The Realities of Our Interconnected World
The world in which I grew up was relatively simple. Most people lived and died in the areain which they were born. Transportation was still mainly by train, with automobiles slowly gaining ascendance. Communication between cities consisted mostly of what is now called, “snail mail.” Radio and land-line telephones provided our only electronic links with the rest of the world, supplemented by newsreels between double features at the local movie houses on weekends. Television had just been invented but was not widely available. Computers and the Internet were scarcely even dreamed of. Individual countries had separate economies that dealt mainly within their own borders. Events on one side of the world had little effect on people or economies on the other.
Our world today is far different. Electronic networks bind us to people all over the globe. Social media allows interchanges between individuals of different cultures with vastly differing lifestyles. Globalization has bound the economies of most nations together in webs of interdependence. Events in one part of the world can have catastrophic effects on markets far distant from one another. Closure of a pipeline in a remote area can drive up world-wide oil prices. Drought in South America can affect the price of a cup of coffee in Europe, Asia, and the U.S. Economic destabilization of one country in the Euro Zone threatens all the economies of the Western world. Labor rates have been leveled throughout the globe.
Nations are now interdependent in ways unimagined in the mid-Twentieth Century. Sometimes I wonder if our political systems are up to the task of coping with the new realities. They will be only so long as people dedicated to the advancement of humankind are willing to devote their energies to the effort.
Many people throughout the world yearn for a return to simpler days. Demonstrations at global economic meetings demonstrate the depth of such movements. Political parties dedicated to nationalistic economics are proliferating. Anti-immigration groups are growing in many Western countries. Longing for the days when each nation-state could control its national economy is evident throughout the world. Unfortunately for those who long for the past, I believe that time has passed them by.
Nations and peoples throughout the world must learn to live together under the new realities. Nostalgia for a simpler past will not cut it on the interconnected globe on which we live. The problem is that we don’t seem to know how to do this. Humans tend to divide the world into “us” and “them.” Differences in skin pigmentation, language, religion, and the “developed” and “undeveloped” nations created chasms that are hard or almost impossible to bridge. Has our technology outstripped our political capabilities. Can we learn to live together in harmony?
I fear that all I am doing is raising questions. It will take people far wiser than I to solve the complex problems of globalization. But I remain an optimist, a “glass half-full” person. Humankind has solved daunting problems before, and I believe that we shall again. However, looking backward with nostalgia is not the answer. As my mother-in-law used to say, “The good-old- days never really existed--especially for women.” We can’t go back. We must move forward.