FMBR Editorial: Feb, 2007
The Century of the Individual
William C. Gough
In the N.Y. Times there was an article describing Anti-American Feeling Abroad. It contained plots for eleven countries in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. The plots graphically showed in percentages how the people in each country have changed their perceptions of the United States between the years 2000 to 2006. The decreases in the favorable views of the U.S. was dramatic, and was accompanied by increases in unfavorable views. This made me realize that countries are now judged on a continuing basis by the attributes that we normally ascribe to an individual.
Does it really matter what others in the world think about us as a nation? We are all aware that new technologies are dramatically accelerating the human to human interaction process -- satellite TV, the internet and world wide web, e-mail, cell phones, jet airplanes, etc. Individuals anyplace on this planet can share ideas instantly over the internet. Groups of individuals located around the world can now jointly focus upon and develop solutions for specific challenges facing humanity and the planet. This greatly facilitates the solution to world problems, and can accelerate positive change. However, although instant communication is a great benefit, it also multiplies the danger to us and the citizens of all countries. It is the price we have to pay for these great benefits.
In the 19th and early 20th century nations could act without serious concern about what the citizens of the world thought. With wealth and military power one could do almost anything -- the result was "colonialism." However, as we proceed into the 21st century the individual has gained the power to do massive harm. This easy access by individuals and groups in the world to large banks of data created a double edge sword. The new instant communication network now makes the knowledge of rapid fire guns, bombs, and rockets available to all individuals; and even the technology of weapons of mass destruction in the nuclear, biological, and chemical areas. In addition, the infrastructure of modern society and its underlying communication systems are becoming increasingly vulnerable.
The new instant information era we have entered affords great power to the individual. In fact, it makes the 21st century the Century of the Individual! Universally available instant communication makes obsolete 19th and 20th century ways of acting. Colonial type thinking and wars based upon wealth and military power are outdated solutions to world predicaments! Individuals have always been willing to sacrifice their lives and the lives of others based upon perceived wrongs. We have over six billion individuals on this planet. If one in every 100,000 becomes distraught about perceived injustices, there would be over 60,000 individuals available to do serious harm to the individual or nation that perpetrated that injustice.
A world of instant communication has certain characteristics. It is more difficult to "spin" the information -- the truth will eventually come out -- the delay time for this to happen is shrinking. The power of nation states is being diminished. Increasingly information about the actions of a nation can no longer be sifted through a "nationally controlled filter." Attempts to control this new age of instant communication will put increasing pressure upon the principles of individual privacy. Although controls will be needed, no amount of centralized government control will ever be adequate to stem the rising tide of available information for individuals. The genie is out of the bottle.
The perceptions of individuals determine how this power, which is now available to all individuals, will be used. We have entered a period where we can win military battles but lose the real "war." We must be concerned that our actions do not create more anger and hatred in large numbers of individuals, since this will increase the probability of "terrorists" attacks. Our sophisticated weapons are losing much of their effective power to protect us. The Unites States' strongest weapon in the 21st century is the value system that underlies the American experiment in democracy. Acts of violence and war require duality thinking, there must be good versus evil. One must hate the "enemy." Therefore, we must demonstrate to the individuals of the world the importance of our value system by actions as individuals and as a nation. This means that we must address the injustices and needs that plague humanity. There are many technologies that will help increase security. However, they will be overwhelmed if our nation behaves in a manner that increases individual hatred. The perceptions about our "individual" nation need to become more favorable. When coupled to the instant communications networks of the world, constructive actions can provide the most powerful "weapon" we have for producing a positive future. This is the way for our nation to achieve the maximum security in the "Century of the Individual."
William C. Gough, FMBR Chairman of the Board
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Marsh, Bill, "Anti-American Feeling Abroad," The New York Times, December 31, 2006.
Gough, William C., "Manifesting, Creating, and Attunement," Proceedings of the 23rd International Conference on the Study of Shamanism and Alternative Modes of Healing, Santa Sabina Center, San Rafael, CA, Sept. 2-4, 2006. Also, www.fmbr.org.