the truth in today’s world part 1

rather than love truth

This is kind of a rant and kind of an observation. The observation is that it is sometimes easy to get a much skewed perspective on what is happening in the world if you are not careful (I know I fall into this trap often). The rant is that people sometimes say non factual things as factual statements to stir up an opinion and that isn’t responsible. This is a continuation of some other posts I have written (remapping the Middle East, civilian count versus soldier count) and others upcoming (green energy conference in Delhi – a friend attended – the myth of Palestine and immigration). But. Here goes.

The following is an example of what I often read from people (and it does represent a lot of what I hear):

“Every generation has more worries and fears to face than the previous one. People today live with war and threats of war, more kids having babies, more violence and layoffs … it’s everywhere you turn and this only scratches the surface of a day in the life.”

“even when we’re facing crises that would have destroyed whole cultures as recently as a couple of hundred years ago.”

So. Let’s talk about some truth. Let’s discuss what is really happening in the world in relation to what we just read.

First. I am not going to suggesting there aren’t issues globally. But I may suggest they are not exactly what we believe they are or to the extremes we perceive (on some things). Frankly it is easier to be an alarmist today than at any time in history. Once again it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t care. It just means it is tougher today to isolate the real issues from non real issues than ever before.

Second. With the intent to simplify I may be too simple in some things I am sharing. I apologize. There are degrees of everything. I am trying to communicate the core factoid.

Third. Some perceptions and some truths:

–          Islamic terrorism is a large persistent problem that actually involves a very small group of fanatics (but that small number creates an exponentially larger fear and unrest number).

The reality. Since 9-11 the al Qaeda has not been able to mount a single major attack anywhere. Despite all the airport color codes and media related city threats and self made videos they have been able to do nothing. (But it sure feels like they are doing a lot)

Let me stick with Islam for a second.

–          The perception is that Islam is solely a warrior religion and Muslims are attacking our daily lives.

Fact. There are more moderate Muslims in the world (who do not believe in aggression and war) than there are fundamentalists (who are the supporters of aggressive tactics). Indonesia is an excellent example of a “democratic Islamic” country where moderates rule and it is a way of life. The Koran does not condone killing and certainly does not condone suicide deaths. It was actually a Muslim nation in a war against another Muslim country that renewed the concept of jihad. Oh, and “Muslim” is so broad a term it often becomes useless other than to sensationalize what may only be a small segment of the larger group.

–          Violence (or war). As noted above in the editorial italics there is a perception we have more war or threat of war than ever before.

Fact. We are in an extraordinarily calm period in world history. At no time have the odds of one of us dying from some organized group violence been lower. Major countries are just not involving themselves in sheer numbers like the past. Now. I am not trying to diminish atrocities simply thru numbers because even the few are atrocious. But. In terms of sheer numbers (activity or people) we are at a low point in violence.

Say what? (you say about these facts)

So why are some perceptions out of whack?

Never before have we had 24/7 access to images and words heightening each event, each bomb (or bomb threat), each storm (or storm threat), becomes the HUGEST EVENT OF ALL TIME.  It feels like disaster 24/7 thru media. Unfortunately it does not reflect what is really happening in the grand scheme of things (some people call this seeing the trees and missing the forest).

Ok. Next.

How about Middle East?

–          The Muslim geography is in a state of unrest. Iraq. Israel and Palestine all crumbling and fighting before our eyes.

Fact. Lebanon, Dubai, Egypt, Turkey and Saudi Arabia are all booming economies. Thriving countries (some even more so than US). And, oh by the way, several border Iraq. It is a relatively stable region with possibly less divisiveness then we are seeing in our own country with regard to some key issues.

–          We Americans are feeling uncomfortable, maybe better said, uneasy not only with what is happening in our own country but globally. Everything feels unstable. Why is that so? Here are some reasons:

  1. Surprising success of Developing countries. Ok. Maybe I should refer to them as traditionally referred to as developing (or third world) countries. They are currently outpacing economic growth of developing countries.

Their business models (a unique hybrid of government and private) are often proving to be nimbler and offering                the same quality. Than existing business models (and it’s not just cheap labor).

  1. Decentralized global communities.  Americans find comfort in centralization. Sure. We enjoy state autonomy but find comfort in the bigness of the greater good of USA. Decentralization is scary. It feels unorganized. It feels. Well. Not big. And a lot of the world is reverting back to the quite successful smaller nation state model (a fragmented economy with smaller nations with predatory instincts).
  1. Our Global attitude.

The 2007 Pew Global Attitude survey reflected massive shifts in positive attitudes with regard to democracy open markets and free trade globally (and particularly in nontraditional democratic comfortable countries).

Yet.  USA ranked dead last in support for free trade.

Same study.

  1. Attitudes toward foreign companies.  Even countries with traditional suspicion of western companies (think ex colonies of England USA Belgium France etc) were quite positive with regard to the impact of foreign company involvement. USA was in the bottom five showing little to no interest in foreign companies involved in American economy.

So. The general population believes we should be received positively but do not want to receive.

  1. Our superiority complex is being challenged.

Small thing. But. America is the only country to issue annual report cards on every country in the world. And yet other countries are challenging America’s role globally.


  1. Poverty. Yes. America is in a recession (see word depression if I was allowed to call it that).  But globally economies are on the rise. Our failing is we always seem to focus on prosperity versus poverty (meaning we like to see how high is high versus whether the lowest is rising).

Globally poverty is being addressed. Ok. Poverty still exists and in a number of countries (think about 50 or so with India at the head of the list) it is extraordinary and needs to be fixed. But. Globally the poor are being absorbed into productive and growing economies. The following number seems surreal to Americans but it is a common global standard. One dollar a day. In 1981 the global poverty population living on a dollar a day was 40 percent. In 2004 it was down to 18 percent. By 2015 it is projected to be 12 percent. The world is not becoming affluent but it is becoming less poverty stricken (that is a good thing).

So. There
are some truths globally. Lastly I wanted to comment on “facing crisis that would have destroyed cultures as recently as a couple hundred years ago.” (I am going to ignore the more kids having kids and totally ignore “each generation has more fears than the one before” … yikes … if I had told that to my grandfather I may have been decked).

The comment is simply not true.

The world has faced larger crises and survived. America itself has faced larger crises and survived. History is cyclical and we inevitably innovate which simply increases our ability to manage crisis (unfortunately innovation sometimes also exacerbate the level of crises).

In the end our perspective is being driven by a couple of things that are difficult to solve.

Ours is the first generation of Americans that thinks it can demand perfection in war (zero casualties or think ‘less than 5’ and win).

Our present leisure, wealth, and high technology fool us into thinking that we are superhuman and should always be able to overcome both human and natural disasters (either by foreseeing it or having every plan of action to resolve it on hand).

Accordingly, we become frustrated that we cannot master every obstacle (and often seek to blame). Then, without any benchmarks of comparison from the past, we despair that our actions are failed because they are not perfect. That may be the most important truth I could communicate in this post.

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Written by Bruce