FROM MY BOOKSHELF: Little Things Mean a Lot

By LeRoy Lawson

In his book Microtrends: The Small Forces Behind Tomorrow’s Big Changes (Twelve, 2007), Mark Penn argues that if you’re serious about trying to figure out where in the world we’re going, you have to look at the little things. Specifically, you need to check out 75 trends still too small to capture the headlines but big enough to reach the front page before long. I can’t list all of them here, but let me give you some samples.

But before I do, here’s a pretty good motive for paying attention. “If Islamic terrorists were to convince even just one-tenth of 1 percent of America’s population that they were right, they would have 300,000 soldiers of terror, more than enough to destabilize our society. If Osama bin Laden could convert just 1 percent of the world’s 1 billion Muslims to take up violence, that would be 10 million terrorists, a group that could dwarf even the largest armies and police forces on earth. This is the power of small groups that come together today.” Convinced?

Now for samples of the often-surprising facts you’ll find in these microtrends:

• 81 percent of American Muslims support gun control; barely half of Americans do. (So which group is the more violence-prone?)

• Children born to mothers older than 40 are 128 percent more likely to be left-handed than kids born to moms in their 20s. And the numbers of 40-plus moms are multiplying rapidly. (Lefties of the world, arise!)

• The top 1 percent of American pets live better than 99 percent of the world’s human population.

• Twice as many American households have pets as have children.

• “Between 1972 and 2004, the combined prison and jail population in the United States went from 330,000 to over 2 million. Add to that 5 million on probation or parole, and you have over 7 million people. . . . That’s over 3 percent of the adult population, or something like 1 in every 31 adults. It’s equivalent to the entire population of Virginia.”

• 54 percent of black 12th-graders said religion played a very important role in their lives, compared to only about 27 percent of white students, and their church attendance correlates with their lower drug and alcohol abuse, later sexual activity, and altruistic attitudes.

• The number of nonprofit organizations has grown to almost 1.56 million.

• The richer you are these days, the more likely you are to have a tattoo.

• Ten times more men regularly visit Internet pornography sites than regularly watch baseball. “And which one, again, do we call America’s pastime?”

• The income from porn exceeds, by nearly 2-to-1, the combined revenues of ABC, CBS, and NBC.

• The average age of video/computer game players is 33, up from 24 in 2002.

• There are nearly 10,000 distinct and separate religions in the world, and two or three new ones are being created every day.

• “The soldiers of terrorism are some of the best-educated, most self-sufficient soldiers in the world.”

There are more, dozens more, trends to check out: Internet marriages, working retirees, interracial families, sun-haters, late-breaking gays, militant illegals, vegetarianism, neglected dads, shy millionaires, home-schoolers, tiny churches, and on and on.

This is a book that will change the way you look at things. Remember that old saying, “Little things mean a lot”? Well, they do.

LeRoy Lawson is international consultant with CMF International, a CHRISTIAN STANDARD contributing editor, and a member of the Publishing Committee. His column appears monthly.

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