I must admit that as of late the word international has me confused. The United Nations recognizes the existence of approximately 192 countries with the existence of around 5 more give and take. So we can safely say that there are approximately 195 countries in the world. Yet, I have noticed that the word international is used in a curious way when referring to maybe one or two countries.
Let me explain. If a reporter has traveled to one country and covered a story or stories there then they will brag and say that they now have international experience. If in a local news coverage, a story deals with one news item from another country, that story, in some cases that I have seen, suffices as the international coverage for the morning/evening. As of late, I even notice that when faculty members travel to another country, then they drop lines that they are 'internationalists' or have 'international' experience. Granted, if a report is from abroad since it is not local or national. it does qualify as in the category of the i-word. I understand that. But, I am still confused.
Why? It is a simple matter of percentage.
One's own country + another = 2.
If we should calculate the percentage out of total countries that would give us:
2/195*100 which gives us a grand total of 1%.
The fact that I have a scathing knowledge of 1% of the world, does that qualify me to use the word international? Please, help me!
Again, I will admit that the literal definition of the word lends itself to be applied to such narrow usage. The Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary gives relevant definitions of international as follows:
1. between or among nations; involving two or more nations: international trade.
2. of or pertaining to two or more nations or their citizens: a matter of international concern.
3. pertaining to the relations between nations: international law.
4. having members or activities in several nations: an international organization.
5. transcending national boundaries or viewpoints: an international benefit; an international reputation.
Now notice, that it does say involving two or more nations. I concede there. It then comes down to a battle between the literal and the connotative.
I am on the side of the connotative. I will throw a tantrum and insist that when I hear the i-word, I do expect the reference to be wider than 1% of the world. Am I unfair if I ask for at least 4-5%?
Why is this important to me? Simply because the world is such a colourful and diverse place that I think that such a loaded word such as international should be used with caution. There are many that have been insular in thinking and because they have touched their toes in a handful of countries for a couple days at a time think they have mastered the world and its peoples and this affects politics and even media coverage.
So, I ask you to think about it: What does (should?) international mean?
Monday, August 9, 2010