This Is How The Future Begins

From personal experience I know that extended isolation is not good for one’s psyche. It makes you touchy, overly aggressive, irrational and abrupt. Genuine human contact is the only way to calm an isolated individual down and eventually restore their sense of normalcy. Once this is accomplished, the individual finds it much easier to exist and function in the wider community. From this point on it is up to the individual to forge lasting relationships. This same formula works as well for nations as it does for people. Richard Nixon, Mikhail Gorbachev and Pierre Trudeau knew it, now you know it. Apparently so do 300 million Chinese middle class families. While perusing CNN’s website this morning I came across this story

While some isolationist rednecks, sinophobic North Americans and high school graduates may be horrified by this, I am ecstatic! This is where it starts ladies and gentlemen, true global understanding. Thousands of Chinese students (along with those from India, Saudi Arabia and Korea, among others) are coming to American schools (Canadian ones to) looking not only for world class education but “more opportunities for out-of-class activities, an open learning environment and diversity” as well. This is cultural exchange at an immense scale between some of the world’s pre-eminent economic and socio-political powerhouses. That we even have millions of Easterners hungry for the Western experience is amazing, but more important is the fact that the people coming here are by and large members of the most influential social group in their respective nations. The steadily growing middle classes. Those who make up the bulk of the civil service, business community, educated electorate, social leaders and media consumers. A millions strong bloc of influential people, friendly to or at least understanding of the values, character and failings of the West bodes well for future interactions on a national level. It also helps encourage change in their own societies which is vitally important to pave the way for Westerners (I’m going to put the Russians in this camp) to make their own firsthand connections. Just as the Chinese students seek diversity so must we. Oh sure Canada, the USA, Britain etc. are diverse countries but this diversity exists within a familiar, comfortable and ultimately controllable context. By removing ourselves from this framework and forcing ourselves to interact with these seemingly distant societies on their terms we dispel not only our illusions about foreign societies but those concerning ours as well.

Very quickly many people who are fearful of the East would realize that India, East Asia and the Middle East aren’t strange or mystical lands populated by potentially hostile “others” but the homes of billions of people with the same concerns, hopes, fears and dreams as ourselves. This understanding goes a long way to dispelling baseless hatred and irrational fear. But we must understand it is only possible through direct contact. If the Cold War has taught us anything it is that nine times out of ten, it was simple communication that saved the world from nuclear apocalypse. Not bullshit posturing or some fancy satellite defence system. I think it is great that millions of Chinese families want their children to study in North America and Europe. Admittedly our schools are pretty top-notch but it also definitively proves that generations of people who are commonly disparaged as anti-western and manipulated by Communist propaganda are in reality free thinking individuals who simply love their children and want to provide them with a bright and promising future. I can respect that and I imagine so could many of even the most ignorant and fearful in Western society.

But we can’t stop here. Sure the Olympics were a fantastic gesture but there is much work to be done. It is imperative that the traditional powers of the Earth continue to extend the hand of friendship to whoever will grasp it. The reason is simple. The idea that there is an East and a West is an outdated and irrelevant mental framework. Thanks to the nature of modern business, readily available mass transportation and the expansiveness of tele-communications, the Earth has shrunk into a single community. In so many other sectors the connections between different nations and peoples are so intimate that we have come to depend on one another. It is time for us to take this one step further. I’m glad to see that hundreds of millions of people have already got the idea.

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