Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Perceptions of Size


Okay, with a title like that, you'd think I was talking about Katamari Damacy!

But no. I was just thinking about how I'd try and change someone's mind about why it was important that we play nice with the others as in global warming issues, regime changing issues, torture issues, etc.

Then I realized that there was a basic perception to combat. It's like this. I see America as no more than 1/8th of the world at least and 1/6th of the world as most. Let's just say manpower, economic power, etc. In all comparisons, that would be the range that the U.S. falls into. Which means, if we start to throw our weight around, 5/6ths to 7/8th of the world could band together to kick our butts. The probability of the entire world banding together is pretty miniscule; however, the mere possibility of it should give one pause.

And therein lies the problem I believe. I think that the average American - the ones who've never been out of the country, never really paid attention to Canada or Mexico except on how it might impact them (as in illegal aliens supposedly taking their jobs), the ones who gave and gave out of their pockets when the tsunami hit, the ones who couldn't name one city in either Yugoslavia, Chile, or Burma (I know it's called Myangmar now, just seeing if you're watching) - that average American seriously believes the United States to be equal to 1/2 of the world in EVERY measure.

Therefore, they feel no qualms about throwing weight around internationally.

I was watching Band of Brothers on the 4th of July and crying. Crying because growing up in Singapore with the t.v. show Combat on week after week for most of my childhood, I had grown up with the ideal of the generous and giving G.I. Joe. I had grown up worshipping the cowboy ideal - the kung-fu fighter was pretty much after either perfection or revenge... but the cowboy actually had a function besides gunslinging. (Okay, as an adult I know that most cowboys weren't gunslingers and most gunslingers weren't cowboys so gimme a break!)

Anyway, the U.S. seems to be a much more different place now, more concerned with material goals than goals of good wishes.

But I digress...

Am I wrong in my assessment? I mean, think about it... just picture in your mind a game of sorts... Dodge Ball, let's just say. If America was playing the rest of the world, how big is America compared to the rest? Gigantic? Put the rest of the world together and morph them into one person (jeeze, I am really playing waaaay too many games). Does this person equal America? Or is he smaller? Or larger?

I really do believe that most Americans, if imagining an abstract exercise like this, would picture America being equal to whatever forces might face us, no matter what the challenges may be. Unfortunately, this perception doesn't hold up to reality.

[Edited] Bratworse and I just had a conversation that confirmed this. She asked me to classify Ravi Shankar's music and I replied "Sitar or Indian" and she says that it's not part of the choices (iTunes categories) so I adjusted and said "World... or International." Which basically proves my point - all of the rest of the world's music is lumped into one huge amorphous category named "World" whereas American music gets categorized into many nuances.

 
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