But where am I going with all this soapbox, you ask…quite rightly. My experience of the US is of an almost surreally ripe, rich and spoiled country utterly isolated from the realities with which so much of the world lives every day. On one hand, I love the ease of life here, the ready availability of all consumer commodities, and so on. But the issues, the concerns, the things that Americans get excited about just seem so alien to me. Standing in line overnight for I-Phones? Hello, I’ve seen farm families in China who work their rice fields 14 hours a day 330+ days a year and are rewarded with rice gruel and smoky fires to light their breakfasts and dinners. Do they merit less access to consumer commodities than we do? Do so many of us truly not recognize that we’re a small part of the world’s 6+ billion inhabitants, yet we’re consuming WAY more than our share of the world’s precious resources…and, whether viewed from an ethical lens or a purely utilitarian realpolitik one, this simply cannot continue? When I got to Cleveland, a participant in an online chat room tried to get people motivated to protest against high prices of gasoline. Hello? How about protesting against government subsidies for military adventures that ensure short-term oil supplies but do nothing to develop longer-term renewable energy sources and grow public transportation?
After I drafted this section, I posted the news clippings you see below from Sri Lanka, and always spectacularly-loyal reader Ondrej blew my mind by reading it the very same day and posting a wonderfully thoughtful, long comment on it the very same day. (To read his comment, simplyl click on the “comments” link at the bottom of the post, down below.) To summarize his argument: viewed from Australia (already a developed, rich country closely allied to the US), it seems American news gets way more air play than it merits, given how much or little it may affect the lives of people there. If white Australians feel this way, imagine how much less an inhabitant of, say, most parts of Africa, or occupied Iraq, feels that Paris Hilton’s jail time touches their lives – as opposed to their ability to vote safely in a meaningful election, get a meningitis vaccine for their kids, or find food for the family’s dinner. Yet we march blithely onward, acting like the price of our gas, access to developing markets for our corn and soybean products, and above all (for the Bush Greedmeisters and his cabal) our military companies’ ability to sell weapons where they want, when they want with tax subsidies from Joe Taxpayer in Kansas should matter more to those folks than their own dinner tables and paychecks. No, George, it’s not our “freedom” that the world resents…it’s our selfish monopolizing of the world’s resources and blind ignorance of the consequences for everyone else…or even ourselves. So yeah, Ondrej – I agree. Americans are in store for a hard dose of reality somewhere down the line.