Taiwan, WHA and Changing World Paradigms

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Wednesday May 9, by Jerome F. Keating Ph.D.

Without a doubt, change and trouble along with hopeful promise pervade the world we live in.

Did Russian hackers really influence the US elections? Will North and South Korea finally sign a lasting peace agreement? Can a solution be found for the numerous refugee problems in Syria, Myanamar and elsewhere? Will a major trade war harm the world economy?

Yet, as all this rages on, NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) has also blasted off to search out new and potentially habitable planets orbiting the many stars in our galaxy. Similarly start-up space companies like Orion Span are promoting future low Earth orbit hotels such as Aurora Station for those that want the experience, albeit expensive, of being a space tourist.

Certainly, one is tempted to refer to the opening lines of Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities to describe today's world: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."

However, these times are different. What we are experiencing is more than the natural turmoil always found as technology advances and nations compete. Instead, the world is experiencing the pangs of a new birth, a birth that involves a major paradigm shift, and one that impacts how we view our planet and how we will have to live on it.

A more appropriate reference may be found in the Irish poet William Butler Yeats' well-known poem The Second Coming. Yeats wrote it in 1921 in response to the post World War One turmoil and trauma of his time; it was a time where he felt the "ceremony of innocence is drowned."

This same experience holds true in today's divided world with all its problems of populism, Brexit, fake news and even a US president who likes to wing it. In this turmoil, many feel that it is again a time when the "best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity."

However, to grasp the fullness of this, we need to look deeper. Our perception of the world is being forced by technological necessity to shift from that of a global village paradigm to that of a global home. With this shift we find all the resistance that such change brings.

On one hand, there is hope.

Technology has advanced so quickly that human exploration and travel within our solar system and beyond is now feasible. Men can say with greater confidence: "Our destiny is our galaxy."

That is the first part. Yet, as we look into space, we then must also ask: "Where do we want to go and what paradigms do we need to get there?"

Such migratory thoughts demand a changing view of the Earth, our home base, and how we will judge whatever life forms we find out there.

Technology has already sped up the way we do everything in the world. Communications are instant; business deals, bank transfers and money changing go along with such communications. What happens anywhere can immediately be broadcast or registered everywhere.

On the other hand, of course, scams and hacks are also possible from anywhere in the world. Our global village has already shrunk to become a global home, but our global thinking has not caught up with it. We have not faced or imagined all its ramifications.

The predominant metaphor of the world is changing to that of one family under one roof on planet earth. The one family, of course, is the human race.

We already have the UN, but its effectiveness in solving family issues is still lacking. Interpol, an agency, which works against transnational crimes against humanity, now has 192 members but again full cooperation and effectiveness there are also no where near maximum capability.

The Second Coming suits the birth of this paradigm of the Earth as a global home. What is coming is not necessarily the "rough beast" that Yeats worried about being born, but it is nonetheless a birth that will be painful. All nations will struggle as they learn to face and take on the required painful changes.

Leadership is lacking in this matter: The three major powers of China, Russia and the US remain caught up in trying more to find a way home, to restore an era of past greatness instead of looking to what is needed for the good of the whole.

The world of a global home paradigm demands cooperation. Nations will have to learn to wean themselves from a zero-sum attitude in competition with other nations and develop a spirit of "altruistic individualism."

This will be difficult; the big three powers are not doing this and few other nations have the vision or courage to take this on.

One salient example is found in the plight of Taiwan's inability to gain even observer status to the World Health Assembly (WHA).

Taiwan is a mid-sized nation. In population it is larger than 70 percent of the members of the UN. In GDP it ranks above 80 to 90 percent of the members of the UN. It has a competent and affordable, universal, single payer health care system that covers 97 percent of its people; its medical teams contribute to solving world health problems. That makes it the envy of most nations.

Disease and pestilence as enemies of humans know no national borders. Taiwan should be in the WHA as a consultant and yet it ironically cannot even get an invitation to be an observer. Why?

All know the real reason for this as well as the shame of Taiwan not even being invited; it is clearly a time among nations when "the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity."

There is much more. In the new global home paradigm, all will need tolerance and cooperation. Isolationism, exclusion or even the withdrawal of any nation will not help, especially in matters of economy, trade, and environment.

Taiwan again is an ignored beacon. As a nation, it has grown from colonialism through the subsequent terrors of a one-party state to its present thriving democracy. To top it all, Taiwan with an unemployment rate in the 3-percentile range. What new or even old nations could not learn from such an achievement?

In today's world, with its changing paradigm, the solutions to problems of economy and environment will have to be rethought, the answers will not be found in the zero sum games of the past competition but in a spirit of cooperation that demands sacrifices of all.

That is a lot to have on one's plate, as all nations adjust to the responsibilities of a global home paradigm. However, the first small step in such progress will be to remove the petty exclusion of Taiwan from WHA.