We are not the World

by Tatiana Prophet

The government has overspent itself for decades. The country can barely make interest payments on its national debt-payments of nearly $1 billion a month. Panicky citizens, already tired of a recession and aware of the government's huge debt, withdraw nearly $10 billion from the bank. The president, in an effort to avoid defaulting on the national debt, announces that account holders may withdraw only $250 a month from the bank. He asks them to deposit the money they have withdrawn in recent weeks.

Citizens take to the streets and protest the president's drastic measures. It doesn't take long for the nation to default on its national debt. Account holders are paralyzed because they are not able to pay their bills. Grocers raise prices in anticipation of hyperinflation. Tourists are stranded because the airports will not take money.

Sounds like a worst-case scenario of economic collapse. But it is already happening right now, in a country that has been considered one of South America's more industrialized, advanced economies -- Argentina.

After September 11, most of us woke up to a shocking reminder that, in spite of calling our annual pro baseball competition the "world series," we are not the world. We realized that the planet was not blanketed with USA, and that we had better figure out what was going on.

Now, we are doing our homework. Words like Kandahar, burkah and Hamid Karzai roll off the tongue just like latte, cappucino and Sophia Loren. We are wiser, and we have learned our lesson. Before September 11, our antiquated -- or perhaps, politicized -- counter-terrorism wing of the CIA repeatedly rebuffed offers by the Sudan's secret service to show us their volumes of files on Al-Qaeda. And their files were quite dense; Osama bin Laden lived in the Sudan for years.

A mistake, the Sudan rebuff; but we know better now. We are aware of the rest of the world. We don't let anyone push us around. We are also the saviors of the world. We have routed the Taliban, and we are now leading an international coalition against terrorism.

We are burning the great oozing sore of Al-Qaeda off the face of the planet. But are we looking at the entire organism?

A purely anecdotal example is the case of Argentina. Hardly anyone in the United States has mentioned Argentina's stunning economic collapse. Saturday Night Live did spoof the crisis on "Weekend Update." Jimmy Fallon held up a small toy and said that he paid something like $10 million pesos for it.

I do know that the beauty of Saturday Night Live is in its ability to de-frock everything of its sacred status. But I also know that if a wildly popular Argentine variety show were to flippantly mention September 11, we would probably bomb Buenos Aires.

We cannot place a policeman on every single street corner of the world, no. But perhaps just a small shift in the way we look at things, like RETHINKING OUR MIDDLE EAST POLICY and the displacement of an entire people from their land, and like perhaps putting ourselves in our neighbors' shoes (to the continent down South) and really trying to find out the history there -- and how it got the way it is -- will make the words of the LiveAid song actually true: "We are the world."