I wasn't out for sadistic pleasure Wednesday at College Library. I wasn't titillated watching 30 unlucky recipients squirm after I handed them the poppiest of pop quizzes on foreign affairs. Nor do I guffaw at the fact that 19 victims failed to correctly answer even one of the following (answers below):
- Who is the Prime Minister of Japan? (Hint: He achieved approval ratings of over 80 percent this summer'and he isn't Ichiro.)
- To what city was Slobodan Milosevic taken this summer to be tried before an international tribunal for alleged war crimes?
- How many anti-globalization protestors, if any, were killed during clashes at the G-8 summit in Genoa, Italy this July?
- Macedonia has been on the brink of full-fledged civil war this summer. What ethnic group is rebelling in this Balkan state?
- President Bush met Wednesday with Vicente Fox. Who is Vicente Fox?
Only four got more than two right, and the valedictorian, with three correct answers, was a freshman biology major. That no one identified Japan's prime minister is forgivable, but with the majority failing to recognize Mexican President Fox, the conclusion is clear: As world citizens, we're a few beans short of a burrito.
Maybe I'm being harsh. Maybe only Condi Rice could've answered every one correctly. Maybe you think Condi Rice is a Nepalese dish. And maybe, just maybe, it isn't your fault. This is America, and the only things Americans worry about are death, taxes and the 'pregnancy' of Jennifer Aniston. Can world news compete?
Actually, it can. The reason it doesn't lies with Mainstream Media, USA. Just like you, I prefer People over The Economist, but there is no reason why foreign news stories can't stimulate and capture the imagination. In fact, one publication does just that: Newsweek. Newsweek International, that is.
I had an internship this summer with Newsweek and was assigned to its overseas edition, an English-language publication appearing in Asia, Europe and Latin America. About 70 percent of the content is unique to Newsweek International, never to be seen by most Americans. It's a first-degree shame.
Unlike 'world briefs' squeezed into most U.S. newspapers or academic tracts best left for political science class, the stories in NI consistently present new views on the world in an intelligent and accessible fashion. While Americans fixated on Rep. Gary Condit, D-Calif., and their tax rebates, overseas they were exclusively treated to stories about:
- Cambodia's first hip-hop artist.
- The progress of indigenous 'Native Americans' in Central and South America.
- The quiet rise of India's Hindu fundamentalism and its South Asian implications.
- The brouhaha over a new doggy-doo law, requiring Parisians to clean up after Poochy.
- Possible toxins near the site of the 2002 World Cup finals in Yokohama, Japan.
- The toll small arms are taking on Africa.
- The world's worst places to be a woman (Afghanistan), gay (Saudi Arabia), rich (Colombia), poor (Angola), a tree (Madagascar), a wild animal (Zimbabwe) and a white male (Russia).
The latter stories are part of an astonishing package in the July 9 issue, with the cover crying, 'Greetings from the World's Worst Countries' (the editors chose North Korea as the worst of the worst). Sure, it's sensational'but it's also gripping and thought provoking. If we were to glance at the cover and ponder for just a second the worst country in the world, the problems in that country, the problems on this planet and their solutions, then the media has done its duty, a duty neglected by most American publications.
The need for a periodical that provokes thought about the outside world, that 'Greater America,' deepens as the global community grows closer. Even skeptics who see 'globalization' as 'globaloney' must admit that they are more affected by overseas events now than they were 20 years ago'politically, economically and culturally. The only way we can affect the world in turn is to learn about it, encouraged by an engaging media. Newsweek International engages its readers.
A final bit of Newsweek lore brings us full circle. When Princess Diana died Aug. 31, 1997, editors literally halted printing, scrapped their original cover and whipped together a new magazine within a day. But what was the displaced cover story? A feature on the worldliness of young Americans. The cover text? 'Generation Global.' Based on Wednesday's test, it's a good thing they stopped the presses.