In the spirit of July 4, I thought it would be interesting to explore the idea of the United States retaining its inﬂuence in the 21st century.
What many see is dire. Beyond the anti-war types’ opposition to the War on Terror, there are corrupt institutions, political and corporate, impeding progress on so many things, from innovations to ways society can function more progressively. The same institutions have led to a ﬁnancial crisis. Economic management has led to a weak dollar, to the point where some reject it for the euro.
So with the rise of India, and less so of Red China, where is the United States in all of this? How can I be so bold as to say it will remain the American century?
Because of Americans. Individuals. Those who have access to their own speaking platforms, highlighting what they see is wrong with their country, and having a nation that protects their free speech as sacrosanct.
The country that has championed individuality may well be saved, karmically, by individuals themselves.
No anti-American I know stands ﬁrmly in his or her country and disses individual Americans. They spit their venom at the government or their corporations. The Iranian blogs that I visited, to see where their root cause of anti-Americanism lay, targeted abuse through globalization. Maybe they have a point, because Americans themselves are not too happy about outsourcing. On one point their opinions do not differ much.
And because many Americans have the skills to put their words across, in what remains the internet’s lingua franca—English—and because they can identify the sources of their problems, they can address them.
What we, in the rest of the world should be doing, is engaging this dialogue. Putting forth our point of view.
It’s frightfully easy for people to either have a case of nation envy or tall poppies, dragging down the richest country on earth and pointing out its problems for a short-term feeling of superiority. This is childish at best. While I do not deny the US has its faults—and Americans themselves would be the ﬁrst to admit that—we should give each other perspective.
I talk about our healthcare system: not the best in the world, but I would rather be sick here than in the US, because of universal coverage. And if we chat to our friends in the US about this, it will give them ideas on how they might accomplish it—or avoid it, if they see faults in our model. The idea of the internet is a beautiful one, even if spammers and pornographers threaten its sanctity: the ability to have a small world where we can have one-on-one discourses, and better ourselves.
That free speech has to be defended at all costs, because even if the United States restricts the movement of people and the movement of capital, it needs to at least allow the movement of ideas.
It is something to be guarded jealously and taught in its schools.
It is, meanwhile, denied to many in Red China, unable to grow through dialogue. Instead its economy grows from the inﬂux of capital, going in on growth ﬁgures that have been veriﬁed by none except a communist dictatorship, or from the misappropriation of intellectual property. Red China understands the latter cannot continue and has put up some restrictions—but until the opportunities for growth are open to all, then it will not have the support of its citizenry in the way the United States does. Red China can only become a great nation if all of China rethinks the republic, perhaps a commonwealth, but certainly one based around the principles of Confucius and Sun Yat-sen. It can happen as suddenly as the collapse of the Soviet Union, or it may take many more years than we imagine.
Till then, the nation that may yet beneﬁt is one that has great dialogue with the United States, and embraces it, seeing it as a blending of cultures and an opportunity for growth.
That nation is India and while its opportunities have not ﬂowed through to everyone, and it, too, has its internal problems, it is poised to rise through the freedom of people, capital and ideas. The Indian century may follow the American century, but it may take a familiar form. Not far from now, if current trends continue, the Indian middle class will grow. It will form the basis of a strong national infrastructure. And the Indian century, too, will be based around freedom and liberty.
However, in the immediate term, provided the United States can unite itself around its real values, those principles that, in reality, are not uniquely American after all, I see no reason for the American century not to continue.
It is fortunate to have a holiday like the Fourth of July, a chance to remind everyone that freedom and justice are not buzzwords. That these principles really do mean something to the rest of the world—and that they need to be honoured. And that the power rests with everyone, because everyone has a voice. Posted by Jack Yan, 11:05
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