It’s a small world, growing smaller. Once, long journeys took months or years, and the folks back home didn’t hear from you for ages. Today, with ticket, insurance and camera in hand, plane-flights are measured in hours, and one can ring home on arrival. The impact of this is enormous. We haven’t quite assimilated it all yet.
We haven’t thought much about all this. Excited by world travel, exotic foods, foreign goods and TV images from faraway, we have raced into an economically and technologically integrated world, hoping that the more questionable aspects of ‘progress’ won’t affect us.
Yet if we happen to talk about world government, eyes roll in horror – We cannot lose Our sovereignty! We buy Toyotas, yet we complain about foreign influences. We hang on to national identity as if it’s going out of fashion. Perhaps it is.
We still believe ‘foreigners’ are a threat. We think about what we can get from other countries while forgetting what we might give. Exporting democracy to others is ‘good’ and importing Islam is ‘bad’. How so? We need now to sort out some hypocrisies and obsolete values! Global integration in social and cultural issues comes next on the world agenda. Though does this have to imply standardisation?
The dawning of the global village brings enormous, now-irreversible changes. We’re obliged to accept other, different, people – even in our own backyards. White man has forced his ways on other nations, believing in a ‘mission to civilise’, and now those nations’ civilising influences are coming back.
Societies dislike in others what they most seek to hide in themselves. In the British empire 100 years ago, Brits living abroad were pressured to avoid ‘going native’ – enjoying ‘uncivilised’ or ‘improper’ close relations with other peoples. Today, Israelis have much to learn from Arabs and Arabs have much to learn from Israelis – meanwhile, they seriously distrust and hurt one another.
During the 1940s-70s, Chairman Mao spent decades eradicating capitalism and its ills in China, yet his successor Deng adopted them wholesale in the 1980s-90s. Meanwhile, during the Cold War, the West proudly advertised itself as the home of freedom and democracy, whilst being surreptitiously taken over by mega-corporations, media, bureaucracy and ever-increasing regulation. What is preached is different from what actually happens.
Each culture and people has something positive to offer. In the Twentieth Century the world has been knitted together by business and technology: humankind’s mass-befriending process is yet to come. It’s not just about pluralism, tolerance and free trade – it concerns a deeper mutual appreciation and trust.
Fundamental issues face us – some of the biggest in history. Each of us is challenged to join the human race, to exclude no one from our care, to acknowledge we’re all in this together. We hang together or we hang separately. This is our choice.
Our differences and contrasts are valuable. Our similarities and shared interests are important too. There are difficult choices to be made: how much should each person, nation and culture act in its own interests and how much should it cooperate and compromise?
Globalisation has brought with it unprecedented global-scale problems. These can be resolved globally only. It has brought great opportunities and breakthroughs too. Yet the biggest threshold is yet to come: when will humanity really choose to work together?
The millennium now ending concerned nations, the fortunes of ruling minorities and the trials of subject majorities. The coming millennium concerns the whole world as one entity. One of Ronald Reagan’s more enduring statements was that if extraterrestrials arrived, we would quickly forget our differences.
Welcome to the Global Village. Everyone is your neighbour. We created this, and this is where we have come to. It’s our responsibility. This is a defining period of history.
The Illustrated Guide to the Millennium
© Copyright Palden Jenkins 1998, 2012.
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The Illustrated Guide to the Millennium was partially written in 1997-98 and never published.