Things are changing, I can feel itMon, 4th Jun '07, 8:15 pm::
The first time I sat in a canoe and tried to steer it across a river, I nearly ran aground. I wanted to go straight but I kept over-correcting and so instead of slight left, I'd turn the canoe 90-degrees to the left. It was difficult for me because a kayak, while more strenuous than a canoe, is much easier to keep straight. It was only after much exasperation did I realize the simple Newtonian physics in play here - the bigger the boat, the longer it takes to turn, but once it begins to turn, it's much more difficult to change direction. If you may pardon the pun, nothing really "ground"-breaking here.
The problem is that it takes about 4-5 seconds for the canoe to change direction once you start paddling. If all you needed were two or three strokes to straighten the canoe but seeing nothing happen for 4-5 seconds, you kept paddling harder, the canoe will not only turn, it will turn much more than you intended. And now seeing it turn too much, you start paddling on the other side and keep paddling till you can see the canoe turn. Too late, now it's going to swing all the way in the opposite direction. You just can't seem to keep it going straight.
Often when I'm reading news stories, I notice how much this simple rule of momentum applies to the world in general. Most people want things to go straight and steady with only a few misguided outliers that want everything to go either far left or far right. Yet we see everywhere people trying to skew things too much to one side or the other. Why can't people realize that if they keep moving to one side, they will indeed end up at an extremity that nobody really wants? Same reason I kept running the canoe aground - I couldn't feel the slight nudges and kept thrashing till I could actually see the canoe turn. Too late.
Anytime you see something in the news about citizen's rights being abused, journalists silenced, or failed economic and academic policies being implemented and wonder why everyone can't see where this is going, it's because the system is too big to instantly react and gives no immediate visual feedback to the one's manning the rudder. By the time the system actually reacts, people are already jumping overboard. We think the world today moves at dizzying speeds and sure, in most communication-oriented aspects, it does. However, society, economy, education, politics, and all things global take years to truly show their new direction. The key is to finely hone your feelers and sense when things are brimming under the surface.
Take for instance the gradual devaluation of the dollar. Nobody I interact with on a daily basis, cares one bit about it. After all, except for gasoline, things still cost nearly the same as they did five years ago and inflation rate is within the traditional bounds. Nothing has changed. Right? In 2002, I sent about $500 to my family in India. That was nearly Indian Rs. 25,000. Recently I sent $600 and it was less than Rs. 24,500. You may say the 16% devaluation in US currency over the last five years doesn't mean much to anyone, except for a few people like me.
Brimming under the surface, is the slowly increasing US debt to the rest of the world. Nobody cares about the debt because nobody sees any direct effects. By the time you see the effects though, it would be too late. If things don't start changing soon, then within the next two decades the Euro will have replaced USD as the preferred international currency of trade, the USD will be devalued to the point where imports cost drastically more, import shortages will create underground markets for knock-offs and counterfeits, insufficient supply will cause surge in prices bringing in 1930's era scarcity in this land of plenty, lack of international faith in US stocks will "correct" the stock market resulting in massive layoffs, and economic recession will finally solve the pesky immigration problem.
This above is, of course, just far-fetched fear-mongering from yours truly and I'm hoping it never happens. However, my feelers have yet to sense the boat change course and get on the path straight ahead. Most people though, are blissfully unaware and apathetic. It's ok. They have the luxury to be apathetic. For now.