We're Caught in a Trap

We can't go on together, with suspicious minds
And we can't build our dreams, on suspicious minds

As a Southerner, I'm apt to think that Elvis, dead or alive, can make things better. His lyrics occurred to me when I read the latest from the Pew Global Attitudes Survey. Those poor people at the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. They are like the Grim Reapers of polling when it comes to measuring the world's perspectives about us. In the June 3, 2003 release, Views of a Changing World 2003, we find that the world after war with Iraq is not quite as neat and tidy as the folks at Fox News Channel (fair and balanced journalism) would have us think: The war has widened the rift between Americans and Western Europeans, further inflamed the Muslim world, softened support for the war on terrorism, and significantly weakened global public support for the pillars of the post-World War II era -- the U.N. and the North Atlantic alliance.

Other than that, it's almost summer!

I feel as if the global ship is sinking while we wait ashore for American Idol's premiere of "From Justin to Kelly" to hit theaters this weekend. Am I taking things a little bit too much to heart, or are we living on two different planets? On one planet it's business-as-usual and reality shows like "Are You Hot?" score big with Nielsen viewers, while on the other planet loops "The Twilight Zone" that reminds us our current path is quite treacherous.

Interestingly, the Pew team found the following silver lining in their cloudy findings: While the postwar poll paints a mostly negative picture of the image of America, its people and policies, the broader Pew Global Attitudes survey shows wide support for the fundamental economic and political values that the U.S. has long promoted. Globalization, the free market model and democratic ideals are accepted in all corners of the world. Most notably, the 44-nation survey found strong democratic aspirations in most of the Muslim publics surveyed-people in Muslim countries place a high value on freedom of expression, freedom of the press, multi-party systems and equal treatment under the law.

How many people do you come across that are against democratic ideals? Even dictators and autocrats will pay lip service to democratic ideals, but never put them in practice. Democratic ideals don't give people the right to vote freely, allow women to work outside the home and drive their own cars, or travel without harassment or fear across disputed territories. Democratic policies do. It's like when politicians run as public officials and ask us to vote for them so that they can work for us and get rid of special interests. We all know that they are still holding those thousand dollar plate dinners with their high rollers, but in public they represent "the people's will," not General Motors and Boeing. The masses "in all corners of the world" will always pick freedom over tyranny, so it gives me little comfort that the Muslim world hates us but shares our love for reading de Tocqueville.

I can only hope that the people in the Muslim world will see their aspirations rise to that of a reality. And the best model we might consider offering is practicing democracy through example, not ideal. Further, globalization and the free market model are no panacea for human rights and social change. In the United States, such vocabulary is used regularly as Newspeak code words for letting big business and corporations take more brazen control of our lives. The higher ups at Enron embraced globalization through setting up every offshore dummy corporation they could to avoid the burden of taxes. Our state budget deficit in California is now over 35 billion and I'm sure that our legislators too thought the market would deliver us from any evil.

Who can forget the love affair with deregulation, globalization and the market that led both President Clinton and the Republican Congress to the passage of the Telecommunications Act in February 1996? The cable and phone companies lobbied the halls of Congress for bigger profits and less government oversight while they promised those outside the corridors more competition, more savings, and more choices. We'd be in the driver's seat, not AOL Time Warner. What happened? The FCC Republican majority, chaired by Michael Powell, who considers the free market a secular religion, just voted June 2, 2003 in favor of even more extreme capitalism (euphemistically referred to as the free market) over democracy. The public's airwaves are now driven almost exclusively by private drivers--Clear Channel, fair-and-balanced (tongue-in-cheek) Fox News Channel, and one cable company cities, that don't even show us the dignity of asking us where we want to go. If these are the globalization and free market model values that will lead to even more DJ-less automated stations, then I'm hoping the world knows better when to jump off this amusement ride.

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