Monday, July 4

Happy 4th!

I was reading an article in Time yesterday about the Live-8 concert and the upcoming G-8 summit. The guys being interviewed (Bono & friends) talked about how the one critical missing link in their mission is the U.S. America, through Bush, has given more to African nations than any other time in our history. Yet, they emphasized, the U.S. was starting from such a low bar that we only had one way to go.

Something they said stood out to me more than anything else: America doesn't have a lack of empathy; they just don't know the issues as well. I wonder if that is true?

I often am frustrated with the media for being so entranced by gossip news or only talking about what is happening here at home. I have often said aloud, I wonder what was happening in the world today, while all we have been hearing about is _____ (fill in the blank with Michael Jackson, school board issues, NBA draft). I want to know about those experiences; I want to also know what people are experiencing elsewhere. I think traveling the world has helped open my consiousness to the the pain, the joys and the beauty around the world.

So, today, while I am putting together pasta salad and jello, while we walk through the Wisteria Lane neighborhood where my brother lives in order to end up at a community park gathering, while I hide with my son from the loud bangs and bright colors in the sky, I think of the world. I am so grateful to be an American. I love my country so very much. But it's not just about us! There is so much more to this amazing, diverse and wonderful world.

God Bless America...and the rest of the world, too, please.


Allan W. said...

To me, it's all about worldview. It's not just an American problem; people anywhere have a tendency to view "local" issues as the most important.

I think it is true that American people aren't aware of issues beyond our borders; it's hard enough to focus attention on important national issues such as the environment, immigration, and civil liberties.

One factor is isolationism, and another (of many to be sure) is media saturation and "donor fatigue". However, I think the tsunami in December was an example that pierced this veil of apathy; that's worthy of more study.

While it's not the life I chose for myself and my family, I'm very grateful for the experience I had growing up in a military family. We moved every few years, and we saw a good chunk of the world.

Those of us who refuse to look beyond themselves and their culture are missing out! This goes for our hedgemonic culture as well.

This is a big question - bigger than one blog! =)

Allan W. said...

Another beef o' mine: our myopic media. If you believed our major media outlets, the Michael Jackson trial and a missing rich kid in Nassau* are the most important issues facing our nation.

I season my newspapers with NPR and foreign news sources like the BBC. They have their own issues, but at least help me get some balance.

*They are stories, just not the most important.

The way our networked world is headed, "all news" will be available all the time. When that happens, our "filters" or "agents" will be what determines what news reaches our eyes and ears. I don't know what that will mean for issues - will it be harder or easier to fix peoples attention on global problems?

ogri said...

Allan, you are right about the awareness of the masses. I wonder if it all comes down to where you get your so called "news". America seems to be truly happy with being told what to do and what to think, based on who is feeding them their information. For this I turn to Fox News...

In an October 4 interview with CNBC's Tim Russert, Fox News star Bill O'Reilly made a puzzling boast about his network's Iraq coverage. He said, "Well, I think Fox News Channel was lucky because we were less skeptical of the war, and the war went very well. So we won."

If you believe that a journalistic enterprise "wins" not by cheerleading for the more powerful side, but instead by informing its audience, then a recent study indicated that Fox News was actually the biggest loser during the war. The survey, by the University of Maryland's Program on International Policy Attitudes, found that misconceptions about the Iraq war were closely related to what news outlets an individual relied on for information. And for each misperception studied by the research group, viewers of Fox News were the most likely to be misinformed.

For example, 33 percent of Fox News viewers incorrectly believed it was true that the U.S. has found Iraqi weapons of mass destruction; only 11 percent of people who said they relied on PBS or NPR for news got this wrong. Thirty-five percent of the Fox viewers thought that world opinion favored the U.S. invasion of Iraq; only 5 percent of those who get their news from PBS or NPR had this misconception. And an overwhelming 67 percent of those who relied on Fox thought that the U.S. had found clear evidence that Saddam Hussein had worked closely with Al Qaeda; if you got your news from PBS/NPR, you had just a 16 percent chance of believing this falsehood.

I would dearly hope it takes less than a tragedy (tsunami) abroad to create a unified consensus in this country, piercing the veil of apathy as you put it. (great line, Allan) Bush Sr. tossing his cookies on a Japanese PM did it for me.

Side note: Here is my favorite news article of the week...

Artist prosecuted for owning petri dishes.

Allan W. said...

Ogri, you bring up some good points - some of which are reasons I don't watch Fox. Actually, both ends of the spectrum annoy me - I simply don't like biased media, or at least media biased in a predominant tilt (if there's bias, it better be on both ends of the spectrum).

One key thread that I see: people prefer to think for themselves, or not. It's easy to parrot what you see and hear; it's harder to look at available information and make an informed decision.

Being an "internet worker" and web developer, it's strange, but I have an inherent distrust in online media as news sources, unless it's a part of established organization (BBC, NYT, LA Times, etc.) that I feel like I can trust. I pretty much avoid "hard news" in the blogosphere. It's great for opinion pieces.

The fact that you quoted a source is encouraging (a link would have been better, though! Can you follow up with one?) - usually when statistics are bandied about there's little if any "trust value" that can be given a statement.

It just goes to show that navigating the "truth" is getting harder and harder in this brave new world.

PS - the link at the bottom of your comment is 404'd...

Thanks for commenting on my wife's blog - you made her day! =)