4.29.2003

It strikes me as good analogy to liken the current state of humanity to an adolescent.

As infants, we are only aware of our self and even then in only the vaguest of terms: happy, hungry, sad, wet, etc. As our minds develop we become aware of various external forces and objects. Food becomes linked to hunger, parents to comfort and other such associations. We slowly begin to form some concept of the world around us. Young children question everything trying to wrap their head around all that they see. They learn about other children and interact and experiment. Then adolescence hits and suddenly they want to participate in the world instead of simply observing. But they haven't got the skills yet.

They cannot empathize well. Or over-empathize. They believe they have all the answers, usually simple answers to complex questions, but not because they are stupid but rather because they don't have all the information. Sometimes it's because they don't bother looking it up, sometimes they simply haven't been exposed to it, sometimes they simply cannot conceive of information they do not know. It is endlessly frustrating to try and impose your will on events larger than yourself.

Which is where we are at in terms of the world order. Nations are now connected in a way inconceivable to generations gone by. Cultural exchange is not inhibited by distances thanks to television, satellites, the internet, telephones, airplanes and all manner of socio-economic exchange. English has become a lingua franca and, despite fears of supplanting native tongues, will become globalized as the inevitable necessity of having a common tongue will enforce English whether people like it or not. But, until now, the world was as large as your nation (in some places, your village). Projects weren't larger than individual nations could handle. Wars were nation to nation. The idea of "we" was much, much smaller 100 years ago. Today there is a space station built by the richest nations on Earth. The United Nations is a tentative effort at a global parliament, though today it is seen as a tool for national agendas.

Things are slowly changing. Nations are growing up and learning to live with its neighbours. Each still is out for its own good, to be sure. But now careful negotiation is required and consensus is seen as desirable by a large portion of the world (when it suits them of course). Even this false notion of governance, however self-serving in the short-term, plants the seeds of actual growth in the next generation. Europe has long had its sibling feuds and rivalries. But France and Germany seem to have grown out of it. The lessons of history have taken root. England hesitates, balancing being a big fish in a little pond of Europe or a little fish swimming alongside the giant shark, American protege. But, it must be acknowledged that the awareness is there. Eastern Europe is not far behind.

Asia has not yet finished forgiving each other its past sins. Pride runs deep still but each passing decade it remains divided, the further back it falls behind. Religious states still exist seeing as they're the only organizations interested in the day-to-day affairs of these people.

Africa, ruined by abandoned European masters, is still settling disputes. The very technology that bridges the devloped world has yet to penetrate that continent fully. Until it does, the world will remain a small place to those who live there. Free access to information on an individual level would speed things along but ethnic divisions still clash with borders drawn by European exploitation rights. Until this disparity has been closed, until the wounds have healed only then will time be allowed to pass giving them time to nurse grudges as Asia currently does.

South America seems content to be ruled with iron-fists and second-hand traditions. Instability would be the byword for the region. A maelstrom of highs and lows, perhaps it is the future of second-world nations racing beyond their means to become first-world participants.

North America has not had to cope with divisions. Its indigenous people decimated, its land divided, bought and sold, almost with disinterest, by Europeans. Always the struggles were seen to be elsewhere. The birth of the USA and its Manifest Destiny burned from one ocean to the next with little to no opposition. The attacks on home ground have long since been forgotten (explaining the outstanding trauma of Americans from 9/11) and international engagement has been little more than self-interested business opportunities or righteous intervention, rather than survival in the face of aggression. When fires burn at home, how much less interest is there in gunpowder diplomacy?

A few of the world's players have the capability to excercise their vote. And now they must learn to work together. Instead of wariness, distrust and isolation, we are now forced by circumstance into unity, cooperation and compromise (the dirtiest of words). The alternative is endless destruction, and as our capacity for devastation escalates, extinction becomes the logical conclusion.

So, how do we navigate this uncharted water? The answer can only be drawn from our own human experience of transitioning from adolescent to adult: by making mistakes. It is my hope that we learn from them before we make a mistake from which we cannot recover. The belligerence and isolation of humanity is nearing an end. But what kind of adult comes from such a childhood?