I often find that events happening in the world parallel things that are happening in a micro-level around my life. I’ve always been a firm believer that there aren’t really that many unique events in the world, that macro-level events replicate themselves in microenvironments. The example I’m going to use is “superpowers in a post-superpower world,” or more specifically, “How Lambda Phi Epsilon mirrors the United States of America.” I’m finding it increasingly fascinating how similar the problems of each are to each other and how even more similar the responses that each group can take to their problems can be.
I hear the scoffs from you all already. How can you compare what’s arguably the greatest nation in the world to events happening to an Asian-interest fraternity? I’m going to base this comparison on three main points. Having made this comparison, I will argue that the road forward for both America and Lambda Phi Epsilon are a lot more similar than one would assume.
Firstly, the rise of America as the sole world superpower is similar to Lambda Phi Epsilon’s rise to prominence as the largest Asian-interest fraternity in North America during the 1980’s and the 1990’s. Secondly, I’d like to point to the increasing focus on state autonomy and personal liberty as “championed” by Republicans (broad assumption here, that’s a debate for another time) as being similar to the way Lambda Phi Epsilon is structured – a loose confederacy of semi-autonomous chapters. You can argue with me until you’re blue in the face, but I do not believe that Lambdas is an organization with strong central authority. The last comparison I will draw is the current state of affairs. America is a waning superpower in a world that is constantly redefining itself. Likewise, Lambdas no longer wields the influence or power it once had in the 80’s and 90’s. Both groups, through internal and external forces, suffered a decline of influence through the 2000’s. Given the three comparisons: the rise of prominence, the governing structure, and the current state of affairs, it’s actually not difficult to see how the affairs of a macro organism like the United States is mirrored by those of a micro-organism like Lambda Phi Epsilon.
The comparison is all well and good, but what’s really interesting about this is how these two organizations can move forward in this decade. Currently, there seems to be two major viewpoints in the conversation. The first is the belief that the United States of America is still the world superpower and can still play the role of the world’s policeman. Similarly, there are many Lambda brothers who believe that Lambda Phi Epsilon is still the pre-eminent Asian-interest fraternity. They can’t imagine doing things in another way. Brought up to believe that their group is #1, many are blinded by the fact that USA and Lambdas are increasingly unable to accomplish things by themselves. On the other end of the spectrum, there are those that ascribe to a ridiculous doomsday scenario of their organization at the precipice of disaster. These are people who believe that the mere fact of survival is success.
I’d like to draw a middle ground between the two, and put forth the notion that these organizations, instead of still being at the hey-day of their success or sliding towards inevitable doom, are at a decision point. There’s a great opportunity now to refocus energy on building back the fundamentals of each organization. While one organization alone cannot do all the things in the world, it can still be a leader in a partnership of groups. America must learn to partner with other countries and use soft-diplomacy to influence actions. The clearest method to do this is American participation in NATO and the United Nations. These multi-national organizations provide a means for America to still project influence. But what sort of influence am I talking about here? It’s not military power that I’m referring to (although it does play a role), but rather, America must become the envy of the world through outstanding education, healthcare, and civil liberties. We can do this by starting at home and investing in advancing education and scientific research. Now I am not advocating that the USA should lay down its arms and let others trample over them, but rather focus on effective communication, strong partnerships, and a renewed investment in citizens/members. I propose that instead of military strength and the concept of “might is right,” America instead focuses on investing in its workforce and citizens so that our power comes from the fact that we are the envy of the world. Only though those means can America reinforce its place as the world leader.
Similarly, Lambdas needs to refocus its priorities into academics and philanthropy, ensuring that its members grow up to be men of high moral fiber and character. In fact, the current administration has already been working towards those efforts through a reestablishment of the academic scholarship program and renewed focus on philanthropy. Furthermore, participation in organizations like the National Interfraternity Council and the Asian-American Greek council will ultimately help Lambdas reinforce its place influential leaders. To effectively complete this goal though, Lambdas must focus their attention on investing in their members rather than the unchecked growth of additional chapters. Before we can look to help others, we must help ourselves first.
In sum, both organizations are at a point where hard decisions must be made. On one hand, we can continue to focus on doing what we’ve already done – believing that we’re #1 and flaunting our waning power. On the other, we can change our approach, recognize that we need to focus on our core principles and rebuild our position back towards being the envy of others. I believe that the refocused priorities that I proposed will lead both organizations to a new era – an era of prosperity, enlightenment, and opportunity. What remains to be seen is what our leaders, and more importantly, citizens/members, will do.