You are on page 1of 2

I have lost all sense of home, having moved about so much.

It means to me now only

that place where the books are kept.
- John Steinbeck, novelist, Nobel laureate (1902-1968)

Let me say at the outset that what follows is a huge question which has been given
too little consideration and to which I have no clear answers or solutions. Just
some ideas.

Throughout history the greatest commitment that humankind has had was to its
respective lands. Untold numbers of men fought and died, entire cultures were
wiped out, families rent asunder and some put into slavery by acting to take or
retake possession of their land. Almost a century after much Palestinian land was
taken away from the Palestinians (who sided with Germany and lost the Second World
War), the remaining Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza continue to fight to
regain the land that was once the property of their ancestors.

Every country except one in the Americas fought to gain independence, thus full
possession, of their land from the former European colonial powers.

Land represented who a people were. Empires were built by taking over land through
coersion or conquest from their previous overseers.

In the 21st century, imperial powers hold economic strength and do not focus on
ownership or occupation of land. It turned out that the wisdom of the ages, that
control over land was the ultimate power, was wrong because imperial powers went
broke defending their territories from others who wanted to build their own
empires or to take their land back.

Today we have young people in the families of western and Asian nations obtaining
university educations and taking positions all over their native countries and in
nations of rising production and trading activity in other parts of the world.
Families today communicate less by hugging when they meet than by exchanging
email. Using VOIP technology, mothers and daughters can chat by phone from around
the world as if they lived next door to each other.

When land was the tie that held families together, their values and principles
tended to be much alike. Now that families are not tied together by the tradition
of owning the same land as their forefathers, how have values and principles
changed as young people have been exposed to many other sets of values and
principles of people from many other cultures?

For one, people take a greater interest in what is happening in other aprts of the
world. While 9/11 produced wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, peacekeeping efforts have
taken place in several other places where genocide had already happened or was
about to happen. Now it matters more than it used to if people somewhere else are
slaughtering each other. It matters if some country wants to make war on another
because they all have ties with the United Nations.

It matters if a trading partner does well economically because a rich country

doesn't want to just buy products from a poorer country and have nothing sold back
to that country, thus generating a balance of payments problem (more money going
out of the country than coming in).

Health care has become an important issue, such as with the potential of AIDS to
spread from its hot bases in Africa and India through genetic mutations of its
causal virus. The world watches as people die somewhere from bird flu because a
mutated bird flu virus (H5N1) could devastate the world worse than the 18 million
who died in 1918 from the Spanish flu. Now it matters to everyone if personal
health habits of people of a distant land act to promote the spread of disease to
more health conscious countries.

Obseity, an enormous problem in the US and UK, is also a problem in most countries
of the world, though to a lesser extent. Now everyone wants and needs answers to
the causes and cures or solutions for obesity. Even poor countries have too many
fat people and no one knows why for sure.

Has our tie to the land of our ancestors becoming less important resulted in our
sharing and caring more about the people of other parts of the world? Or has it
given impetus to rich countries to control even more foreign people through
economic ties making their business leaders greedier than ever before in history?

I prefer to believe the former. But we must be aware that the greedy among the
people of every country will always want to have power over others. So our caring
and sharing must include measures of assistance beyond trade and health care. It
must include education and basic services such as clean water at least.

As the world recognizes fewer ties to specific pieces of real estate, its people
see each other more as fellow members of a global village. DNA research has shown
that there are no races among us. Climate change shows us that personal and
industrial activity in even distant parts of the world can affect us in our homes.

Now everyone matters. It will take world history a while to catch up with that
change. Transition periods traditionally are periods of great upset. We can see
the upset around us. What we may not be able to see as easily is where we are
headed as a species.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,'
striving to put it all into perspective.
Learn more at