Sunday, September 18, 2005

It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.

The rock group R.E.M has a song called "It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine." I think this song title captures the current state of the world. I don't literally believe the world is coming to an end yet, but what I am trying to say is that a new paradigm shift is happening.

The word 'paradigm' has been over used these days, but it does a great job of describing what I see is happening in the world. One of the definitions of this word from The American Heritage Dictionary, defines a paradigm as: "A set of assumptions, concepts, values, and practices that constitutes a way of viewing reality for the community that shares them, especially in an intellectual discipline."

Consider this, when many of us were growing up one of our greatest fears was an all out world Nuclear war. Russia was considered an evil empire, and we had to stop the growing spread of communism. Terrorism was something that happened in other countries. America was the police force of the world, and petroleum was plentiful and cheap.

Now fast forward to today. The threat of Russia and the spread of communism is no longer considered a threat, but has been replaced by the threat of terrorism. America is still the police of the world, but our ability to fight this new threat is limited. Then there's the subject of petroleum, it doesn't seem plentiful anymore and I don't think anyone thinks it is cheap.

The Treat of Terrorism
When Russia was one of our greatest threats, we somewhat knew how to deal with it. We (the world) spend decades planning and preparing for what to do just in case they attacked us, so we kind of knew how to deal with the problem.

The greatest threat that terrorism poses is a psychological threat. We allow it to play on our fears, and let it incapacitate us. We have every right to be concerned, but if we let our irrational fears rule us then the terrorists have already won.

If we beat communism, I know we can overcome this threat. The only issues are what will it cost us in lives, human rights, and finances to stop it. The loss of one human life is too great. The loss of one human right is too much. The only problem is that there could be several casualties before this war is over.

Some of the greatest damage a terrorist can cause, is not the physical damage to buildings or transportation systems. But, the liberties and rights we relinquish in the name of fighting this threat. To quote Benjamin Franklin "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

We should not allow anyone to take away our rights, in exchange for a perceived sense of safety. By this I am advocating that we need to let our government representatives know what we want, and we need to vote the right people in to office that can, and will make a difference.

America's war on terrorism, is kind of like a war on drugs. These are wars that you have to fight, but doesn't always mean that you will be able to win them. Currently all we have been able to do is make it difficult for the drug suppliers to deliver their products, but we have not been able to stop them. Personally, I believe the best that we will ever be able to do, is make it difficult for terrorist to cause harm. Although, I am not sure if we will ever be able to stop them all together.
If terrorists were large armies coming to attack us, I know we could stop them. Although, terrorist don't use conventional means to fight. They will use conventional and unconventional weapons to make their point (whatever that might be).

So you may ask the question how do we stop them, the answer is not very easily. Our options are limited, maybe at best we can stop the larger more organized groups. The main problem with this stragey, is that is very easy to overcome. So, the best answer that I can provide right now is that you don't let them win the psychological war.

Everyday we face some threat of harm or death, be it from sickness, accidents, criminals, etc... We don't allow this to prevent us from living out our everyday lives. We are all taught that if we take some basic precautions, that we have a very good chance of living a long and healthy life.

The reality is that for right now, we are going to face new threats of terrorism. We don't have a magic weapon that is going to stop every terrorist who wants to cause some sort of harm from succeeding. All we can do is make it difficult for them to succeed, and not give them the psychological victory that they want.

The Cost of Petroleum
The second part of the paradigm shift that we are encountering, is the world petroleum supply. Petroleum is one product that can affect the cost of just about everything that is manufactured or shipped. If these prices go up, then there is a domino effect that causes the cost of just about every other product to rise as well.

In the 70's we had the first major petroleum shortage, this was our first wake up call. For a short time we started to explore alternative forms of fuel and energy, but we quickly lost interests in these technologies once petroleum was in regular supply again.

In my humble opinion, we should have never stopped putting energy into these alternative forms of power. We have been relying on petroleum for too long, and now we need to find something different before we totally run out.

Old Habits are Hard to Break
As the cost of energy goes up, whether we like it or not we will all somehow be incorporating more environmentally correct habits. Such as taking public transportation, driving less, buying smaller more fuel-efficient cars or ones that use some type of alternative form of energy.

I don't see incorporating these new habits as a bad thing, I just hate the fact we are forced to heed the rhetoric of the tree hugging hippies that have been preaching this for years. The whole American attitude for the last several decades has been that 'excess is better'. This is going to have to change to 'less is better'. Although I am not holding my breath.
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