Monday, February 18, 2008

Text Message, Anyone?

It's certainly an exciting time to live. Humanity has been preparing for this very moment ever since the first evolutionary call to think and reason. The Soul of Humanity itself is set to take a giant leap if only enough individuals come forward and accept the challenge set before them. And what is that call? Many have heard it and their diverse voices ring out to those straining to hear:
Peace can only last where human rights are respected, where the people are fed, and where the individuals and nations are free--14th Dalai Lama

The US cannot win the war on terrorism unless we confront the social and political roots of poverty--Colin Powell

Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it--The Talmud
From my perch, the underlying reason for globalization is the united effort by individuals and nations to own up to their responsibility for all creatures on Earth. Peace cannot be had before that ownership takes place. This is not a chance giving of $5 here and change in the collection plate there, but a mental acceptance and understanding of the necessity of unity for survival of man. Although we are not there yet by any means, humanity is slowly moving in this direction politically, financially, educationally, scientifically, and religiously and nothing can stop the train rolling down the track. The speed of that train is our most urgent concern.

Technological and communications advances may have moved the evolution to warp speed. Only ten years ago, I was just plugging into the World Wide Web, and now every generation from 3 year olds to 85 year olds utilize it on a daily basis. Logjams on the Internet are now common, particularly in developing countries with little bandwidth because of few connecting cable. I didn't realize until reading the February 8th WSJ article entitled "Logjams on Internet Spur New Cable Boom" that actual cable lines are laid under oceans to bring the WWW to everyone on the globe:
"Thanks in large measure to social networking Web sites, like YouTube and other diversions non-existent in the 1990's, global band width usage has grown by an average of 50% since 2002. It's on a pace to double every 1.4 years. . .growing on-line use by businesses and wider availability of high-speed internet services are also fueling demand."
A telling map was shown of these multiple cable lines which stretched from the east and west coasts of the United States across both oceans. Interestingly, only one wrapped it's way around Africa, where businesses still have difficulty receiving email attachments. But, because of a few U.S. entrepreneurs, a race is now on to bring more broadwidth to Africa. Obviously, Africa will always lag behind the rest of the world without an efficient, effective, and stable Web connection and some see this as a golden opportunity to make money while at the same time doing good. Nothing wrong with that.

One of the most ambitious goals of the Web is to "harness the power of the Internet for good" and a visionary from Indiana saw this possibility back in 1999 when he made it as easy as one free click to give to UN anti-hunger programs. The response to his enlightened initiative was astounding and in the first 9 months over 9 million pounds of food was distributed to the poor. Since then 500 million cups of food have been funded by the sponsors of The Hunger Site. Check it out and click every day to make a difference. I did this morning and found additional "clicks" available for breast cancer, children's health, literacy, rain forests and animal rescue. That about covers it all, does it not? It's a simple way to make a real difference, and it's free. No one ever minded free.

Speaking of hunger, no continent struggles with that overarching issue more than Africa and, surprising to many, the United States has really stepped up to the plate to help out. George W. certainly has a bad name around many parts of the globe, including his home turf. But in Africa where the President is currently traveling, it is a different story. There, songs are written in thanks for his help and streets are even named after him. The Associated Press reported on February 15, 2008:
"In a humid rehearsal studio, Liberia's pop queen is practicing her newest single - a song called 'Thank You' to be released for President Bush's visit here next week. Her head tilted back, Juli Endee pulls the microphone close and belts out 'Thank you, George Bush. . .thank you for democracy. . . thank you for the rule of law. . . thank you for debt relief.' Bush is scheduled to head to Africa for a visit that will bring him to one of the few parts of the globe where people still have a favorable view of America. A recent Pew poll of 47 nations found that America's popularity is exceptionally high in Africa, where some hold the U.S. in higher regard than Americans do themselves."
For those who don't follow African development, it might be an astonishing fact that, since Bush took office, US development aid to Africa has tripled, HIV programing has increased 6 fold, from $1 billion to $6 billion as well as an easing of trading agreements. The Africans are truly grateful that President Bush made Africa the center of his aid programs with the Bush Millenium Challenge Corporation--something which they will not soon forget.

Nor will they forget Puma, the athletic supplier of all things soccer. I am basically ignorant about world wide soccer, but did discover that sponsorships are where it's at if a team wants to be a somebody on the field. In that regard, Nike corporation glommed onto the lucrative South American soccer sponsorships, while leaving Europe to Adidas. That left the little Puma company with Africa. But, way back in 1997, the Puma company took a gamble on sponsoring these African teams, starting with Cameroon, and stuck by them even though they rarely made it to the World Cup. As it turns out, though, WSJ said that "Puma's bet on Africa may soon pay off. [Why?] South Africa will host its first ever World Cup--the planet's most watched sporting event-- in 2010. Organizers guarantee five slots in the World Cup to African teams." We Americans are suckers for underdog stories, and this one really warms the heart. Makes me want to go out and buy all things Puma, which is just what the innovative company is hoping, I'm sure. But you might want to steer clear of two items that got them in trouble with the World Cup people: sleeveless shirts in 2002 and bodysuits two years later. Guess these items of wear are no-no's in the conservative land of football.

Given what you know about global movements, would it surprise you that some scholars are finding that religious tolerance is spreading? It did me, but that is just what a diverse group of professors at Princeton's Center for Theological Inquiry (CTI) are finding. They began with a prescient study project called "God and Globalization" in 1999. Four books later, the well-published but little known assemblage is still discussing the heady topic. George Melloan described it like this in the January 11, 2008 edition of the WSJ:
"The 20 participants from a variety of disciplines recognized that a burgeoning integration and interdependence of national and regional economies resulting from reduced barriers to trade and finance has had a profound social and political implications. It has raised millions out of poverty."
In their latest volume of research, the scholars acknowledged that globalization has affected more than the economy:
"The CTI scholars see globalization see far more than an economic phenomenon. The spread of new ideas, images, and cultural artifacts by modern information technology even to people once isolated from the main currents of human thought, is having a powerful cultural impact. It has the potential of opening minds to a broader tolerance of differing religious beliefs."
And they, indeed, see this shift occurring. Mr. Melloan congratulated the enlightened CTI scholars for opening the discussion about the impact of globalization on the spreading of religious tolerance through the upward mobility of populations growing out of poverty into prosperity. CEO God would most likely approve.

The Great One would probably also smile favorably upon the enlightened use of cell phones to aid India's poor farmers. Tata Corporation, a huge East Indian conglomerate, has loaded it's consulting software onto cellphones to be used in the fields by Indian farmers. Listen to this development:
"The phone's software prompted [the grape farmer] to click various icons and answer questions to indicate what variety of grapes he was growing, when he had pruned his vines and what type of grafts he had used. It also instructed him to take four or five photos with the phone's camera. He then keyed in a code, and, minutes later, the details of his crop and photos of the grapes popped up on a computer screen of the grape growers association 140 miles away. A reading from a soil analysis sensor planted in the village by Tata and a local weather forecast also appeared on the screen. A scientist at the association answered [the farmer] via a brief text message: spray now and use gibberellic acid. . .the scientist recommended an exact amount."
The WSJ goes on to say that the mobile phone is "now one of the hottest development tools world-wide. Non-governmental organizations see cellphones as a way to bolster incomes of the world's poor, while corporations eyeing untapped markets hope new mobile services can boost rural incomes and corporate revenue at the same time. South Asia, where mobile use is rapidly growing, has become a test bed" (2-12-08.)

This information coupled with the further news that cell-phone users will overtake non-cell-phone users for the first time this year brings us full circle to the evolutionary acceleration of consciousness due to technological and communication advances, particularly in developing countries (WSJ, 2-7-08, B3.) Let's not forget that only a few years ago China and India were among the poorest of the poor with billions of people in poverty. Russia, although it didn't have the population of these two, was not far behind. Now, ownership rates of cell phone use is rising the most quickly in these countries and accounts for 1 billion subscribers out of a total of 3.3 billion world-wide.

3.3 billion people connected electronically to the world! It boggles the mind. The next step in the evolutionary process could an enlightened realization that all folks are connected telepathically and always have been. But that is probably a few years off. So, for now, an actual physical connection will have to do. Text message, anyone?

Of note: M. Huffman has come to my aid again with another outstanding picture! Stay tuned, she has many more.

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