So the New Year meant a lot of parties. It meant a lot of talking to a bunch of fellow Americans and realizing at how they know about the world around us. They know know enough to complain, but that’s about their limit. I am, of course, talking about you.
Go ahead, name six important foreign leaders. And, no, Tony Blair doesn’t count.
Before you shut me out—I know this article already stinks of “unfun learning”—let me just plead with you: take a moment to read this. It’s so important to know who these people are. And there are less words in this simple article than any two Radiohead songs put together. Even the one where it’s just that computer talking. And this isn’t nearly as painful. Consider it your booster shot against the twenty-four hour stupid that’s going around this winter. Let’s get started:
Who’s on first? President Hu, that is. Know who he is? He’s the leader of the Chinese government and their local chapter of the Communist Party. This soft-faced, well-spoken man is noted for both his work to green up the country’s industrialization and his “China’s Peaceful Rise” policy, which, just as it sounds, is an attempt to convince the world that everyone benefits from China’s bulging military. Incidentally, Hu was the party chief in Tibet during 1989, when the big crackdown came there—including the killing of the Panchen Lama (the Dali’s number two man). This bit of political success began his rise to where he is today.
Contrary to popular opinion, Kim Jong-il is not the president of North Korea. That honor belongs to his father, Kim Il-sung. Fortunately for Jong-il, his father, the “Eternal President”, has been dead since 1994. This makes the old man perhaps the most perfect puppet government ever conceived. Equally convenient is the lack of elections required for Jong-il, because he isn’t the president. He’s just that crazy-haired, huge-glasses guy who controls all the nukes.
For the last year, South Korean minister Ban Ki-moon has been the General Secretary of the United Nations. Here in America, the U.N. is regularly downplayed as the so-called organization that is powerless to stop us from invading Iraq or doing whatever the hell else we want. But Secretary Ban has real potential to make the U.N. seem like it’s back in charge. He didn’t condemning Hussein’s controversial execution and he’s done less than nothing for either Taiwan or Iran. Instead, he’s focused on no-brainers like global warming and Darfur. So there’s little fear that the U.N.’s policies will come into conflict with the way the world is already moving. After all, the best leadership is when people don’t notice they are being led.
As the “Bush of the North”, Stephen Harper is the first conservative Prime Minister of Canada since 1993. Sporting the same sort of businessman’s power suits that Bush made famous, Harper has spent unprecedented time visiting troops in Afghanistan, made a strong anti-Lebanon stance, and announced his intention to defend Canada’s claim on the Arctic waters with military strength. In fact, about the only thing that distinguishes Harper from his southern counterpart is his economic policy seems to be working.
Thirty-six percent of Mexico’s citizens still believe that President Felipe Calderón stole his office. So controversial was his election that, for several days leading up to his inauguration, there was fist-fighting on the floor of congress. Felipe is yet another North American Powersuit President (NAPP). He’s most noted for his anti-drug campaign, which included ordering the army to march into Tijuana. There, under the assumption they were all corrupt, they demanded all police officers surrender their weapons.
As a 6th Dan Black Belt in Judo, there’s no question of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s success in the WWF Superpower Slam. Time Magazine’s Person of the Year, this former KGB Major is also happy to resume Russia’s traditional role as antagonizer of the United States—granted this time with a more diplomatic angle. Harsh criticisms of just about everything Bush has endeared him around the world. And he’s a hit back home, too, going after the corrupt and the wealthy with a vigor we could use here in the west.