Observations of an expat: The hip-thigh bone theory of the world

It is time to explain my hip thigh bone theory of the world.

The theory is based on the 1920s African-American  spiritual “Dem bones, Dem Bones, Dem Dry Bones.”

The ditty in turn was based on a Biblical passage in which a collection of dry bones reassemble themselves   before the astonished eyes of the prophet Ezekiel .

The foot-tapping, hand-clapping spiritual is a roof raiser in evangelical churches around the world. It is also a popular song in young children’s anatomy classes.

But to my mind, Its main value is as a perfect metaphor of how the  rapidly shrinking and interconnected world has become increasingly dependent on its constituent parts (or bones) working together.

The hip thigh bone theory of the world has been languishing (disassembled) in my notebook just waiting for the right peg. It came this week during my weekly US radio broadcast.

Totally aware of the likely reaction, I bravely pointed out that millions of people around the world would be holding anti-Trump protests because it was the only way they could voice their distrust and dislike of the man. I was deluged with angry American callers insisting that foreigners had no right to protest and that they should “leave us alone and we will leave them alone”.

Well, I am sorry, but the world no longer works like that. And, what’s more it hasn’t for a very, very long time.

The world body politic has become totally interconnected. In fact, the bones that comprise the skeleton of our globe are not so much connected as fused  and then overlaid with a complex web of nerves, muscles, sinews, international political and trade organs, ligaments and a protective skin of military alliances. In fact, it seems, that the only thing missing from this metaphor is a functioning brain.

The fact is that if you want iron ore for your steel mills it is best to have a quiet word with the Swedes or Canadians. If you need phosphates to fertilise the amber waves of grain or the fruited plain, it is best to be nice to the Moroccans.  For tin cans think Africa and Australia If you want a brick house you need sand—that probably means China or New Zealand. As for oil, well, just think of an unstable part of the world,  smile nicely and thrust out a fistful of dollars

America is not alone in its needs. Central and  Western Europe are heavily dependent on Russian natural gas. Landlocked Bolivia depends on good relations with Peru and Chile to export and import its goods by sea.  Oman and Iran together control  the Straits of Hormuz and the entrance to the Persian Gulf, and the Vietnamese rice paddies are at the mercy of a China that controls the water flowing from the Himalayas.

The world is not just connected  by trade and natural resources. The complex and interwoven financial structures that grease the wheels of commerce are increasingly important.  There may be so-called national exchanges in London, New York, Hong Kong, Frankfurt, Tokyo and Dubai, but in our 24-hour world, all these exchanges now operate as one global trading floor fed with information from 24/7 global news operations .

Finally there are the overarching political connectors . At the top of the list is the much-maligned United Nations which currently has 100,376 personnel deployed on 16 different peacekeeping missions.  The UN has 20 agencies whose responsibilities include fighting disease (World Health Organisation) , helping to feed the world (Food and Agricultural Organisation), providing finance (IMF and World Bank), ensuring that telecoms work across borders (International Telecoms Union), and many more.

There are a host of other military, political and trade alliances which  play their part in reducing tensions in order to create what is beyond doubt the most prosperous and stable world in history.

For a major country such as America – the world’s richest and most powerful and the one with the biggest stake in the existing structures – to withdraw from this world would be akin to tearing out the global backbone. And once  disassembled,  the bones of the world body politic will not magically reassemble as they did in the Book of Ezekiel, Chapter 37, verses 1 through 14.

* American expat journalist Tom Arms is a regular contributor and author of the forthcoming book “America: Made in Britain.”

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  • No it’s an illusion of interconnectedness. Some American’s online might be embarrassed and some people outside might protests against Trump, but the fact is they make not a jot of difference. America will carry on regardless and most of us will just shrug. Trade agreements, military agreements and so on are not proof of people coming together. They’re actually closer to neighbours agreeing to keep the noise down and issuing legal writs to enforce it.. In fact it’s the global visionaries who cause problems because they often seem to believe they are transcending tribalism rather than understanding they are just attempting to impose their tribal beliefs on other tribes.

  • Simon Banks 22nd Jan '17 - 6:21pm

    So Glenn would have us retreat into our mean little corners and snarl.

    Of course the world is interconnected – by the internet, trade, ideas, travel, books, and it’s no good trying to stop global warming in England if it’s happening in the rest of the world.

    One of the reasons why things are coming apart is that memories are fading of what really happened in the Second World War – a global interconnection if there ever was one.

    Yes, mass protests against Trump achieve little. Unfortunately many Americans resent foreign “interference” while happily trying to direct everyone else’s lives. But lobbying our MPs about any unacceptable elements in a US trade deal might just have an impact and making it an issue in a by-election certainly would. Trump’s government may abandon commitment to human rights but making representations to some smaller countries might work.

    Nearly fifty years ago I remember an American congressman coming to a debate in Cambridge on Vietnam, going back home, coming out against the war and saying the debate had influenced him.

  • No I don’t believe in snarling. I think it it’s perfectly easy to be cordial, nice and commutative without believing all things are interconnected. Here’s the thing Simon you don’t know me, I don’t know you. We’re strangers exchanging views and that’s what the internet really reflects. I’m not being hostile and I don’t advocate hostility. The only connection we really have is that we’ve both posted on the same forum.

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