Recently, US President Donald Trump, in one of his careless (which many Americans call “mindless and insane”) outbursts, said he wanted to buy Greenland, a large island-territory in Denmark. To which many Danes and their Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen riposted: “It is absurd! Greenland is not for sale!”
Buying a country’s territory may indeed sound absurd, but there were instances in the past when conquests by force were supplanted by the less expensive use of money, using the time-worn art of haggling for the right price. History tells us that Spain agreed to sell the Philippine Islands at the bargain-basement price of $20 million, offered by cheapskate America. Why historians never mentioned the “humiliation” and “embarrassment” of Filipinos at the time for being sold like chattel is a wonder. That must have made rich countries think that, indeed, “money makes the world go round.”
Trump’s offer to buy Greenland seems to have unwittingly improved a battle cry of the young of an earlier generation, from “Make love not war!” to something more like: “Make money, sell the weapons, buy a country, avoid war and save lives!”
Despite the businessman-president’s offer being called “insane,” absurdities, in words or in deed, may not at once signify being “silly,” “unreasonable” and “irrational.” Sometimes, they are amended or healed by time to be appreciated. Some examples: Building a 5,000-mile-long wall around a subcontinent, building stone pyramids in the desert as tombs for kings, building a mansion of pure marble for a dead wife, sending humans in space to win an imagined “space race,” conquering the summit of the highest mountain just “because it’s there,” crossing the vast ocean in a grass boat “just for the hell of it,” etc.
Because of love, giant ego, the thirst for knowledge, exhibitionism, security, greed—such actions became relevant centuries later, resulting in historical, cultural and religious monuments and milestones, priceless relics and tourist attractions. With money as the main goal, similar absurdities still abound.
Here’s one that might interest China, and one that makes good business and historic sense at the same time: To avoid expensive and protracted disputes in the South China Sea (SCS), it should offer to buy 55 atolls, reefs, sandbars, islets, cays, shoals in the SCS, for the grouping known as the Spratlys, Kalayaan, Truong Sa, Kota, Patag, Rizal, Panata, Parola, etc. Like Greenland, these features are “not for sale” and are territories claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei. However, “Uncle Xi” (Jinping) can afford to offer “Money For Peace for the Spratlys” to avoid war, make neighbors share China’s blessings, save lives and continue to enjoy growing richer in peace.
Business propositions easily incite people to reflect and pause. For example, China has now overtaken the United States and the United Kingdom as the leading buyer of lands in many countries, with thousands of acres in Africa alone, bought for agriculture “and for other purposes.”
It’s true that pride and nationalism cannot be annulled by mere love of money, especially if it comes from a perceived aggressor. But if Judas’ 30 pieces of silver were for “betrayal and death,” the $55-billion price for the Spratlys would be for “life, peace and progress”—the conditional sale payable in X number of years, and the wealth underground and undersea equitably shared through joint exploration and production. It is apropos to remember what a philosopher once said: “It’s a kind of spiritual snobbery that makes people think they can be happy without money.”
Had more diplomacy been used and “isms” that divide peoples avoided, wars could have been prevented. The Chinese, with their Confucian “Wen” or the art of peace, are “the most pacific people in the world,” but today they are everywhere—arrogant like people itching for trouble because of their newfound wealth and power. The Chinese can humble themselves by breaking bread with the rightful claimants and offer “money for peace”—and the protagonists might listen. Pragmatism may just win against pride and “isms.” “Wine maketh merry, but money answereth all things!”—Ecclesiastes 10:19.
Eddie Ilarde is a former senator, lifetime achievement awardee for radio and television, freelance writer and author, founding president-chair of Golden Eagle Society International Inc. for the Welfare and Dignity of Senior Citizens, and founding chair of Maharlika Movement for National Transformation. He is heard 1:30 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday in his program “Kahapon Lamang” over dzBB 594 AM radio.