I correspond on another forum board, where recently almost every discussion topic has erupted into a polticized shouting match. Since this other forum is normally a quiet haven from the usual vitriol one sees on the Internet, I felt deeply saddened by the way normally intelligent, friendly people were suddenly taking things out of context and going for each other's throats. For example, a thread on "Talk Like A Pirate Day" devolved into an angry debate over what to do about piracy in Somalia. The thread was eventually locked by one of the forum moderators.
I blame the media. Folks are a lot more cranky these days, partly due to the ongoing financial insecurities in the world, but mainly because we are inundated by a 24/7 cycle of doom, gloom, and partisan bickering. For this, the media is wholly responsible, and wholly irresponsible. People are swayed by professional opinionmeisters who gain their power by convincing otherwise rational listeners that they alone are in their right minds, and everyone else is crazy and out to get them. So now we're polarized, paranoid, and pissed off.
Think about all of the cause-celebres we've had trumpeted at us over the years, that ceased to be issues once they got boring. Homelessness, AIDS, gang crime in the inner cities, drugs, all of these were headline-leading mongered fears that seemed ready to collapse civilization, and are now not even mentioned in the A-section articles anymore. Did they magically go away? Not hardly. They just ceased to attract attention, and so the media hounds set off after other quarry.
It puts us all under a lot of stress, and after a while, our nerves attain a permanently jangled state. Life seems hopelessly complicated. Nothing we do can really suceed, and we're told to be jealous of and blame other people for our problems. So we do. We blame the government, the rich, the poor, the Baby Boomers, the foreigners, the terrorists, the religious people, the godless people...
I blame the media. I blame them for whipping us into this state of confusion and hostility, and egging us on by giving us the ability to post our opinions to their news stories. Knee-jerk reactions, really, not opinions, because very seldom are these comments written after careful research, deliberation, and debate. And now people carry that opinionated attitude around with them, ready to mouth off at the slightest provocation. It's like society has become a bar full of belligerent drunks, ready to brawl at the slightest provocation.
We're better than this. And if we aren't, we should strive to be better than this.
How can we think about "solving the world's problems" when we can't even agree on simple points right here at home? Why do we even want to try to "solve the world's problems?"
I'll tell you why. Because if we don't do it, no one else will. Not because we know better than anyone else--but because we have the heart and the will for the job, when everyone else would rather shut their eyes and pretend it isn't happening. Maybe we'll fail, maybe the problems are endemic and insoluable, but at least we'll have given it a shot.
The solutions may not be pretty. The way you stop lawlessness in a failed state, for instance, is you make the penalties for lawbreaking very harsh, and offer rewards for civil behavior. It's not easy to do when the country is run by the very thugs you're hoping to eradicate, and even harder if their socioplolitical attitude is opposed to your own. But lawlessness should not be allowed to take root simply because we don't want to make hard choices. And when the decision is made to take on the thugs, then we should follow through with 100% committment--not some half-hearted attempt that's doomed to failure. You don't get the mice out of your shed by putting out traps that are baited, but not set. "Then conquer we must when our cause is just" should be more than just old words in a song no one knows completely. And once we've conquered...we turn the place back over to its people, to manage in their own way, with our friendship and assistance. It's worked in times past,where ourformer enemies are now are dearest allies. Why can't we still do this today?
It's always easier to steal than to work for what you need. Animals know this. Humans practice it daily, all over the world, and on levels ranging from petty theft to corporate theft and embezzlement. Like bullying--another endemic action--civilized beings do not see it as "fair" or "right." Therefore it should not be tolerated. Incidents of theft go down when the thieves can't be confident of easy pickings, and--again, like bullies--thieves are basically cowards who have no interest in risking their skins.
There is a joke about psychiatry--"The person has to want to change." A failed state has to want to be "fixed." We can't force that to happen without taking over and holding the state as a colony, and nobody really wants to do that, particularly when the native population would hate us for it. But we can give incentives. We can give protection to the "good" people so they won't be afraid to turn in the "bad" ones who are running the show. And we need to be committed to it--not just throw a few parcels out of a helicopter and be on our way to damp down the next brushfire.
Whether you consider "we" to be the United States, the United Nations, or the Western World, our obligation to our fellow men should be to spread peace and prosperity, not dissent and distrust.
And that is why I blame the media for the mess we're in right now.