Has anyone read Hot, Flat and Crowded, Thomas Friedman’s follow-up book to his critically acclaimed The World is Flat ? I enjoyed watching him last evening on The Colbert Report (broadcast on our cable network Comedy Central here in the US) as he introduced his newest book.
As I was watching, I thought about recent events and my own travels abroad:
– The election of Barack Obama was a major event in China (and the world) so much so that the China Southern Mirror newspaper proclaimed on November 5, 2008 that there was renewed hope for better relations with America because Barack’s half-brother was a resident of China. In fact, I watched the election from Nanning, China, while attending ISO/IEC SC7 software engineering standards meetings on behalf of the US, along with delegates from approximately 20 nations. It was a historical moment to watch the jubilant reaction to the landmark election at home, and also witness the unanimous relief of most non-US delegates to our meeting. Obama’s election was seen in the eyes of my colleagues as the beginning of a new, conciliatory era in US-world politics because Barack is viewed as an opposite to the war-mongering oppressive-style of his opponent and his predecessor.
– While I agree with Friedman that the resources and monetary distribution of finance is rapidly changing the balance of power throughout the world, I find that the US continues to enjoy a love/hate relationship with other countries – regardless of their stature. In fact, in China, as I observed the number of caucasian men with Asian women, and the majority of Asian product advertisements featuring caucasian models, I realized that the Western world presents still an idyllic fantasy in China (at least) and also in other parts of the world. While we may be hated for our stereotypical arrogance, there is still a love for American entrepreneurialism and innovation in many societies. The emergence of Bollywood and local industries may take away a portion of US exports in the entertainment industry, however, there is still status in being North American or European, or so was my observation.
– The economic crisis we are enduring here in the US is very much being watched with fearful trepidation abroad. Colleagues routinely ask me if things are as bad as the news stories featured on their television and newspapers say, and when I tell them about the predictions and status quo today, they become fearful that their own economies are so keyed in to the US economy as to make a major impact on their own personal lives.
– The collapse or failure of the big 3 US based automakers is major here at home, but the world still looks to the US to be the first and foremost to lead us out of this recession/depression/dip/whatever it is. There is reliance on the US to continue to lead despite the financial crisis and changes due to outsourcing and emergence of the BRIC countries.
– There are scary things happening in the world that concern me and where I believe the US must stand up and lead. Two cases in point astound me, the first may be a domestic issue, the second international:
1. The internet broadcasted suicide of a teenage boy who chronicled his demise over 12 hours of broadcast on a bodybuilding website while watchers “egged him on” or LOL’ed (laughed out loud). It was only after he had consumed an inordinate amount of pills and laid down lifeless on his bed that anyone took him seriously enough to call emergency workers who found him dead. Where is our empathy and humanity when pain of this magnitude happens daily in our midst and must be broadcast in order to raise awareness of the issues, and of the non-responsiveness of his online colleagues?
2. The pirate raids of major oil tankers off the coast of Somalia. When criminals of the worst kind (armed, dangerous, and righteous) seize property and crewmembers for weeks and months without repurcussion from any particular nation (and without sanctions in their own country) and demand ransom, how can the US government stand by and not declare these as terrorists? (Some would state that it is even more amazing since US oil interests are involved!) While we glamorize pirates in Halloween and locally (in my area) as invaders of the Florida coastline from the Spanish invasion era, this is real-life, savage, low-tech criminality at work and involving a variety of nations. I don’t really understand why we’re not leading the world in addressing this situation given the high technology we have available and the proximity of military strength fairly close by in the region.
US innovation is legendary and I support Friedman’s position that the US must lead in landmark “greening” initiatives. It’s our turn to step up to the issues of global warming, piracy at sea (and of intellectual property which is another whole topic area), greening and recycling of our product usage and production (which has spurred some of the automakers to record sales of hybrid automobiles), and joining the coalitions already established to limit greenhouse gases.
While the world is hot (global warming), flat (financial levelling through the BRIC and other countries), and crowded (increasingly so outside the US), I believe that we have the unparalleled opportunity to embrace the leadership role that is still upon our shoulders as a superpower, and to take the steps that leaders take. Just because we are suffering at home under the financial crisis doesn’t mean that our world will end, hardly so, and I believe one of the best ways out of our financial woes is to stand up, dust ourselves off, face the financial situation as it is (cannot cry over spilt milk!!!) – do what we can to remedy it – and pick up the baton of greening our world and lead the race to the finish line. That’s the America the world needs and expects! And that’s the America I am proud to be a part of!
Have a great week!
Carol Dekkers, Software Measurement and Global Software Development expert, author, speaker. Want to engage Carol to be a speaker at your next event? Email Ms. Dekkers at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.caroldekkers.com for details.
Read Carol Dekkers’ second blog (about Software Development) at http://caroldekkers.blogspot.com.
——Copyright 2008 Carol Dekkers – All Rights Reserved ————————————