Put aside politics when you assess 'new world disorder'


April 29, 1993|By ALICE STEINBACH

The world, it appears, is going to hell in a handbasket.

From Baltimore to Bosnia, from Waco to Washington, all the news that's fit to print is, well, mostly terrible.

There is irony, I suppose, that just as spring arrives with its promise of hope and rebirth, the world seems to be going in the opposite direction. In some ways, spring's beauty is like a cosmetic veil that is masking the ill, worn-out face of the world.

Does anyone else feel as I do? That we are passing through a period that is particularly full of distressing and depressing events?

Every day we are confronted with the craziness and the cruelty and, worst of all, the indifference that exists in this weary, old world:

The inferno at Waco. The starvation in Somalia, Sudan and too many other places. The terrible "ethnic cleansing" in the Balkans. The plight of the Kurds. The plight of the Cambodians. The plight of so many nameless, faceless people across the globe.

And in the cities we are faced with a continuing breakdown in civility -- which ultimately is what makes communities workable -- toward one another.

Child abuse is up. Murder is up. Street crime is up. Rapes are up.

On the other hand, the value of life is down. Way down.

And this escalation of civil strife and criminal behavior is happening not only in the United States but all over the world, according to State Department reports.

It has been dubbed by some cynics as the "new world disorder."

For some reason I think of the question posed -- and answered -- each month in the Ladies' Home Journal: "Can This Marriage Be Saved?"

Today's question seems to be: Can this world be saved?

A very large question to pose.

And one that may prove to be unanswerable.

Unless, that is, we start to ask better questions about how we got ourselves into this "new world disorder."

Of course, only a fool would presume to suggest what those questions might be. But I have a suggestion -- and, boy, is this a shaky limb I'm crawling onto -- what, perhaps, they should not be.

Questions should not always be derived from the political.

If we insist on looking at every event through the prism of politics -- global, national or local -- we often seem to wind up overlooking the meaning of what's happened in favor of arguing about its political fallout.

The Waco disaster involving the Branch Davidian cult seems a perfect example of this.

In the Waco situation, the pundits teased out the political strands from the larger fabric and came up with such questions as:

Who is to blame? President Clinton? Janet Reno?

Was the president trying to avoid taking the blame? Is ducking the blame a pattern of Clinton's?

How bad a misstep was this for President Clinton?

Based on such questions, most of the pundits came up with the same answer: "It was a terrible week for Clinton," they opined, linking the Waco incident together with a totally unrelated matter -- the shooting down of the president's $16.3 billion economic stimulus package.

Question: What, may I ask, does any of this tell us about why the incident at Waco happened? And how another similar incident might be prevented?

But perhaps it's just easier to ask political questions than it is to ask questions aimed at the profound issues underlying an event like Waco.

Or like the fear of crime and violence that has changed the way most of us live in this country.

Trying to solve, or at least understand, the current crime culture by asking questions based only on the political guarantees the predictable liberal vs. conservative answers.

Politics have always occupied a front-row seat in our nation. But a line seems to have been crossed.

Now the political has invaded every aspect of our culture. And in so doing has blocked out our ability to discuss and think about ideas and issues in other ways. Humanistic ways, for one.

Who's up? And who's down? Politically speaking, that is. It's the question we want answered first nowadays.

It's not a question, I think, that has much relevance for the children who died in Waco. Or, in the long run, for any of the rest of us.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.