Facts For A Change

I was strolling the back aisle of a small bookshop in the Notting Hill section of London the other day, thinking how very unlike Hugh Grant I am, when a new title by BBC producer Jessica Williams (Disinformation Company Ltd.) caught my eye.

“50 Facts That Should Change the World” is a book that could well change the way that you view the world. I hope you will consider reading it.

Let me offer a few of the facts that I think make exploration of this planet by American travelers a moral imperative. We can save “Wallyland” for later in our lives when we’re too tired to walk Patagonia.

  • More than 70% of the world’s population has never heard a dial tone
  • Every cow in the European Union is subsidized by $2.50 per day – that’s more than what 75% of the population of Africa has to live on each day.
  • Brazil has more Avon ladies than members of its armed forces.
  • The average Londoner is caught on camera up to 300 times per day.

It is not all homogenized out there – it is not all the same. We need to see it, to feel it; we need to know why the average woman in Japan lives to be 84 while the average woman in Botswana lives to be 33.

There are fascinating explanations and documentation of each of the “facts.” We learn that more people on earth can identify the golden arches than the Christian cross, that there are 27 million slaves in the world at this moment. But the most telling “facts” are those that include our own country. These are some things about the US that help form our image abroad.

  • 81% of the world’s executions take place in three countries – China, Iran, and the USA.
  • America spends about $10 billion per year on foreign aid – about the same amount we spend on pornography.
  • Nearly half of Americans believe that aliens from outer space have landed on earth.

Over the years, we often miss the point about so-called Anti-Americanism, particularly the Euro-trendy brand. In fact, many young people abroad dislike us for two primary reasons – the fact that we still execute folks and the fact that we refuse to be signatories to some of the more important environmental treaties such as the Kyoto Accord. These are issues that may come up in conversation on the streets of Madrid or Copenhagen.

Of course there’s always the time-tested alternative. Announce you’re a Canadian – there’s no really good response to that – except perhaps a yawn.