the future

The other night I was having an extended telephone conversation with a good friend of mine up in Portland. I think this was the day after the big hullabaloo in New York that was the RNC, so naturally our conversation turned to politics. We both had that sense of fear and apprehension that seems to pervade these times. That somehow he’s going to get into office again. He might not get elected, but then again, he didn’t exactly win four years ago. This fear of the future set me off for minute on some random pontification about the state of the world ten, twenty, or fifty years from now.

I speculated. I predicted. I made the claim that it’s only a matter of time before the European Union becomes the world’s next superpower. For all intents and purposes, it already is a country, and it won’t be long before it becomes a country united by more than a single currency. (Ironically, the next day I heard on NPR that the president of the EU declared that they had won more medals at the Olympics than the U.S., if you considered the EU a country.)

I speculated further that the other emerging superpower to watch out for is Asia. We’re already seeing signs of an emerging Asian Union, and (again somewhat ironically) just today I heard that Japan is hard at work with several South East Asian nations to create a free-trade zone among them. If it all works out, and I suspect it will, this will be the world’s largest free-trade zone. The impact on global economics shouldn’t go unnoticed.

The cold war is very much over. And as we move into the next century, I think we need to start looking at the world in radically different ways. While the U.S. and it’s fifty-first state of the U.K. try to retain some sense of importance, while France and Germany try to remain autonomous in the face of the economic vitality of the EU, while China tries to resist abandoning it’s socialist regime in the face of globalization, we need to be on the lookout for how the world really is going to be in fifteen or thirty year’s time. And at the rate we’re going, I doubt very much whether the United States will be little more than “just another country” on the world scene.

But what about our incredibly powerful economy? Our economy’s in the tubes and totally dependent, at this point, on the world market. And the fact of the matter is that the combined wealth of the European Union (not to mention its far more stable and far more organized state than our own) already rivals American interests. You just don’t know that because you’re listening to American owned media outlets.

But what about our incredibly powerful army? We’re already the world’s police force. Stripped of any economic power, what do you think we’ll be forced to do with this incredibly well-trained army? Fight the wars of other nations much in the way the UN does now.

It’s really inevitable. And at first glance, it seems unsettling. America? Just another country? No different than Canada? Content to deal with it’s own, internal problems while occasionally sending out a few thousand troops on a humanitarian crusade?

Is that really so bad?

The only question, then, is what will the country look like in transition? Will it be a place where we neglect the needs of our own citizens while a few wealthy oil barons get wealthier? Or will we realize that the world tide has already turned and, rather than spending all our efforts overseas, return our attention to taking care of our own people? Of providing for them health care and more than adequate education? Clean air and water?

It’s not such a bad dream. It’s not such a terrible future. And, as always, it’s not a choice that a few wealthy Yale grads are going to make. It’s a choice that you’re going to have to make. And me. And everyone else in this country. It’s a choice to be aware, to get involved, and be the change we wish to see, to borrow a phrase.

The future really is in our hands.