“First we were afraid of the wolf, then we wanted to dance with the wolf, and now we want to be the wolf.”
The above quote did not come from a suspense novel, or some piece of scary teenage fiction. The quote was by a Chinese central bank official concerning the United States in a nonfiction book. And that’s what makes it scary.
The title of the book is “The World is Flat,” written by Thomas L. Friedman, “New York Times” and Pulitzer Prize winning columnist. (Remember, you can still get a library card for free.) Economics and foreign affairs are Friedman’s specialty. In the book, he discusses how computers, the internet, the information age, and the changing political landscape is affecting the whole world. And it’s affecting you and me, whether we realize it or not.
But wait a minute! We learned in school the world is not flat. That’s why Columbus came to America. OK, that’s true. It’s still round. But the world is flat because the barriers to worldwide economic opportunity are falling, and more and more people and countries worldwide are taking advantage. They see American prosperity and its results, and they want it. And they are in a hurry and are working hard to get it. They want to be the wolf. If not now, soon.
And it’s not just China. Do you realize that India now has the largest English speaking population in the world? The fall of communism opened the door for millions of Russians and other former communists to capitalism. They are wanting to be the wolf, too. Or, at least along in the wolfpack.
In the book, Friedman cites instances where he asks people when they realized the world was flat. In other words, when they realized this global transformation was taking place. One Mexican official told Friedman that he realized it when he looked on the bottom of a little Virgin of Guadalupe statuette, the patron saint of Mexico, and saw that it was made in China. In other words, the statue could be made in China and imported to Mexico for less than it cost to make it in Mexico. It got me thinking, when did I realize I was living in a flat world?
A few years ago, we got a new computer. Being technically challenged, (an understatement) there were some installation problems. After a few hours of frustration, I finally gave in and phoned the help desk. Of course, the help desk is in India. The gentleman who answered at the help desk me was actually helpful. We worked through the problem, despite my lack of computer knowledge. To complete the process, I had to reboot the computer. (Turn it off, then start it back up again.) This takes a few minutes.
While waiting, we struck up a conversation. He goes to work in India late at night in order to correspond with daytime here in the U.S. He comes from a small town, but is working in the large city of Bangalore, many hours away from his home. He told me he goes home to his wife and children to visit every few months, but is grateful to have this job and to be able to send money home to his family. As we continued the conversation, he asked me a question and then I knew, despite what I had learned in school, the world was now flat.
“I see you live near a lake. Do you catch fish in it?” he asked. Surprised, I answered, “No.” But I was thinking, “How does he know I live near a pond?” Then I realized that he had looked up my address on Google Earth while we were talking on the phone, and was looking at my house via a satellite photo and saw the pond. The computer came back on, we completed the repair process. I thanked him for his help. I learned about a young man and his family from India, and the young man from India asked if I fished in the pond near my house. And my computer was fixed. Yes, the world is flat. And a little scary.
It’s scary because the future is more uncertain than I thought. With all this rapid change going on, we have one of those “What about me?” moments. How is all of this going to affect me, my family and the world around me? Because it will, if it hasn’t already, impact us all, in one way or another. But instead of being fearful, we should be hopeful. Because Jesus said, “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” (Mt. 28:20) And that’s still true, even in a flat world.