Cultures of Fear Will Melt

Although bad news makes exciting headlines, good news abounds if you look at the trends and interpret them differently than the so-called experts. Actually, if you believe that only bad news gets into the papers and magazines and newscasts, then you can easily see why doomsaying is always prevalent.

People are finally coming together, outgrowing nationalism, tribalism, and hatred. World music, a "genre" that is actually a smorgasbord from as wide a variety of cultures as possible, has its own charts. Foods from everywhere appear in supermarkets as farmers in New Zealand and Brazil find their way to the world market. And restaurants advertising Kenyan or Nepalese or Guatemalan cuisine show us how to prepare and appreciate the fruits, grains, and vegetables mankind has discovered in its 50 million years on earth.

Some people bemoan the loss of culture as television bedazzles the eyes of natives and we intermix people, thoughts, and ideas amongst clans, but there are two things going on. We are losing various cultures as tribalism disappears. That's just a sad part of the maturation of our species, like a baby tooth falling out or a favored teddy bear finally abandoned as a youth discovers other interests. Yet we won't totally meld into one bland mix of Baywatch and beauty soap. Music hasn't melted into a single unidentifiable mass. Neither will culture. Our airwaves will gradually fill with acting, writing, and advertising from indigenous points of view. Granted, these new world-class cultures won't be identical to the old ones. They'll have additional words from other languages, costumes of synthetic materials, and microwaveable recipes. So what? Culture has always been merely a mass of individuals making do the best they know how and using whatever good ideas come along: Arabic numerals, Latin scientific names, Chinese woks, Aztec petunias, Incan potatoes. And cultures have always come and gone quickly. How old is the "traditional southern belle" or the "classic mariachi band?"

Another example is how corporations are making national governments passé. This is often construed negatively. Who wants rampant capitalists raping the earth and enslaving consumers? But becoming a worldwide monopolist will be difficult. And people forget just how much power we have with our money. Any multinational is at the mercy of stockholders, and as more individuals join the capitalist march to prosperity, more of that say-so will be in the hands of pensions and group mutual funds run by organizations worried about the ecological and spiritual returns as well as the mundane economic ones.

We will have more power exerted through daily voting with our dollars or yen or rubles than we ever did when voting occasionally for senators or petitioning the king or bribing the dictator's minions.

The worldwide web is also empowering people and diminishing national barriers. Currently, only about 70 million people have e-mail accounts which amounts to less than 2% of humanity. Yet the listservs and on-line discussions are full of cogent, honest discussion about everything anyone can imagine and people present views from across the political, economic, and cultural spectrum. Just wait until 700 million begin talking to each other, or all 6 billion of us post our own web pages. Many moralists bemoan the 700,000 porn sites. I think those are outweighed by all the good scientific info, well-written free software, testimonials about disease cures, and thought-provoking analyses. There's always good with bad, and I'll ignore the porn if the sharing on the informational web brings people together.

Problems still abound, but they aren't calamities. They are just growing pains as tribes, clans, and nations knit into a single human race.