I’ve been thinking rather a lot about globalisation these past few days, and how it affects my life specifically. I’m insanely privileged in that I’ve been travelling for nearly ten years now, and I think maybe that gives me a strange perspective on it all. While obviously yes, I was born and grew up in Australia, I identify more with the world as a whole than with just one country on it, and my average day involves collaborating with people in countries all over the world. It blows my mind sometimes actually, eg when I have a look at my facebook ‘friends map’:
It’s not like I’m one of those people who has randoms, or people they doesn’t like, on their friends list either—these are all people that I like and respect. And they’re everywhere!
Certainly the internet has a huge role to play in this. To use a tragic example of the pervasiveness of technology, a few days ago I checked one of my best friends’ facebook page, as I knew she was due to be travelling at the moment. As a result, I found out that one of her siblings has died—it’s awful! I used Skype to call her mobile in Australia, then texted her boyfriend to ask for her current postal address. I googled florists in the area, and then arranged a flower delivery via sms and email. I also got in touch with a few of her friends via facebook to let them know what’s happened, so that they can help—nobody knows what’s happened, and she said that I was the first person to call her. This is after weeks! I got in touch with one of her exes who’s currently in Japan, and he then called from there to lend support (don’t worry, it’s not weird).
So, even though I am in one of the world’s physically most difficult places to get to (for an Australian), thanks to the globalisation of technology, I’m still able to support my friends to some extent. Of course, I still feel awful for her—I only wish that how awful I feel for her would somehow swap, so she could have some of my sunshine!—but it’s better than nothing. I guess emotions are one of the only things that really transcend distance, and sometimes—as in the case of long-distance relationships—not even then.
Of course, memories also transcend distance. Out of sight is certainly not ‘out of mind’. Perhaps partly due to the fact that I’m used to it, and a lot due to the near-ubiquitous presence of the internet, I never feel as if my loved ones are out of reach. I don’t really understand ‘missing’ people (again, with the exception of lovers), because they never really feel far away to me. I skype/fb/email/vk them regularly, so while obviously there’s not the shared daily experience, I never feel like they’re unreachable. I compare that with how it must have felt to be an explorer in the ‘old days’—imagine getting on a ship and knowing that you’ll likely never be able to contact or see the people you’re leaving behind, ever again. That would surely be torturous!
Anyway, I have a point to make, so I’d better get to it. There’s a recently-deceased political theorist, Samuel Huntington, who basically had this theory that there are a number of civilisations on earth which are completely incompatible. The wars of the future would be along civilisational lines. These are the major civilisations, as described in his book:
So, here I am: a dark blue person living in a light blue world. And I’m inclined to think that Mr Huntington was full of it. (Haha of course, I argued that in my essays before I had lived anywhere non-dark-blue). I’m just waiting for my dear dark-green friend Reda to pop up now and tell me that I disagree with Huntington because of some kind of spreading imperalist nationalism.. but I’m not sure that’s true. I’ve been in Russia for only around 7 months, and I am conscious that I’m a Westerner who’s probably only 20% Russified (now there’s an empirical calculation for you!!). Everyone who I deal with knows that I’m a Westerner. They know that I’m going to have different views, different values, different ways of living, different everything: even our methods of conflict resolution and communication are different. And sure, there are occasionally some cultural misunderstandings: but as my student’s apology showed, everybody here is perfectly capable of understanding how I react to things, and how to act toward me. They make allowances for me and don’t expect me to subscribe to Russian stereotypes.
Do I go the other way? That’s a more difficult question. I’m not sure if that’s because I’m dark blue though, or because I know who I am, what I think, and why I think that way. I’m willing to explain my reasoning. Haha and in fact, people don’t usually bother questioning my judgement in Australia, either..! I think that on the whole, though, I have a fairly good understanding now of the light blue/Russian mentality, values, behaviours, etc. There are things that drive me crazy, I do compare social relations to how they were a hundred years ago in the West, and I’m incapable of speaking to a Russian man without having a friendship-ending argument, but I’m able to understand and work within the system without being an arsehole.
So, if my living here has given me a greater cultural understanding and corresponding enhanced ability to work with light blue people, why shouldn’t that be the case for any colour civilisation? And why should it just be true for me? It seems to me that if people travelled more, or studied more, or even just employed their powers of self-reflection more regularly, then this ridiculous notion of incompatible civilisations would become a civilisational rainbow instead (hahahaha I’m so sorry, I couldn’t help myself! Hahahaha)! But seriously. Globalisation of ideas and technology can surely make it possible to ease racist/civilisationist/culturalist tensions, while retaining local cultures.
To be honest, globalisation’s a tricky issue, with mannnnnnnnnny books written about it. But most of the time, I feel like one of the luckiest people in all of history, as I get to be a citizen of the whole world rather than of just one place: and I don’t even have to miss people 🙂