‘Change’ – the word loved and hated by many at the same time. But there’s no getting away with it.

The two fundamental questions, I often ask myself on ‘Change’ are:

  1. Are we changing for better or for worse?
  2. Irrespective of the answer of above, are these changes benefiting a large majority of the citizens of the world (even for the shorter term); or are the changes benefiting only a handful of minorities, that too at the cost of the majority?

Since the end of the WWII and even more since the end of the Cold War, many do consider the U.S. to be significantly responsible for all the three following challenges that our world faces today, namely:

  1.  Global warming & climate change
  2.  Rising inequality due to form of capitalism and globalization in practice, and finally
  3.  Terrorism (which, fundamentally. speaking is partly a derivative of point 2 above).

Now when certain parts of the rest of the world that includes me say that the U.S. needs to own up responsibility for all the three above, this group don’t necessarily come with a mindset similar to blaming President Bush for all failures, even say, for one’s dog not being well.

Personally speaking I rather like President Bush, though I disapprove strongly most of his policies that saw a lot of destruction of lives and properties, probably unnecessarily. The difference between Bush and ousted Blair, again in my eyes are:

  1. Bush is honest, simple and a straight-forward guy who has been mostly mis-lead by policy-makers in his team having ulterior motives.
  2. Blair was a smart guy who knew the fallacies of many of those policies, but still pushed ahead expecting a short-term or long-term personal gain.

Above probably explains my individual biases to a large extent. So when this diverse group of people like me holds the U.S. responsible for the major challenges that our dear world faces today, it’s because of the superpower status and ‘global policing’ attitude of the U.S. that’s been there for long. President Bush has not done much to change that negative perception, rather damaged them further in his tenure, taking it to a dangerous levels of negative perception in the world for the single superpower of the world.

Now let’s come to the fundamental two questions with which we started on ‘Change’ itself:

  1. Are we changing for the better (at least lately)? – No doubt it’s a complex issue. And no one can have a final say on it. The answer would surely vary depending on your age-profile, socio-economic background, location, and most importantly how you have performed socially & economically over last few years against your peers. Surely mankind has gained a lot by adapting to continuous changes since the beginning of human civilization.

Why the question comes now because there are ominous signs that this path of comsumerism-driven economic growth and civilization may not be a one-way street of prosperity for all of mankind on Mother Earth as global warming and climate change becomes more and more evident.

Coming back to answering the question, I get a feeling that we are changing for the better over minor and smaller matters of change; but when the bigger and major issues on change are concerned, we probably are changing for the worse.  I again admit that it’s too complex a process to have such an oversimplified opinion on it.

     2. The answer for the 2nd question (who benefits more from the change?) again comes from the cues of the 1st. The smaller changes benefit all or the majority, but the larger changes benefit only a handful over the cost of the global majority. Take example from any corners – economic policies, environmental concerns or terrorism-related issues on the three major challenges; you get the picture.

So when we say that there is global warming, but emissions will not be cut in a binding manner as it can impact economic growth; we indirectly affect the large majority of the people all over the world who have seen little benefits of economic growth so far in their lifestyles and consumptions, and rely more on Mother Nature still for various forms of livelihoods.

Or take the example of the interest rate cut that the Federal Reserves did, which according to many is nothing but socialism for the Wall street. It’s yet to be seen on how the American poor (>12% of the U.S. population) will benefit from this decision, because (1) s/he may get affected by never to get the opportunity to own a home as prices remain high or (2) in case s/he already bought one under sub-prime category, s/he may have already lost it or still lose his/her home as the decision benefits the financial system of global capitalistic society more and not the end-consumer.  On top of that, s/he gets adversely affected by inflation.

Well, one may rightfully say that in case of an economic down-turn, s/he may lose his/her job as well; and therefore to protect the job (of whatever payment) it’s important to even protect the rich by a higher degree. True, however it being true itself sounds an alarm bell on the sustainability of this global capitalistic system in place. And no one cares about the impact of credit-driven consumerism on environmental sustainability.

One can take examples of democracy and freedom and see its different applications across many parts of the world, again chiefly advocated by the U.S. itself. Kosovo and Palestine are again two latest glaring examples of that. In one case, the whole world agrees that people of Palestine have been mistreated for years but does practically nothing. In the  case of Kosovo, there is divergent of opinion but still Kosovo declared freedom with the U.S. support. The U.S. have over the years conspired against democratically elected governments elsewhere and done nothing against absence of democracy in oil-rich OPEC nations. Same goes true on human rights, be it on China or Guatemala Bay.

Therefore just like the U.S. needs to own up its responsibilities in facing three of the major global challenges; the U.S. also needs to be credited or blamed for the fundamental two questions on the various ‘Changes’ we find ourselves with, willingly or unwillingly. ‘Change’ as itself can not be taken to be good uniformly. The need of the hour is to fasten certain forms of ‘Change’ and also to restrict ‘Change’ driven by vested interests.

Lately, it’s often said with statistical findings that the perception of the U.S. in the rest of the world has taken a beating. It is right, but I again believe that’s an oversimplification. All over the world, there is a great respect for the American values, the American people, the American icons (Dylan, Gates, Google and many more in all spheres) and their contributions to mankind in various forms.

However when it comes to the U.S. policies, majority of the rest of the world dislike it. Dislike still is softer word, hatred may be better.

Why is it so? Simply because of the double standards the U.S. have been following for quite  long enough a time-period to build a negative perception in people’s mind elsewhere. Let’s take a look at what many Americans themselves believe in:

‘The so-called “free trade” bottom line:  Poor countries producing commodities cannot possibly compete against rich countries producing credit money. Yet they are being forced to do so.

Meanwhile, during the past 30 years the US has bombed or attacked Syria, Lebanon, Nicaragua, Sudan, Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Iraq, Guatemala, Japan, East Timor, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Somalia, Haiti, Yugoslavia, and Panama.  The common denominator of these nations is that they are all non-members of the World Trade Organization.  Since the invention of the WTO only Japan has joined willingly; the South American countries have been “persuaded” by friends of the system’  (source: Library of Halexandria).

Well, I have not done enough research to comment on the validity of above. However what can’t be denied is part of above is true.

Surprisingly, today the same U.S. faces reverse heat from WTO as its markets get flooded with cheaper overseas goods and services.

Afghanistan is another example where the U.S. sacrificed its long term interest by joining Taliban and facilitated terrorism. Examples are many.

Point here is, if something is not good for the world over the longer term, it can’t be good for the U.S. as well.

Obama has promised Change. I personally like Senator Clinton as well. The character she has shown since her days in the White House as the 1st Lady from Monica Lewinsky days is of unbelievable balance & strength. Her intelligence and experience also can’t be questioned. Other Presidential contenders also have many pluses. However ‘Change’ as a theme is something the world also expects from the U.S. as the current perception of the U.S. needs to change from that of a country of double standards to uniform ones.

The world has seen a drastic shortage of global statesmen of stature, probably when it’s needed most. The U.S. needs to either provide it itself, or facilitate other statesmen to emerge who can solve these complex challenges that our world faces today.

Ranjit Goswami is an Associate Professor of Indian Institute of Foreign Trade, India and the author of the book Wondering Man, Money & Go(l)d. Opinion is personal.

Be Sociable, Share!