Globalization is something we can’t avoid. American television is broadcast around the world; when I was in Peru I watched “NCIS” on the television in my hotel room. My computer can access a website hosted in Mumbai or Islamabad, Beijing or Tokyo, Buenos Aires or Sydney. I can have a video chat—for free—with my best friend who is studying in Hiroshima. CNN International is broadcast in more than 200 countries.
This media globalization comes at what cost? Do we forge new relationships and forget our old ones? Do we merge cultures and lose national identities? It comes down to someone’s age—there are digital natives and digital immigrants. Can you tell the difference? Mark Prensky, a speaker and essayist, calls the students of today the Digital Natives. “Our students today are all ‘native speakers’ of the digital language of computers, video games and the Internet,” he writes in a six-page paper: Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. Prensky wrote that paper 11 years ago in 2001. Try to think back to how primitive the internet was then in comparison to now. Media have changed vastly in the last 11 years; hell, the changes in the last two years are astounding. iPhones? Droids? Not the droids you’re looking for. iMacs, MacBooks, netbooks, laptops, iPads and iPods? (Full disclosure—I’m an Apple junkie.)
The Internet made it possible to take live television reporting to the next level. Skype interviews can connect reporters with sources worldwide, and high-speed internet can allow a news program to hook into sources and reporters across the globe at any time of day.
Here’s the trouble I notice though: news organizations from around the world—Japan, China, Russia, Ethiopia, South Korea, Europe, Vietnam, etc.—all have bureaus or broadcast stations with reporters in Washington D.C. How many American news outlets have reporters regularly stationed in Cairo? Cape Town? Budapest? Mexico City? How many American reporters are stationed regularly in Vancouver or Toronto? Those cities are mere miles from the American border. This boils back down to American elitism and a sentiment that so many Americans feel—what happens in the rest of the world doesn’t really affect me here at home.
Of course it affects you at home! What about Ciudad Juarez and the narcotráfico in Mexico? What about the Queen of England meeting with the former Irish Republican Army leader? Americans seem to have a notion that the only kind of international “news” that affects them is the type that may affect their safety—Iran becoming nuclear, Syrian violence, Mexican drug trafficking or Japanese debris coming ashore on America’s west coast. In an age of globalization like this one, every international story affects everyone. Sure, American politics are important to the rest of the world, but why are Americans not as invested in European politics?
Oh, wait—suddenly the Eurozone may collapse and cause a global financial crisis, let’s start getting involved! While there’s virtually nothing the U.S. government can do to affect the Eurozone financial crisis, it’s something that affects everyone. The European Union traded $636 billion with America last year, and it trades $1.5 trillion with the other 19 of its largest trading partners. With its top 20 trading partners, the E.U. trades over $2.005 trillion each year. That’s $2,358,137,000,000 every year—with only 20 nations. The European Union trades roughly the same dollars per year that the United States does. The U.S. trades $2.61 trillion per year. While $600.5 billion is an enormous number difference, the E.U. is still the only entity in the world that can compare Imagine how much more is traded when you factor in the other ±176 nations in the world. That dollar amount is just in goods; it does not factor in any diplomatic aid, foreign direct investment or service.
Here’s a kicker—can you guess which single country is America’s largest trade partner? Here’s a hint: it’s not Great Britain, Israel, Germany or Japan. To find America’s largest trade partner you need only look north—Canada. America trades more than $500 billion with Canada on an annual basis.
I’d like to know what percentage of Americans can name five political leaders of countries engaged in an alliance with the U.S. United Kingdom? No, the answer is not Queen Elizabeth II; it’s David Cameron. Did you know he is part of the first coalition government the United Kingdom has seen since Winston Churchill? Do you even know what a coalition government means? That’s where more than one political party works together in a cabinet; David Cameron, current British Prime Minister, is a member of the Conservative Party. His Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, is part of the Liberal Democrat party.
On another political note, Mexico is having presidential elections in just a few days. Watching CNN, Fox News, MSNBC and reading the online news sites, I have seen virtually nothing suggesting the Mexican election has any importance on American life. With all the drug trafficking in Mexico, it’s imperative Americans pay attention to the politics of Mexico. No, Americans cannot affect who is elected, but it’s still of great consequence to this country.
The basic point I’m trying to point out is that America is not the only country that has power in the world. America does not decide what happens globally, much to the dismay of many Americans. It’s time the American mindset of ‘we are the only place where political decisions matter’ ends. India and Pakistan have nuclear weapons pointed at one another, primed and ready for launch. That remains the world’s single greatest threat of nuclear attack—more than Iran or North Korea. Well… let’s be honest, Wile E. Coyote is head of the North Korean nuclear division.
It’s time American media put more emphasis on overseas politics than the current level. It’s time regularly staffed news bureaus exist outside of London, Rome, Paris, Sydney and Mumbai. It’s time Americans accept the inevitable globalization and move past the stubbornness of their elitism. Still, in 2012, only 30% of Americans have a passport. 60% of Canadians have passports, and 75% of Brits have passports. It’s time America joins the ranks of the global world.