This morning, on This Morning, host Ralph Benmergui was speaking to some folks about the current situation and he asked them “will we still be talking about this a year from now?” and “can we handle this level of anxiety for a whole year?”
Clang! Think about it. People handled this level of anxiety (and then some) for five full years during WWII, and that was a mere 22 years after suffering the same level of anxiety for four continuous years during WWI. Before that there were all manner of colonial wars that went on for ages, as well as the various empirical clashes throughout Europe and Asia that have gone on for centuries. Humans are a warring species! Not that I’m happy about it, but even a cursory glance at human history confirms this.
At our current point in history and geography, we have two generations (boomers and “X“) who haven’t really had much to worry about aside from nuclear anihilation, which is something that only caused anxiety for a few weeks at a time every few years, usually in response to a made-for-TV movie, or for a few weeks the Cuban missile crisis. (The Vietnam war doesn’t count because there was no homeland threat, and most of the attention and anxiety during that war was directed inward, at Johnson, Nixon, and their administrations.) The result is two complacent generations of fools who waste their political bandwith worrying about a splotch on some White House intern’s dress or the goings-on of a ficticious President.
This idea that persists (perhaps I should use the past tense on that) in North America that “everything is wonderful and peaceful” is something of an illusion. We have built that illusion ourselves and it has worked very well for quite some time, but the fact of the matter (which we all know, but choose not to think about very much) is that the rest of the world isn’t like this and many of those “have-nots” are pissed off at us.
From my analysis, the issue is less about our “material success” as it is about our complacency and ignorance. It’s one thing to be safe and comfortable and humble about it. It’s another thing to be safe and comfortable and to ignore the price of that safety and comfort – a price that is paid by others around the world.
Charging into less-developed countries to sell them burgers and cokes and Sylvester Stallone movies while they toil in factories and fields for less than a living wage while we grow fat and soft is insulting. Even though on an individual basis those workers may be thankful for their jobs or even aspire to “be like Americans,” it degrades their humanity and their cultures, and there are people in those societies who recognize this and speak up about it.
Unfortunately, we live in an age of conflict resolution through violent confrontation, so these people end up behaving like thugs and terrorists (I include in this group the violent wing of the anti-globalization movement).
Where are the Gandhis, Martin Luther Kings, and Mandelas of the 21st century?
The same applies to propping up puppet governments. It may provide stability, and perhaps even a level of prosperity. But at what cost? Do we ask? No, we assume everyone is happy and then we melt into the sofa watching sit-coms while waiting for the pizza delivery.
Is it any wonder we’re frequently very impressed by the knowledge of history and culture we find in educated people from other parts of the world? This well-worn cliché applies to North American’s view of Europeans, but it extends to educated people from everywhere outside of North America. And there’s a reason for it… most of these people have had real things to worry about and as such have not let their minds grow soft and mouldy.
(I shouldn’t have to point this out but I will… I’m talking about “us” as a whole, not as individuals. Many of us have been keenly aware all along, while others completely have their heads in the sand. The heads-in-sand crowd is more numerous, however, so as a whole, we are more than half buried in it. Also, I should not have to mention that what I say here in no way justifies terrorism of any kind. However, if we do not stop to think openly and honestly about the root causes of the hostility of others, then we will never move towards resolving these issues and strengthening our own collective character.)