Lowest Common Denominator

I have seen over and over again, the basic mathematic principle of lowest common denominator play out.

Be it relationships, work or politics, it is the lowest behavior that becomes common and everybody falls to it. People upholding higher statutes are sooner or later grinded down by people who uphold no higher values despite always claiming to do so.  Be it at the personal level — helping others despite inconveniences to themselves until the day you ask for help and are bluntly turned down, turning the other cheek  for so long that you realize they don’t care if a cheek is left on your face or selflessly offering service till you realize that most are busy furthering their own cause. Or be it at the global stage — secularism over fundamentalism, nonviolence over violence, integration over segregation.

And that brings us to the crux of the discussion today. Please read this article from New York Times, “British PM ‘Appalled’ by Protest Plans.” A radical Islamic group, Islam4UK, is planning a protest march through the streets of a town that has achieved iconic status in Britain for honoring the passing hearses of British soldiers killed in Afghanistan. As part of the protest march they plan to carry “empty” hearses to replay the honor bequeathed but this time to civilians killed in Afghanistan.

If that is not outrageous enough, this plan was announced by Islam4UK in letters sent to the families of the 246 British soldiers that have died in Afghanistan.

Islam4UK is an off-shoot of a group that was banned in 2005. The group in 2005 praised the perpetrators of 9/11 as heroes.

As you can see, it has got nothing to do with justice since it is not as if this group is asking for innocent Afghanis killed in the war to be honored, it is basically interested in honoring all Muslims — terrorists or otherwise and doesn’t care about honoring members of other religion. It is also not considering any facts about who started this latest cycle of violence in South Asia and the Western world including the barbaric attacks of 9/11.

I believe we are at a major inflection point in relationship between peoples. The doors that have been open in the West to integrate people from all parts of the world are going to get shut and shut fast, especially to natives of certain countries. For, some people are hell bent upon bringing us all down to the lowest common denominator — accept me but I will not accept you. Don’t fight me but I want to take you over.

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What do the people of the world think? – Part I

BBC World Service Poll in conjunction with Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland conducted  13,575 in-home or telephone interviews across a total of 21 countries between 21 November 2008 and 1 February 2009.

The poll asked if the individual’s view of a countries’ influence was “mainly positive”, “mainly negative” or “neutral?” The question was asked about 16 countries. 9 out of 16 countries had a net positive influence and 7 had a net negative influence per the poll (see graph below).

world-poll-2009

 

Some highlights based on the article and the poll results:

Rank 1: Germany

 Germany leads the rankings with 46 points net positive (61 positive vs. 15 negative). I can’t help but be amazed by the change in Germany’s fortune — very few at the end of WWII in 1945 would have thought that approx. 60 years later, the world population will view Germany as the most positive influence in the world!

 Germany has achieved this stellar ranking through deep economic, social and political engagements with the rest of the world, especially within EU. Angela Merkel comes across as a conscientious leader of a hard working nation: Germany has the highest export earnings of all countries. Secondly, the defanging of Germany since World War II has surely helped Germany since there has been none of the military mis-adventures like those that affect USA and other powerful nations.

Rank 2: Canada

Canada, with a net positive of 43 (57 positive and 14 negative) at # 2 is not a surprise though Canada is surely a soft power and most people, I suspect, who voted positive for Canada do so for the position it takes on various issues rather than what Canada does since, in my opinion, it doesn’t do as much as it can.

Rank 3: United Kingdom

With a net positive of 39 points (58 positive vs. 19 negative) United Kingdom is surely a surprise for me.  May be with the departure of Tony Blair people are disassociating UK from the USA, however, I do not see material difference in UK’s global policies in the one year since his departure. Gordon Brown played a crucial role in stabilizing the EU economy, at least temporarily, but if that is helping UK’s score, that is too generous an assessment since it is the same man who was singing the virtues of unbridled free markets like a canary all the way up until the advent of this recession. It can very well be the fact that UK is the magnet for all workers from other EU countries that is helping its score but whatever the case may be, I surely believe that UK can do more and the 3rd ranking is too high.

Rank 7: India

India comes in at 7th rank and has 6 points net positive (38 positive vs. 32 negative). While India is still looked upon as projecting positive influence it is a decrease of 5 net positive points when compared to last year (41 positive vs. 30 negative). The biggest change, per the report, has been in European countries, to quote, ” This is largely driven by sharp increases in negative views in European countries – France (35% to 50%), Germany (34% to 54%), Italy (30% to 43%), and Spain (35% to 47%) – as well as China (30% to 44%).”

I believe the nuclear deal with the US, the Mumbai bombing — perversely affecting the victim in a negative way, and a potential backlash against off-shoring — a business practice that affects jobs in richer countries more — at a time of economic uncertainty might be the factors driving the negative trend in Europe. The Indian leadership should be careful to not appear too undecisive in the name of non-alignment and pick up good and important causes at home and abroad to change this trend.