Imagine a world that is overpopulated and overrun with unsolved problems like hunger, poverty, and crime; where the potential for positive change cannot be fully realized because the generation in charge lost its way.
This dystopian vision of a “Land of Confusion” is “the world we live in, the hand we’re given”. It is also a song by Genesis, the band that introduced us to Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins. “The Land of Confusion”, much like “The Eminence Front”, cries for social justice in an unjust world:
“There are too many men,
Too many people,
Making too many problems,
And not much love to go ‘round.
Can’t you see
This is a land of confusion?”
But is our world really a land of confusion? The 21st Century has blessed us with the technology to radically transform the environment. In the process, we have transformed ourselves.
No longer are we victims of nature; natural forces (for the large part) bow down to us. Advances in agriculture, genetics, and medicine have enabled our population to swell from 2 billion to 7 billion in 70 years. Of the 7 billion, more than half are city-dwellers. This is a major shift from the past 10,000 years, when most of the human population occupied rural areas.
Advances in engineering—from the creation of the first skyscraper to the invention of the satellite—have allowed us to conquer the land and the water, and every corner of the Earth. Advances in aeronautics have made commerce easier than ever before; this is the only period in history that would permit a speedy pizza delivery from New York to Antarctica. The Internet (and websites like eBay and Amazon) has made impossibilities like that possible.
At the same time, advances in communication—first the telegraph, next the phone, finally the Internet—have connected the world in ways unforeseeable (except to Steve Jobs) even 10 years ago. The Internet wields more power than ever; it generates more information in a single day than humans did during the first 10,000 years of history. The Internet trounces other media outlets (television, film, print) with its sheer speed; it invades communication, conversations, and even relationships. All of this progress should be great, but has it really solved the world’s problems?
What kind of world do we live in? A very dystopian one, if these numbers are accurate:
- At least 80% of humanity lives on less than $10 a day.
- More than 80 percent of the world’s population lives in countries where income differentials are widening.
- The poorest 40 percent of the world’s population accounts for 5 percent of global income. The richest 20 percent accounts for three-quarters of world income.
- According to UNICEF, 22,000 children die each day due to poverty. And they “die quietly in some of the poorest villages on earth, far removed from the scrutiny and the conscience of the world. Being meek and weak in life makes these dying multitudes even more invisible in death.”
- Around 27-28 percent of all children in developing countries are estimated to be underweight or stunted. The two regions that account for the bulk of the deficit are South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
- If current trends continue, the Millennium Development Goals target of halving the proportion of underweight children will be missed by 30 million children, largely because of slow progress in Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
- Based on enrollment data, about 72 million children of primary school age in the developing world were not in school in 2005; 57 per cent of them were girls. And these are regarded as optimistic numbers.
- Nearly a billion people entered the 21st century unable to read a book or sign their names.
- Less than one per cent of what the world spent every year on weapons was needed to put every child into school by the year 2000 and yet it didn’t happen
- Additionally, more than 3 billion people live within 100 miles of the coast; their proximity to the ocean increases the likelihood of displacement from rising sea levels.
And these are the hands we’re given
Use them and let’s start trying
To make it a place worth living in.
Ooh Superman where are you now
When everything’s gone wrong somehow
The men of steel, the men of power
Are losing control by the hour.
This is the time
This is the place
So we look for the future
But there’s not much love to go round
Tell me why this is a land of confusion.”
If this is in fact the type of world our predecessors have created for us, what kind of world will we leave behind?
“I won’t be coming home tonight
My generation will put it right
We’re not just making promises
That we know we’ll never keep.”
Each generation enters this world with the power of the blank slate, the infinite potential for good and for bad. Much like a child, it can choose to stand for good or for evil. We can choose to stand for good or for evil.
While the choice resides with us, the consequences of that choice will ultimately impact our descendants. I believe that each generation is obligated to its successors, to leave a heritable world for the future generations. If anything, that should be the cause that binds my Millennial generation, especially with the mess that we’ve inherited.
“Land of Confusion” is a call for accountability, responsibility, and social justice. Resonating in melody and message, it is a song for the ages. For evidence, we can look at its critical and commercial success. In 1986, the song charted #4 on the Billboard 100. At the same time, Invisible Touch sold more than 15 million copies worldwide, making it Genesis’s most successful album to date. It clearly made an impact.
What kind of impact will you leave on this world?