TGNR’s Paul K. DiCostanzo spoke with London School of Economics alumnus, Reuters columnist, as well as Founder and Executive Director of The Metropolitan Society for International Affairs, Peter C. Marino. Peter is a specialist in International Relations, foreign policy, economics, and Global Politics. Peter is also on a most unusual mission as the creator and host of YouTube’s Globalogues. Globalogues is a daily program designed to educate and inform the viewer about an eclectic array of global issues, while closely tracking the development of those stories over an extended period of time. Globalogues is unique in its own sphere insofar as it is presented without an ideological foundation or goal. Globalogues aims to present all of the relevant information on the world stage, regardless of its implication. In doing so, Globalogues leaves the viewers to draw their own conclusions about events. Peter also spoke on his own life and history, which is nothing less than pioneering.
TGNR Paul K. DiCostanzo: I am here with Peter C. Marino: creator, brain trust, and host of Globalogues. We are talking about Peter’s mammoth Globalogues undertaking, as well as discussing his fascinating life story.
Thank you for joining me, Peter.
Peter C. Marino: Thanks, Paul.
TGNR PKD: In your eyes, what is the definition of an expert? Regardless of the subject.
PM: That’s a tricky question to answer. I have found it hard ever to feel comfortable with calling myself an expert. An expert is such a mushy thing. So-and-so becomes an expert in Hot Yoga. Or so-and-so is an expert in organic foods, or whatever it is. Its become more “new-agey” and less rigorous with a given subject mater. Its become easy to call yourself an expert. When your with something scientific and mathematical, it is generally easier to say who is an expert and who isn’t because there are clearly defined boundaries.
Expertise I feel is a comfortable fluency with the body of knowledge of a particular subject mater. Such that you understand how to use it, apply it, manipulate it, and feel your way through it. For an expert, I feel it is something that comes naturally for them. As opposed to using definitive cognitive effort in their field of interest.
People think about playing music, which is a great example. You’ve heard about this so-called “10,000 hour rule,” and I don’t know how accurate it actually is. Thought let’s presume it is for the moment. The idea that after 10,000 hours of practice, your work becomes a subconscious thing, rather than a conscious thing. To be an expert on something, I would say is to be able to have your interaction with it, use of it, and application of it be at least as subconscious as conscious.
TGNR PKD: How would you define yourself in regards to the knowledge you possess in your field? What would you define yourself as?
PM: I think I would be flattering myself saying that I’m an expert. I’m an aspiring expert you could say. I often like to refer to myself as a specialist. Which I think is both accurate, and doesn’t presume a level of skill that is not already in evidence. I have certainly studied International Relations both in formal academic settings, and on my own beyond what most people would. Though you could also say the same of a chef of cooking, or of engineering.
So whether than confers on me expertise, I don’t know. I think expertise needs to be bestowed by someone who is not me. Though I am comfortable calling myself a specialist.
TGNR PKD: You are an interesting man because you have absolutely cut out your own path in life. You have done things other people have never considered doing. There is a lot gumption, there is a lot of maturity, and there is a lot of foresight.
At the end of your freshman year of college you said to yourself, ‘I’m going to take an opportunity to go work in finance in Shanghai.’ You were 20 years old, and you took off to another hemisphere and culture.
Tell me about the path you lead to acquired so much first hand knowledge. You have spent significant time in China and East Asia. You have lived among these peoples and their cultures. It is something you have immersed yourself in.
PM: Immersive is certainly a way to describe it.
I had taken a gap year between graduating high school and my first year of college. In that gap year, I spent part of that time traveling in China. Part of an international jaunt you could say.
At the end of my freshman year of university at Colgate, I assessed what my lived experience had been in China. What it was like interacting with interesting ex-patriots, and the kind of life I had over there. All together with the more cloistered atmosphere of a small liberal arts college in upstate New York. It seemed to me that Shanghai was where the action was, and certainly by comparison to Hamilton, New York. So I dropped out and moved back to Shanghai in 2004.
Now at the time I moved back, it would be very generous to say I was doing it to peruse an opportunity I had there. I essentially had to go there and create the opportunity ex nihilo. I went and I first ended up as kind of a personal assistant/right-hand-man/lieutenant for this Chinese-Canadian fellow. Then I parted ways with him after a while and started my own small enterprise in import-export. It was market entry consulting for Western firms wanting to do business with China.
In the process of doing that, I ended up meeting Austrians who had a finance firm in Vienna and London. They were looking to find a business-development/client-acquisition partner in China. Through a few months of talking and figuring things out, I ended up being the Business Director for this Viennese project finance firm.
The years after doing that were the closest experience to being a rock star that I would ever have. You’re allegedly an executive of some variety for this Western firm.You are the one bringing the money. “Oh my goodness we have these real-estate projects, and infrastructure projects, and industrial projects,” and so on. Projects that need tens or hundreds of millions of dollars in Euro’s and whatnot. You’re toured around the place and you are given this and that and the other.
It was quite an experience. I got to go to all kinds of third-tier and fourth-tier cities in China that are not commonly visited by Westerner’s with good reason. There really isn’t that much going on there unless you are going to finance a project.
It was an extremely immersive experience, just as you described it. There was no one else in the firm that I was with in China that spoke both Chinese and English. So I was often responsible for doing all of my own interpretation and contract translation. Also interacting with the business and government officials at the county and city level. It was quite intense.
TGNR PKD: Eventually you finished your time in China, and you returned to the United States to re-embark on your formal education.
PM: There was a year after returning from China where I wasn’t sure where to go. After about nine months of that year, I concluded it would be sensible to return to school and complete my B.A. Which I did.
TGNR PKD: You went to Norwich University, which of course is the oldest private senior military college in the United States. Though you went there as a civilian student?
PM: Yes. I started at Norwich in January of 2010 as a civilian.
TGNR PKD: What did you find beneficial about your time at Norwich as a civilian student? What about that experience added to the substance of your knowledge?
PM: There were a few things. First of all at the time I was toying with the idea in my own head of joining the military as an intelligence officer. I had no experience with the military. None of my family had ever served in it. So the whole culture and lifestyle was very foreign to me. So going to a military school like Norwich in Vermont would provide a test case. What would it be like in that milieu? I was thus able to conclude that maybe the military was not for me. I thought it would be, and at the end I was less certain.
Other than that it was valuable because we had foreign military cadets who became friends of mine. Many of whom are still my friends. These were cadets from countries allied to the United States.
Of course being at a military school, you necessarily end up with the National Security and Foreign Policy components of International Relations. As opposed to doing it at some other school where there might be an higher emphasis on Geoeconomics, or International Development. Norwich had a very strong emphasis on National Security and the Foreign Policy component.
TGNR PKD: You finished your time at Norwich and graduated. You then decided to cross the pond. Tell me about your time at the London School of Economics.
PM: Yeah! After I finished at Norwich I wanted to continue with my education. I was accepted into a program at LSE for Global Politics. I spent a year completing my Masters at the London School of Economics.
Global Politics was intriguing. I didn’t fully and precisely understand what was meant by the subject matter prior to beginning the program. It was not entirely clear what is was, or what it has turned out to be. It is the theoretical study of Globalization, and the practical study of what is meant by Globalization. What it means to be living in the global era. Because Globalization was this phenomenon that was talked about as impending for a while.
You can go back to the mid to late 80’s and see the first discussions about what the Internet will do when it becomes a fully realized idea. What it will practically mean to be engaged in free trade, and a global cosmopolitan culture. All of the various things that are now a lived reality.
Though I ask, ‘what does it mean?’ What relevance does classic International Relations have in state-to-state interactions, and straight up classical diplomacy? As opposed to this more multi-layered network, overlapping system of Globalization. A situation where states, and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO), Inter-Governmental Organizations (IGO), individuals who mobilize through the web in non-national movements. Scenario’s that are both benign and malicious.
How do they work? Or, what do we mean by globalized terrorism in the contemporary sense as opposed to terrorism in the 20th century? When you accept the premise that we live in this globalized age, what does that really mean? What are the consequences in the lived experience of the individual? What does it mean for the conduct of an organization? Or for the practice of diplomacy and international security?
TGNR PKD:You have been involved in several projects since you returned from England, though right now your brain child is Globalogues. It is a very unusual program when compared to others that discuss politics and international affairs. It is incredibly informative. It gives a very broad look at global events.
Yet there is no ideology tied to Globalogues. There is nothing that says, ‘you must look at the world through this lens.’ You provide all of the relevant information whatever it may imply, and give the audience everything you believe could possibly be significant. Then you say, ‘there it is, come to your own conclusions. Whatever they may be.’
Why did you decide to mix your knowledge, your experience, and your specialization with media? Why do you reach out to people everyday for 10 minutes?
PM: I feel compelled to help people understand things better. My contention is that the world is actually not that incomprehensible. There really is not that many steps in between the knowledge that an individual has and the knowledge that is necessary to understand it. I feel compelled to help people bridge that gap in understanding.
It is not ideological. I am not seeking to promote a partisan or policy oriented view in the same way that certain cable channels or radio stations are well known for doing. I feel more of the responsibility of an educator. In as much as I can’t really tell you anything. What I can do, and what my responsibility is ultimately to bring you out to the place, arm you with the information, analysis, and skill set so that you can come to that understanding yourself.
If I try anything more than that it is first of all on some level kind of false. On a more important level it is kind of impossible. If all I am doing is saying, “Here is The Truth.” Capital “T.” Capital “T.” Then I give it to you, it doesn’t improve your long term capability of understanding that on your own.
I look at what happens day to day in the world, and I understand it through the mechanisms of history and various spheres of understanding. Information that I have sought to accumulate and try to develop ways for other people to do the same.
So many people seem so baffled, overwhelmed, and unnerved by what goes on out in the world. If a little bit of the uncertainty can be broken down, I think people will be a lot less fearful of the bigger picture of events.
TGNR PKD: You call yourself a specialist, and I think that is a fantastic term. In your eyes, what makes Globalogues special? Why should the reader who is just being introduced to you tune in and listen to your specialized analysis of greater events?
PM: What makes Globalogues special? I think the first thing people will probably notice is that I am very eclectic in my choice of subject matter. I make a deliberate point to cover, analyze, and talk about material that does not commonly make it onto the front page of newspapers, or onto your social media feed predominantly.
Generally speaking the top line media may have room in their headlines spots for maybe three to five stories. I make a specific effort to go look at others things. Not only to look at others things, but to look at others things I have done previously. I spend a lot of time talking about countries that are less well covered in the American press. I did a whole nine-part series on the political and economic crisis in Venezuela. I spend a lot of time on Asian politics, being an Asianist myself. I also try to make diversions from time to time into popular culture. I find popular culture to be a high minded analysis of popular culture. It is an interesting expression of the feelings of society at a particular moment. A reflection of values, and an expression of choices. So I like to do that.
Another thing I’m trying to build more on is a concept I call “global narratives.” Essentially a networked database of all major political, economic, and social contestations around the world at every major political level. Tracking those stories and returning to those stories over and over again.
So often what happens is you will check-in on a story and six months later you won’t hear anything about it. You will have forgotten what had happened previously. Globalogues tracks stories more deliberately, directly, and applies viewable metrics to them. It can be possible to assemble over a course of months and years a developing and ongoing map of how conflicts are playing out.
TGNR PKD: In the end, what is it on the grander scale of your life that you really want to accomplish?
PM: The most abstract answer to that question would be I would like to serve the U.S. national interest in foreign policy. If that is in the continuation of Globalogues by helping to inform and educate the public. Ultimately so the public can be more substantial players in the foreign policy debate, and the selection of leaders in the republic.
Does it mean governmental service myself? That is not yet certain. I am a committed internationalist in the post-1945 sense. I am a committed American-internationalist that is dedicated to the importance and integrity of our alliance networks, and the liberal rules based order underpinned by American leadership.
TGNR PKD: That’s liberal with a lowercase “l.”
That order is currently undergoing its gravest challenge since the end of the Cold War. We could spend an entire other set of interviews on why I think that’s the case, and what it all implies. At this point I don’t think its contentious to say that whole order I just described, that I admire, and want to protect is being challenged in a way that it has not been since 1991. If it is to survive in anything like its current form, it has to re articulate. Its clearly important to the world because people are convinced it is as important as I believe, as well as those whole built it believed. It needs to develop new solutions to the challenges of the contemporary moment, and not to the challenges of the immediate post Cold War world.
TGNR PKD: I would like to thank you very much Peter. Thank you for your time.
PM: Thank you.
“The Future of Venezuela: Why Does It Matter?” Globalogues – Hosted by Peter C. Marino