a job interview for the Senate Judiciary Committee to decide. Therefore, anything relating to important matters should be considered, including the accusation of sexual assault, which may be serious enough to disqualify the nominee.

A sexual assault that occurred decades ago is no reason for ignoring it. The victims seldom report sexual assaults due to being overwhelmed by shock, fear and shame, plus all the obstacles regarding proof of credibility. It’s hell to go through the trauma multiple times if being investigated. The victims have little to gain but everything to lose if they report to authorities. This is not a problem for women only. Have you heard about men who were molested by priests when they were teenagers decades ago? This does not mean that all the accusers are credible, but we should listen with sympathy and then pass judgment.

A sexual assault case like Cavanaugh’s being heard in the Senate requires no proof, which is for the FBI to substantiate later. However, the accuser bears the burden to demonstrate truthfulness and credibility. The accused is expected to deny and point to any inconsistency in the assault story. The key is less about what but more about how the stories are presented. Dr. Ford has achieved credibility in the public eye by telling her story in a genuine manner, answering questions, and admitting that her memory fails to provide some specific details into which she welcomes an FBI investigation.

On the other hand, Kavanaugh’s defense story was delivered in an aggressive manner full of anger, defiance, disrespect and evasiveness, punctuated by tears all of which gave a negative public impression as seen below:
* Tears show that he was “weak” as Donald Trump describes those people he dislikes.
* He was angry because the sex assault story had “destroyed” his family and reputation. Had the same not happened to Dr. Ford, too? How should she handle it?
* He was also angry because the Democrats played the political game of delay. Had the Republicans not played the political game of rushing through the confirmation process?
* He produced evidence that he was a good boy: study hard, graduate from an elite school, go to church, play sports, love his family, keep a diary, etc. Is this what everyone of us tries to do? This does not prevent a person from succumbing to certain evil desires. Trying to be a good boy does not prove that he is innocent, same as Dr. Ford who cannot prove that her story is real, but only credible. That is why an FBI probe is in order.
* He showed disrespect for the Democratic Senators by not answering and evading their questions. Worse, he even tried to throw the questions back at them about drinking beer. If a candidate tries to do this in a job interview, he will be disqualified right away.
* If he has nothing to hide, he should welcome an FBI investigation into Dr. Ford’s story. Instead, he played the same political game by launching an attack on the Democrats. That’s hypocrisy!

As if to add gasoline to fire, some Republican Senators especially Lindsey Graham lashed out at his Democratic opponents for creating a circus out of the confirmation hearing. This shows that they are just a bunch of old “angry white men” who think that they are entitled to their old-time privileges without any challenge. The old “angry white men” cannot accept that America is fast changing while they are dying out. One of the most important changes is that women have gained more power professionally and politically. Being unsympathetic to women issues carries grave political risks because women represent more than half of the voting population.

To repeat, the confirmation hearing is not a criminal trial requiring proof of guilt. It is obviously a political maneuver because the candidate is nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senators who are politically elected. This is a job interview that is essentially a public relations work requiring good optics and presentation that convey truth, genuineness, credibility and personal integrity. Brett Kavanaugh has failed in many respects in the public eye. He could still be confirmed because the Republicans hold a slim majority in the US Senate even after an FBI investigation. To what degree has this confirmation process angered reasonable people, especially women all across America? Only time will tell. It won’t take long for the mid-term election is coming up on November 6th.

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The American Electoral System

A democratic system does not simply mean voting by the people. The devil lies in how it is administered and executed. If being corruptly manipulated, the system may elect an evil person against the will of the people. Since no system is perfect and foolproof, a democracy must be carefully maintained to ensure fairness and the public good. It must also be simple enough so that all citizens are encouraged to come out and vote.

In a large continental country like the United States, the nationwide popular vote does not matter although the vote count is published. What matters is the electoral vote (also known as electoral college) as defined by the US Constitution. Each state takes full responsibility for its own elections from city to national level. The state divides its own territory into a number of congressional (or electoral) districts according to the population count taken by the US Census every 10 years. For instance, California, the most populous state, has 53 congressional districts (versus Texas 36 and New York 27). That means California sends 53 Representatives to the US House of Representatives, Texas 36 and New York 27. Each Representative is elected by the people living in his/her own congressional district. So each state has a diverse representation to the US House with respect to their different economic and other interests. Consequently, US national policy is theoretically driven by competing interests from all the 435 Representatives of the states of the federal Union, which are in turn driven by the voters living in all the local congressional districts. However, in practice it does not work that way. History has shown that some Representatives have become very powerful and carry bigger sways in federal decision making due to their personality or manipulating skills. There also exist other important factors as described below.

Besides the House of Representatives, there also exists the US Senate where all federal legislation must be passed before becoming effective. As defined by the US Constitution, each state elects two Senators to the US Senate regardless of its size. Thus the state of Wyoming with the smallest population of 0.56 million elects 2 US Senators, so does California with a population of 39.54 million. Consequently in the US Senate, California, despite being the most populous state, carries the least weight relative to all the other states. History has also shown that some Senators from smaller states have exerted a disproportional amount of influence on national policies. You may think that this is unfair but that reflects the nature of the American democracy where each state voluntarily joined the Union at different times in history by negotiation, not by coercion. The Senate system is one way of ensuring that the voices of the smaller states are not being drowned out by the bigger ones.

What about election of the President? The US Constitution stipulates that each state takes full responsibility of the election. The people living in each congressional district elect one presidential candidate in early November of an election year. The US Representative of that district is obliged (not bound by law though) to cast one electoral vote for that elected candidate in mid December of that year for the purpose of confirming the result of the election. In effect, there is no direct popular vote in the United States. The people vote for the elector who is the US Representatives of each district who will in turn cast one electoral vote for the people. The total electoral votes amount to 538 and it requires 270 votes to win the presidency. Each state is given a number of electoral votes equal to the number of Representatives plus 2 Senators. Thus California has 55 electoral votes, Texas 38 and New York 29. Think about this scenario: If an elector casts one vote for the other presidential candidate by ignoring the will of his constituents, it may flip the result if the election is a very close one.

Another major concern with the electoral college is the winner-take-all state rule for presidential election that is not stipulated in the US Constitution. Take California for instance, if 28 electors vote for a presidential candidate (the smallest majority), that person will get all the 55 votes allocated to California. Despite its unfairness on the surface, this winner-take-all rule apply to all 50 states except Maine and Nebraska.

A third major concern is voter suppression. The black votes have traditionally been suppressed in the Southern States although the Voting Rights Acts enacted in 1964 have reduced the problem. Fewer people coming out to vote usually benefits the Republican Party. That is why this party complains loudest about voter frauds which are more invented than real. The excuse of voter frauds makes stringent voting requirements necessary so that lower-income blacks and minorities tend to stay at home due to all the voting hassles targeted at them.

We all know that money corrupts every man-made system. American democracy is no exception because people are subject to material seduction. The evil of money politics has been around for a long time. Efforts to reform the American election system date back to almost the beginning of the nation but to no avail. Two factors have made it very hard to achieve reform. First, it takes millions of dollars to run a political campaign to drive an issue or to elect a politician. It is much easier to ask a few rich people or corporations for donation money than to raise millions of dollars from thousands of ordinary citizens. Besides, rich people or corporations will gladly come to the politicians to offer campaign money (legally known as political lobbying) because they want to promote their own self-interests rather than the public good. Bribing the politicians with money disguised as campaign contributions is considered legally acceptable in America.

So we see a democracy is messy and ugly and must be carefully and fairly maintained. Nevertheless, it is still better than an absolute monarchy, a dictatorship or an authoritarian regime where money and power are allowed to corrupt the system openly without any restraint.

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Racism in America

Racism arises from collective hate which resides on the dark side of the human character. Racism exists in human societies since the beginning of time, only in different forms and degrees. Some of the most infamous cases in modern history are: the Holocaust in Europe, black slavery in the American South followed by racial segregation and discrimination, Apartheid in South Africa, ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, and most recently, the Rohingya exodus in Myanmar.

It is natural that we tend to associate with people who speak the same language, practice the same customs and follow the same interest. However, it is hard to fathom why we can go so extreme to hate an entire group of people most of whom are innocent and non-threatening. Racism is like a fire that can be created from something emotional, and whipped up by a demagogue using inflammatory language. The people who are racists and hateful usually belong to a small minority who can be subdued by the majority. However, if this minority manages to incite hate by tapping into the fears of the general public, racial violence may break out into the open. The most common trick being employed is scapegoating a target group of people for all the ills of society, and manufacturing and amplifying the threats that the target group poses to the society. In short, make the target group an enemy of the people.

Since America is an immigrant nation known as a “melting pot”, we can understand more about racism by examining its history. Three characteristics stand out: First, racism is not just about the color of the skin. It also involves ethnicity, religious practice, and other differences in lifestyle between different groups of people. In the earlier days, the Irish and Italians were discriminated against by the other Europeans mostly because they were Catholics and poorer. An Irish friend told me that it was hard for his father to find a job when they first arrived in America because NINA (No Irish Need Apply) was posted at many places of work.

Second, the perpetrators and targets of racism are constantly shifting depending on economic and other circumstances. The blacks in America have suffered the longest period of racism up to the present time. They did not choose to come to America in the first place. The early European settlers kidnapped millions of them from Africa and brought them over to be sold as slaves in the plantations of the South. Their black skin made them the easiest target of racism by all whites who could temporarily forget about their own racism toward each other. Thus the Southern States became an economic zone of white cotton producers employing black slave labor transplanted from Africa. The whites had found a unifying force to benefit collectively from slave labor, thus turning racism into an economic system of racial exploitation.

Third, although immoral and grossly unfair, racism is supported by the governments of the Southern States and tolerated by the US Constitution despite the sacred American Declaration of Independence stipulated that “All men are created equal”. It took a great president in Abraham Lincoln to challenge the immorality of slavery after so many decades. The Southern States saw this as a threat to their way of life and declared their secession from the Union. The American civil war erupted in 1861. Four years later in 1865, the agricultural South was defeated by the industrial North and slavery was finally abolished. Nevertheless, a period of racial segregation and discrimination continued in the South where “Whites Only” signs appeared in many public places including washrooms and water fountains. It took another president (this time from the southern state of Texas), Lyndon Johnson, to ban racial discrimination through the Civil Rights Act enacted in 1964. Even nowadays, a subtle form of racism continues as seen in the economic deprivation of black citizens, their mass incarceration, and the suppression of black votes by the Republican Party.

In America, we can see that an excuse can easily be found and politicized to scapegoat a particular group of people. To cite two examples: First, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 (later repealed in 1943) was enacted when the California Gold Rush began to run out of gold and the American economy was suffering from stagnant wages. Second, the plain language of “Drug dealers, criminals and rapists” was used by Donald Trump against Mexicans to drum up political support. Trump’s inflammatory language also emboldened the white supremacists, who demonstrated and chanted “Blood and Soil” in Virginia. Fortunately, we have a free press which does not hesitate to report and criticize, which caused Trump to call them “enemy of the people”. Let the conversation begin even if people feel uncomfortable about it, because the truth will come out as a result. Racism is based on hate and manufactured untruth which cannot win if the majority insists on getting the evidence and refuse to be conned by fear.

Many people do not recognize the huge costs involved in subjugating a large racial group. In the American Civil War, the whites killed each other over the economic benefits of black slavery (more than 600,000 dead). Why were the Southern States a poorer agricultural country compared with the industrial North? They had benefited economically from slavery and racial discrimination for a long time but they failed to figure out the costs involved in maintaining an immoral and unfair system through legal and violent means. When subjugating a large racial group, they had also suppressed their talents, thus increasing the burdens on their own society. It is obvious that the cost of hate surpasses that of tolerance and inclusion. Has the South done better after the abolishment of slavery and public racial discrimination? Most Southerners will agree because their economy has now developed into auto manufacturing, energy, high tech and space exploration rather than relying on slave labor for cotton harvest. The benefits of tolerance and inclusion are easily demonstrated by Silicon Valley in California, where talented people of different races and backgrounds are working together to develop the technology of the future. Many Americans may feel uneasy about the idea of a melting pot. Old traditions always die hard. All it takes is a little patience and tolerance to build a more perfect Union for tomorrow.

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Peak Car and Peak Oil?

An interesting article in Fortune Magazine (June 2018) talks about the changing technologies resulting in the so-called peak horse, peak car and possibly peak oil.

Before the dawn of the motor car, the horse was the beast of burden providing the muscles for land transport. In 1920, horses in the United states numbered around 25 million. By 1930, the number came down to 19 million. By 1960, it further dropped to 3 million, being completely replaced by the motor car. At the same time, the consumption of gasoline has increased by leaps and bounds.

Technology does not stop there but keeps on progressing. The electrification of trains in public transport has reduced the use of private cars in and between big cities. The fast growth of air transport produces the same effect for long-distance travel. In recent years, the explosion of ride-sharing makes owning a car redundant. Today, Uber handles 4 billion rides worldwide. Lyft reports that 40% of rides are shared by two or more passengers. The coming of the driverless car further reduces the cost of ride-sharing as it eliminates a major labor cost. In the United States, the number of passenger cars seemed to have peaked in 2016 with a record of 17.5 million newly registered. The number came down to 17.2 million in 2017, and is projected to dip below 17 million in 2018.

Consumer preference in America is changing at the same time led by millennials. For the age group between 20 and 24, 92% registered for driver licenses in 1983. The figure has come down significantly to 77% in 2014. The car no longer seems so cool that a young person must possess. One major reason is urbanization and the fact that the young like to live in big cities where traffic jam and parking are headaches to be avoided. The young also have a keener sense of climate change because they know they will be burdened with a polluted world that the older generation leaves behind. The arrival of peak car, besides impacting manufacturers, will reduce government revenues derived from taxes based on the car value and its annual license renewal. The budget for repairing existing roads and bridges will be squeezed if there are fewer cars on the road. Barring an increase in existing car tax, some American cities are considering adding a tax for usage, that is, the amount of distance the car is driven annually.

With the approach of peak car, what about peak oil? This is subject to debate because oil is used for aviation, manufacturing and space heating, too. A recent report from BP (formerly British Petroleum) suggests that peak oil will arrive around 2030. What are the writings on the wall that we can see? Saudi Arabia, the top oil producing countries with the biggest reserve, is investing a total of 1 trillion dollars over a few years in solar and wind in its vast deserts. So are the biggest oil companies around the world. The rise of hybrids, electric cars, and better fuel efficiency are making a dent in the current gasoline consumption around the world. In American cities, many retail gasoline stations at street corners are closing and giving way to shops and other retail outlets. Although climate deniers insist on maintaining the status quo, a rising environmental consciousness on a global scale is driving consumer preferences away from oil and other fossil fuels. Last but not least, solar and wind have now reached grid parity with oil. That means utility companies can cost-effectively switch from oil to solar or wind in the generation of electricity for their customers.

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The Royal Wedding

I have recently followed the pompous wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle with interest. Like the other previous royal weddings, it gives the impression of a fairy tale that many people enjoy watching and silently wishing for themselves. It also satisfies the hunger for true love and happiness ever after that the world finds itself deficient.

The British are best in staging and presenting royal events because they have a legendary monarchy that the country can rally around for both celebration and national identity. The British monarchy has long changed from an absolute to a constitutional one where it no longer holds governing power except titles and privileges. This means image and public relations assume top importance for royal sustenance. The rest of the world also likes to watch and follow the news of the British royal family, especially for us Americans who have no royals except business tycoons who have not much to show apart from their commercial assets.

The British republicans who advocate abolishing the monarchy must think twice about the benefits that the royal family brings to the country. The benefits are not easily measured in money terms and may be priceless. How can you price national identity, culture, tradition, unity and continuity? The “sovereign grant” dedicated to maintaining the monarchy is reported by Buckingham Palace to be around $105 million per year or an average of $1.6 for every citizen. The highest estimate of the cost of the monarchy according to the TIMES reaches $468 million per year or $7.1 per capita. Even if you take the highest cost, the monarchy still looks like a good deal (How much does a hamburger meal cost today?). On the positive side, one must ask how much the monarchy has enhanced British tourism, entertainment and advertising revenues. It is widely reported that Prince Harry’s wedding has boosted national retail sales by more than $600 million.

The royal family is like any other regular family. They are special because the British people and the rest of the world want to consider and treat them special. Imagine the pressure they take on upon themselves to satisfy this worldwide audience even though they want to do it. As long as the royal members can keep and play their mystique, the British taxpayers will be willing to pay for their maintenance. In return, they have an extraordinary job to do, enjoyable or not, mostly in ceremonious events or goodwill visits to foreign countries. Like any other family, the royals have their own share of scandals, infidelity and breakups. Because they are scrutinized intensely by the press, their mistakes are magnified and publicized to a great extent.

The real danger for any monarchy is of course the bad behaviors of the royal members. Because they are forced to live in a bubble for the public to see, the royals can easily stray out of touch with the outside world, thus rendering them irrelevant. The British monarchy has gone through some crises such as the breakup of Prince Charles’ marriage, the death of Princess Diana, and King Edward VIII’s abdication in order to marry an American divorcee. In recent years, things seem to have turned for the better as young Princes William and Harry took on more worldly responsibilities. Both have injected new blood into the royal family by marrying commoners like Catherine Middleton and Meghan Markle respectively. Besides being a commoner, Meghan is a black American divorcee from the entertainment industry, which might not have been acceptable a few decades earlier. In addition, the Queen has done her part by staying in touch with British popular culture. She has conferred titles to the Beatles, Elton John, Mick Jagger and other entertainers. This is a nice way to recognize their career achievements. Although entertainers have weird habits and tend to have a brush with the law, their monetary contribution to the British economy far exceeds those of famous scientists and academics.

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The Flat-Earth Concept

To see the round earth, there is no need to rocket out to space. You can see the earth’s curvature anywhere by looking out to sea, down from a hillside, or across a big flat plain. When you gaze at the sky, everything appears round — the moon, the sun, other planets, distant stars, and even solar and lunar eclipses. What made our early ancestors think that the earth was flat? Why had they failed to see this great truth for so long? Did they possess any common sense at all?

Human history can be traced by the fossil of a skeleton to about 200,000 years old. By the same way, modern civilization is thought to begin around 6000 years ago. The concept of the spherical earth is traced to ancient Greek philosophy around 2600 years old when astronomy also began. Nevertheless, the round-earth concept did not gain popular acceptance until only 500 years ago when Magellan circumnavigated the earth. Why had the flat-earth concept lasted for so long?

Considering human progress from the beginning age of the caveman to the modern scientific exploration of Mars, I think the human mind has much greater capacity than for survival only. It is also able to understand the universe and unlock its secrets, gradually in the ancient era but exponentially in modern times due to the explosion of scientific knowledge. I believe that some tribes of our ancient ancestors had already figured out that the earth was round well before the Greeks 2600 years ago, which is officially known as the beginning of the round-earth concept. Although I cannot prove it, let me give you the reasons why:

First, some tribes somewhere might have carved a spherical earth on a piece of stone waiting to be unearthed, just like a fossil has been unearthed to show that the oldest human form existed about 200,000 years ago. There will always be more secrets to be unearthed later.

Second, communications between different ancient tribes were difficult or non-existent even though they lived close to each other. As a result, the round-earth concept stayed within the isolated tribe for a long time.

Third, tribes were led by a chief or elder who had absolute power. It is human nature that a ruler rules either by physical strength or intellectual power. In ancient times, intellectual power means being able to invent and propagate myths that the rest did not understand but must follow. The empirical round-earth concept ran counter to all ancient myths and so must be rejected or suppressed. The round-earth concept was not important in ancient times because the tribes rarely traveled long distances, thus it was easily suppressed. Other empirical concepts like gravity, the changing seasons, growing crops and domesticating animals were much more important because they related to life and death. Likewise, the positions of the stars were more important for worshipping,  navigational and timing purposes.

The suppression of new ideas to preserve the old myths continued for a long time in the feudal societies that developed from the ancient tribes until the Industrial Revolution around 1700 A.D. shook up the entire system. Before that time, people who discovered new things that contradicted with established doctrines were banished as lunatics and even executed for their believing in the truth.

Therefore, my conclusion is that for a truth (big or small) to come out, it must overcome the coverup and suppression imposed by the establishment if it runs counter to their own interest. The establishment may be a government, a religion, a powerful organization or a big private company. In the modern era, although the truth cannot be suppressed by brute force as in the old times, it can easily be covered up by a maze of invented technical details that few people understand (as shown by all the financial scams). Furthermore, a truth can remain hidden for a long time if the public want to be blind followers and do not try to question the status quo.

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