Not of this World
According to an international poll, young Americans know less than others about the world - 87 percent cannot even find Iraq on a world map
By Florian Rotzer
[This article originally published in the cyber journal Telepolis, November 21, 2002 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, http://www.heise.de/tp/deutsch/special/irak/13645/1.html.]
Under the leadership of the US as a superpower, the chosen villain Saddam Hussein, who at least sits - somewhere - in his country and is not hiding like his predecessor Bin Laden, should be driven from his throne because he threatens the national security of the US and could pass on weapons of mass destruction to terrorists. However the vast majority in Bush-land do not know or are not interested where Saddam Hussein's empire together with the other states of the axis of evil exists in the world.
With the constant invocation of globalization, people could lose their blinkered vision for their local surroundings. Even if bonds to the nation and disinterest in the world are very great, one could assume at least in the case of Iraq and Afghanistan permanently in the media focus that people know where these countries are in the world since American troops are in one of the countries and march around the other country against which the last great war was already waged.
On assignment of National Geographic, RoperASW interviewed young men from 18 to 24 in the US, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Sweden and Great Britain. According to the survey, Mexicans were the worst informed about the world. On average, they could only answer 21 of the 56 geographic questions. US-Americans whose government acts globally militarily and geopolitically are not ranked much higher with 23 correct answers. The interviewed Swedes were in first place with 40 correct answers; Italians and Germans were in second place with 38.
The lack of orientation of young Americans is shocking. They don't seem to come from this world. 13 percent of those in military service age, as CNN smugly notes, could find Iraq on the map. 87 percent didn't know where their government and its soldiers would set out in war (the result among those questioned from all the countries was not much lower at 80 percent). This is a very sobering result for a democracy in which the citizens choose the government and its policy. The low election participation also doesn't demonstrate a great interest of Americans in what their politicians do or testifies of great frustration.
Other current questions also reveal poor understanding. 58 percent of the questioned Americans knew that the Taliban and al-Qaida were in Afghanistan but only 17 percent could find the country on a world map where the war against terrorism was initiated by the US government in October 2001. Saudi Arabia also could not be found by 76 percent. 34 percent knew that the scene of the last Survivor-Reality-TV series was in the South Pacific on one of the Marquesas Islands (71 percent knew where the Pacific is). Where attention is really directed is clear here. Should wars run as Reality-TV shows? On a world map, Americans could only find seven of 16 countries (Swedes 13 and Germans and Italians 12).
"The survey shows the geographically uneducated nature of the US. The results are very alarming in light of September 11 that traumatized America and demonstrated that our fate is bound with the rest of the world."
Robert Pastor, Professor of International Relations at the American University in Washington, D.C.
Most are not really oriented about their own country. 90 percent of young Americans could only find two states - California and Texas - on a map. Only half could find New York. 11 percent couldn't identify the United States on a world map. Still young Americans feel powerful. A third imagine that the number of US citizens lies between one and two billion!
When one hardly looks at the world, one hardly knows where one is in the world. Are Americans uprooted cosmopolitans? Has globalization not even occurred for the majority of the world power (who then willingly accept redemption rhetoric, half-truths and Manichaean ideas about the world)? The world-alienation or mental screening is irritating since the US was and is a country with an open immigration policy.
Perhaps many Americans are simply focused on other realities that are not of this earth. Supposedly 56 percent believe that UFOs are real and 48 percent are convinced that UFOs have already visited the earth in some form. Even if the borders against the human "aliens" are laboriously closed out of fear of terrorists, more than half of Americans would like to once encounter extra-terrestrial beings. This is not exotic since a third have allegedly had these encounters. The interviews were conducted by RuperASW in August 2001.
Whether television, newspapers or the Internet, the media obviously do not contribute to international existence. However long-distance holidays will be first possible mentally when people are a little interested in other countries and cultures. 70 percent of young people travel outside the country at least once. 90 percent allegedly speak more than one language (which seems a little exaggerated). In Mexico and the US, 20 percent leave the country. The vast majority speak only one language.