Blue Roses, Green Cars and More: What Color is Your Future?



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     The writing excerpts included in this section are from Dorothy's collection and are listed below.  You can reach them by scrolling down the page or by clicking on a particular title.

     Graduate School Research and Theses and the following publications: Trade and Investment in Japan: The Current Environment (1991 Study for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Japan and the management consulting firm A. T. Kearney), Notes on Change (1993 Newsletter), Between Two Worlds (1995 short non-fiction/current events book), The Eden Tree (still-unfinished - but nearly completed! - novel), and the first part of the summer 2004 essay series "Genes, Beans and Greens: A Taste of the Genetically Modified Foods Debate, Part I." (This essay is actually located in the "Essay Archives" section of the site, but a link is provided here for your convenience.)

"Tahiti Sunset" 1983, 2005 Dorothy A. Birsic


     At the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy (Tufts University), the master's degree thesis is known as the M.A.L.D. Candidates for the Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy degree have the option of writing one full M.A.L.D. or two half M.A.L.D.s.  I chose the latter.  The topics (and a short description of each) are as follows:

  • "Change and the Nation State:  Outmoded Concept or Enduring Entity?"  The main thesis of this paper was that for the near future states would continue as the core analytic structures of the international political system, though in an increasingly crowded field of entities.  Barring major system transformation, the most significant changes for now will be found in what Professor James Rosenau refers to as the "core phenomena of states . . . the norms governing relationships, the habits of voluntary and coerced compliance, and the practices of cooperation through which large numbers of people form and sustain a collectivity that possesses sovereigy authority with respect to them."*

     * James N. Rosenau, "The State in an Era of Cascading Politics" Comparative Political Studies 21 (April 1988): 15

  • "The New International Economic Order and the International Commodity Regime, 1974-1984"  In the content of this paper the origins of the New International Economic Order (NIEO), both historically and economically, were explored.  Discussions of the NIEO were used to examine the role of Third World commodities and commodity policy in development and the international commodity trading regime.  Measures undertaken in commodity control from 1974-1984 were then reviewed, and the role U.S. commodity policy played in the system was analyzed.

     Other topics of research at both the Fletcher School and the Harvard Business School focused primarily on technological change, international trade and issues concerning sovereignty.  These topics included:

  • Technological Change: Implications for the International System

  • BioPolitics

  • Commodity Report:  Manganese (Including Deep Sea-Bed Mining)

  • The New International Sea Regime:  Implications for U.S. Ocean Policy

  • Peking and the Potola:  Modern Sino-Tibetan Relations

  • International Trade in Services

  • At the Crossroads: COMSAT and the U.S. Satellite Communications Industry


     This was a study completed and published in 1991 for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Japan by the management consulting firm A.T. Kearney.  Although I was a primary author of the study as an A. T. Kearney consultant in Japan, I do not hold any copyright privileges for the document, so I will not provide any excerpts here.  Please contact either of the organizations mentioned if you are interested in the report.  For your information and clarification, a view of the cover of the report is provided below.

     To read news coverage about the release and content of this study, please refer to the front page of the New York Times for Wednesday, June 12, 1991 ("U.S. Companies in Japan Say Things Aren't So Bad"), the business section of the Los Angeles Times for the same day, and page D3 of the Los Angeles Times for September 16, 1991.

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     This was a short-lived newsletter focusing on the impact of technological change on our lives.  In the October 1993 issue, which concerned changes in communication, information and transportation, I wrote:

    "In many places on this planet, a person can walk out the door of the most sleek, modern jet plane, take a few steps past the runway, and find himself or herself deposited in a world far different than any he or she has ever known.  Take the country of Nepal, for example.  Once a person goes beyond a certain point outside of a small number of main cities, there are few roads of any sort.  Passage for humans is strictly by dirt path and on foot, while goods are transported to distant villages on the backs of animals.

   It is not uncommon to come across signs [such as the one included in the newsletter] offering the visitor a brief word of welcome, directions and travel times to certain destinations.  In a way it is like stepping back hundreds of years in time to a period and place where the conveniences of modern transportation and communication do not exist.  High in the mountains there are no cars and no phones, and there is no faxing ahead for reservations at the next rest stop.  A person walks as fast and as far in a day as his or her legs will travel, then stops for a night's rest before beginning the journey again in the morning.  There are few, if any, detailed and grid-lined map guides to the trails.  Instead, trekkers rely upon experienced guides (sherpas) to navigate the routes and point them in the right direction. . ."

    "No one can say with any great certainty what new discoveries or developments may come 100, 50 or even 25 years from now, or how they might affect human lives.  As a result, the 'sherpas' of our institutions may face territory which is uncharted at best, or at least resemble little of what had been seen in the past.  If so, the signs by the road will be welcome, but they will be able to provide only a partial idea of what lies on the journey ahead."

"Sydney Fountain" 1985, 2005 Dorothy A. Birsic

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    This book was designed to be a quick introduction to issues of technological change for people who might not be inclined to read something on the subject that they couldn't finish in a few hours or a day or two.  In the introduction, I said, "This book makes no attempt at being an academic treatise.  It is not a book of numbers, and there aren't pages of charts and statistics to pour over.  It could take a half-dozen or so good-sized volumes to thoroughly discuss all of the changes everywhere which have been brought about by technology, but many of those already exist.  That is not the purpose of this book, either.  Instead, it is designed for anyone seeking some type of understanding of the trends and dynamics which have shaped and continue to shape the world today.  It includes a brief look at aspects of technological change in business, government and society.  If the material piques interest or gives cause for further reflection, all the better.  There are dozens of topics and concepts presented which the reader could explore easily and in greater depth (on his or her own).  The dynamics of technological change are complex and uneven, as are its effects on human lives."


Corporation as "Person" and State as "Person"

    The notion of sovereignty is frequently cited in discussions of two particular issues: immigration and international trade.  Because such a large portion of international trade is conducted by large corporations, it is perhaps easiest to illustrate some of the complexities and differences between domestic and international by looking at differences between states (nations) and corporations as legal "persons" on the global stage.  This does not mean small companies are insignificant, for they are not.  In countries such as the U.S., they are dynamic engines of opportunity and often rapid expansion.  However, most of the discussion in the chapter centers around large multinationals with extensive business dealings in many sites around the world.

    The earlier definition of the criteria for statehood began by saying, ". . . the state as a person of international law. . ."  Similarly, another "person" in domestic and international law is the corporation.  To carry the analogy a bit further, these two persons are "endowed" with different "features" and are empowered to carry on their missions and duties in different ways.  Using the United States and U.S. corporations as examples, one might first say of America as a "person" that it is a democracy.  The legitimacy of its leaders is derived through popular election by a vote of its citizens.  The leaders are then empowered to act based on the principles of government established in the Constitution, codified in a set of laws, adjudicated through a court system and administered and enforced through the executive branch (and law enforcement).  At minimum, the role of this government is to protect the well-being and safety of its citizens and shores.  The methods through which the government is allowed to carry out its duties include enacting and enforcing laws, levying taxes, entering into treaties and declaring war.

    The corporation gains its existence and legitimacy at first by being incorporated within a particular state, and it is subject to the laws governing commercial activity.  It is also subject to the laws and regulations of the cities, counties, states and countries in which it does business.  Its equivalent of a constitution might be its articles of incorporation, and its power is derived through the marketplace by providing goods and services desired by its customers.  These goods are often identified by brand name or trademark, all of which are considered property when properly used or registered with the government.  If the company ceases to generate profits in the long run it cannot exist as a viable entity, regardless of its brand name or articles of incorporation.

    The corporation's leaders are chosen by criteria determined within the organization (i.e. length of time with the business, revenue generated, track record, special skills and knowledge, or personal talents or proclivities).  These people are generally not subject to vote or verification of the entire employee base of the company.  Their corporate mission is to provide goods or services in a manner which maximizes profits and shareholder value.  In order to do so the company must provide goods or services to the marketplace.  It does so by marketing or selling them to the public, government or other companies and organizations.

   In a legal sense, the state has jurisdiction over its citizens and within its boundaries.  It can apply its law to all those on its soil, be they citizens or foreign visitors.  It can tax both people and businesses, but if more revenue is needed, it cannot go to a foreign country and tax the citizens of that country.  A business or corporation, on the other hand, can seek its profits in nearly any location, assuming it meets the legal and operational thresholds of other countries.  While each sovereign nation will act to protect its own "national interest" (which can be defined broadly or narrowly), each business will act to protect its own "corporate interest."  Perhaps at the intersection of these two interests is the best illustration of where the lines of sovereignty, or the lines between (purely) domestic and international, begin to blur.

"Tokyo Reflections" 1991, 2005 Dorothy A.Birsic

Overseas Influence and Activity

     Not to belabor the point, but a nation and its government, at least as currently conceived, exists and enacts laws for a particular population within particular boundaries.  The only means through which a government has an official presence in another country in through its embassies (and consulates) and the people who staff them.  These embassies are considered pieces of sovereign land on foreign soil.  States such as California or other government organizations may set up overseas offices with permission.  These offices, however, are generally not considered sovereign territory.  A diplomat's personal expression of sovereignty is represented by diplomatic immunity, or freedom from prosecution under foreign laws (although this may be waived under some circumstances).  Although countries can and do send spies into other lands, or pay informants for information, the only legally-recognized national government representation it is embassy system.  A company can obtain a "piece" of a foreign market by providing consumers with products they choose to buy, but the only way a country can obtain a "piece" of another nation's land is through voluntary secession or war.

   A nation such as the United States may have influence over another country and its people by other non-official means, however.  The strength of military forces or stockpile of weaponry could influence another's thinking or decision-making in regard to war.  Its culture or values, as seen or heard through radio, television or motion pictures, or read in print, might affect the thinking of other governments or peoples.  This is especially true if the materials are available in the country's native (local) language.  Some non-democratic non-Western governments, however, have traditionally blocked access to information not in agreement with official state teachings or policies.  During the course of the Cold War, radio broadcasts from the Voice of America to countries such as those behind the Iron Curtain frequently were jammed.  Foreign magazines or other non-native materials were often confiscated, if found, at international borders. Finally, sources of influence might be exerted through the advanced nature of a country's industry or technology, by the moral strength of its people, or through mutually shared customs, traditions or religions, to name a few.

    Unlike a government, a business or corporation can have a legal presence in most nations, given that the rules and regulations set forth by those nations are followed.  That is not to say that certain countries do not maintain policies or practices which protect domestic industries or restrict foreign competition, for they do.  Some mechanisms which have been used by governments to protect their "national interest" from foreign business include: import restrictions, tariffs (which make the cost of foreign goods higher than prices of comparable domestic ones), threats of nationalization ) businesses being taken over by foreign governments) and restrictions on profit repatriation (returning profits made in an overseas market to a home country), to name a few.  More commonly, though, governments have sought to further the national interest by seeking trade or other policies breaking down barriers for their country's companies in foreign markets.

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     This is a still-unfinished (but almost completed!) novel begun in 1999.  It chronicles the story of Ashley, Marco, some computer software and a very large tree at a place called the Corrigian Institute.  In essence, it is a tale of ideology and its impact on people's lives.  For the last two years you've been able to read what I call the "Elvis" excerpt. Some of you may have been wondering how the whole thing starts. Wonder no more. This year you'll have an excerpt from Chapter One, page one . . . how it all begins.

    The bright white lights that bathed the hillside in a celebratory glow filtered down in a twilight haze to the quiet cities in the valley below. Springtime had been kind to the area, fully endowing the environs with bursts of coloful and pungent blossoms. The evening aromas of jasmine and honeysuckle danced across the grasslands like the bow of a virtuoso violinist, touching down here and there in a sweet symphony of scent. Fading in and out, now softer, now more intense, the fragrant melody swept in and out of the open windows like a siren's song, luring the tempted out to the open-air festivities.

    Few needed the extra call to the events that were about to begin, for it was the grandest night of the year. The fact that the plants cooperated in offering up their intoxicating aroma only added to the gayety of the evening. The time had come for the annual procession of graduates down from the Institute, or the massive hilltop complex everyone referred to as the Institute.

    The full name of the campus was the Corrigian Institute for the Development and Propagation of Higher Knowledge. It was the preeminent institution in the land for educating the scions of the present, the creators and parents of the future. The buildings of the Institute stood on the first of three consecutive hillsides. The second and third carried the weight of the government offices and religious orders. Although equally splendid in their architecture and dignified in their duty, that evening they did nothing but fade into the recesses of the dark background at the edge of the halo of light encapsulating the Institute.

     It was said that the Institute had been built on a sight that in antiquity was thought to be the summer home of the gods. The roots of the celebration drew upon an ancient festival which welcomed the deities and prepared their way back to the area. Now, however, the path was somewhat reversed. Instead of people ascending the mountain-like hillsides to light the way home, the soon-to-be graduates of the Institute made their way in a long, winding procession down to the valley below. It was their symbolic return to the world which hesitated to embrace them as the people they were when they left but could not yet embrace them as those that they would be.

     The lights surrounding the Institute bounced their golden rays off the gleaming white marble towers and sleek, dark-windowed structures atop the hill. It made the buildings look as though some giant sun had ascended from the depths of the earth at the height of the evening. Most referred to it as the annual sunrise at sunset. Thousands of glowing lights, each set atop a carved white column, consecutively dotted the path winding down to the open fields of the valley below.

     At the base of the path's descent, about one half of a mile from the edge of the largest city, a huge tent had been erected for the final rites of the ceremony. Nearly a thousand white slat-backed chairs filled the space under the white canvas canopy with the scalloped yellow trim and fringe. The dais, decorated with white and yellow roses in front and willowy clusters of pampas grass behind, stood a foot or two above the tops of the chairs. The empty seats on the platform faced forward in gaping anticipation of those who would soon fill the vacant spaces. As a phalanx of trumpets blared from the top of the hill announcing the beginning of the descent, the floodlights surrounding the canopy were lit. They created a panoply of lights like a homing beacon signaling to some distant ship from the shore.

     Although the initial rites beginning the graduation process were closed to all but the students and Institute staff, families, friends and spectators gathered eagerly at the base of the hill. They all stood behind a braided gold rope staring intently at the oncoming procession. No one in the crowd was as excited to see the students of the Institute as 22-year-old Ashley Montag. As she stood at the front of the rope, hands clasped in a white-knuckle grip around the thick braided strand, the breeze gently blew wisps of her long, wavy brown hair across her face. She waited for no one in particular. She knew no one in the crowd save for the locals in the city who had come as spectators. Yet at the same time she was more mesmerized by the oncoming spectacle than anyone in the crowd. The sweet tension of anticipation pulsed through her body because she knew that in a short time she would be on the other side of the rope. It would be her turn to walk down the hill as a graduation candidate of the Corrigian Institute for the Development and Propagation of Higher Knowledge!

     The thought was almost too much for her to stand. As the scent of jasmine and honeysuckle suddenly filled the air around her, she felt as light-headed as a teenager in the front row of her idol's rock concert. She quickly gathered her wits about her as the procession began to pass.

     The somber graduates-to-be slowly filed by the rapt spectators, each chanting the school's anthem like a solemn mantra of a devoted faith. "The devotees of knowledge old . . . Do take upon a new course bold . . . The cycle of the time unfold . . . A Corrigian spirit to uphold . . ." Ashley watched the students file past, each carrying a tall, lit candle in one hand and a book bound in black leather in the other. And still there were the necklaces - or medallions. No one was exactly sure what to call them.

     Each year it was the same pattern. The students wore, on thin gold chains around their necks and draped out over their flowing black robes, tiny crystal boxes suspended on gold chains. In the light of the candles and lamps along the path, they sparkled more brightly than the most finely-cut Waterford. Inside each box was what appeared to be a small, dark kernel, smaller than the nail of one's little finger. Most thought they looked like coffee beans, though not nearly as smooth in texture. Besides, people reasoned, why would graduates of the preeminent institution celebrate one of the most important days of their lives by sticking coffee beans in exquisitely-crafted crystal boxes of untold value? It had to be something else, but it was something known only to those affiliated with the school. No one was allowed to comment on it, and people knew better than to ask.

     Year after year, people in the front of the procession wore many of the boxes -- some carried ten of them draped around their necks -- while others, on occasion, had one or none. Their place was always at the back of the line. It was almost hypnotic, watching the sparkling cubes bounce up and down gently to the cadence of the slow-moving procession. Slowly Ashley counted: One, two three, four, five, six, seven . . .eight. The man walking by was wearing eight of the crystal boxes. She looked up briefly to see his face, and their eyes met and locked for a split second. To Ashley, she had just seen the face of Adonnis. Even in the dim light the dark pupils of his light hazel eyes sparkled with a greater fire than the glass beating against his chest. His nose and chin were chiseled more perfectly than all the statues of the ancient Greek gods, and his skin, though taught against his upswept cheekbones, showed not a crease nor a hint of the slightest line. In the split-second appraisal of Ashley as he passed the crowd along the ropes, he found the face of the stranger more than to his liking.

     One by one, the last of those in the procession filed into their seats. The dignitaries, wearing black robes capped with hoods of yellow and beige satin, then took their places on the dais. They each placed their long, thick candles on the polished brass stanchions behind their seats. The candleholders stood at varying heights, from the tallest in the middle tapering down gradually toward the platform at each end. After all the students had arrived at their places, the ropes were lowered. Invited guests were allowed to sit in the seats immediately behind the graduates-to-be. All others took places behind them. Since Ashley had been standing at the front of the crowd, she stepped forward quickly to find a place. They were all filing in from a pathway on the left side of the tent. However, Ashley saw a few open spaces further up on the opposite side and quickly skirted the back row of chairs to fill one of the more desirable empty seats.

     Before she sat down, Ashley scooped up the Commencement program which had been placed on the chair. On the cover it said, "Commencement Exercises, 195th Class of the Corrigian Institute for the Development and Propagation of Higher Knowledge." Below the title was the Institute seal, a large gold circle and design, embossed into the thick paper cover of the program. In the circle at the outside rim were some Latin words which she didn't understand, and at the center of the seal was a huge tree. It was unlike any she'd ever seen before. At first she thought it might be an oak, its thick trunk supporting sturdy branches which billowed upward and outward like the rounded puffs of a cottony cloud. But then she noticed the tiny details of little star-shaped figures among the branches and leaves of the embossing. It was impossible to tell whether the figures were fruit or flowers, but they were nothing like anything growing in their quiet little town.

     While Ashley poured over the details of the program, she was unaware that another pair of eyes were studying her with equal intensity. The student with whom she had locked eyes during the procession was sitting across the aisle and up a few rows. As he was taking in the preordained pomp and captivating circumstances of the evening, he had happened to glance over his shoulder at the faces in the crowd behind him. Although pleased to see the beautiful woman again, he was not overly surprised. After all, those kinds of things happened often, and he took it as another sign from that unknown hand that seemed to guide his fate.

     Without being stridently obvious to those seated around him, he studied the details of his unknown goddess with the long, dark and silken wavy hair. He watched as it slipped down over her shoulders when she bent forward to pick up a slip of paper. His map-maker's eyes studied every inch of the relief of her profile: the gently-sloping dip of her eyelashes, the soft, rounded tip of her nose, the deep, dusty-rose color of her pouty lips, the gracefully arched curve of her chin. It was the outline of a land he hoped someday to visit.

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