I was watching this very interesting story about the Daily Show’s trip to Iran. It’s a simple trip that just shows the common humanity between Iranians and Americans. I think, indeed, that most people in the world are default friends. We are all pretty hospitable to guests. On a personal level we all kinda get along, but things get so messed up between nation states. Why?
Human language is an awesome and highly evolved thing. I think it’s actually the highest form of technology ever. When we have a conversation with someone we parse the grammar and syntax, but we also evaluate vocal tone, phonetics, facial signals, etc. In a conversation, you can immediately sense when you go to far or say something offensive, and you generally pull back. What we call ‘civility’ is really a highly complex social protocol.
The language between states doesn’t have this subtle give. It’s basically a bunch of monkeys throwing poop at each other and occasionally sharing fruit. Hillary Clinton says some tone-deaf, offensive shit that you would never say to someone’s face. Sri Lankan politicians say ridiculous stuff about the west even though they send their kids there. If we were all in a room chatting we would have seen from the frowns and silence that these statements might be offensive, but there is no such feedback in a press release.
This is tragic because I think the people of the world are generally friends. Any tourist can visit any town in Sri Lanka and be treated like family. People in Sri Lanka are really hospitable and they like meeting new people and chatting and having tea and stuff. I lived in middle America for years and those people always treated me like family. Dudes were super nice. In the Iranian example, the guy cried when he just saw a normal playground and spent a day playing video games with a normal family. On a personal level, I think we really do get along.
However, internationally, this subtle give and take gets lost. We’re just like ‘you’re fucking up!’ and they’re like ‘no you’re fucking up!’ and nobody ever breaks for tea. Personally, if a friend is fucking up I’ll tell them, but I also tell them that I love them and I support them. I don’t sanction them or talk to everybody else about their problems, but that’s pretty much the default in international relations. I also always treat them with respect and I talk to them as friends, not wayward children.
The developing world isn’t a bunch of fuck-ups anymore. Maybe we were, but now the global south is now pulling its weight. By the same token, the west isn’t an evil colonial empire anymore. We can be friends. Rather than lecturing and demonizing each other we should just try to communicate with mutual respect. Our people can already do it, from village to city. If only our governments could be polite and hospitable too.