Global Village Life Growing More Complex
Brandon Sun “Small World” Column, Monday, March 2 / 20
Marshall McLuhan is renowned as one of Canada’s greatest philosophers. He lived from 1911 to 1980, born in Edmonton but attending Kelvin High School in Winnipeg, before going on to the University of Manitoba, and Cambridge University in the United Kingdom. Two quotes he is famous for are “The Medium is the Message” where he talks about the power and reach of the media and “The Global Village,” about the world becoming more interconnected, again in his mind due to the growth of prominence of media technology.
Of course, as a global village, through a process we now call “globalization,” we can see that the world is tied closely together also through trade and travel/tourism. A generation ago, before computers and iPhone became accessible to almost everyone on the planet, we weren’t able to keep up with the news or be in touch with friends and relatives in other parts of the world. Today, “thanks” to the Internet, satellites and other technologies, communication and information (or misinformation) is instantaneous.
As well, “ordinary” citizens of all ages today travel the world cheaply and with little restriction. It’s not unusual, in perusing a person’s resume, to see that they have vacationed, worked or studied in Europe, Asia, Australia or elsewhere. Global trade has brought us products from every country and in every season. It wasn’t that many years ago that fruits and vegetables were only available locally grown or “in season” - but now products from Chile, Mexico and other southern climes are always readily purchasable from grocery store shelves.
The greatest population movement since World War II has taken place in the past decade due to war, economic recession, climate change, and human rights abuses. Thus, we can see our global village (and engage with it) every day on our bus ride, in our school classrooms, in our places of worship and in our commercial establishments. Our Canadian cities, and many towns, are now multicultural. What was once a white “settler” country now has significant representation from around the planet.
I think that this is a good thing. To say the least, it should be welcomed, with everyone doing their best to make sure the process is as smooth and as positive as possible. To oppose this process is to make things worse, not better. But, there are complications in our global village that we also need to address.
Our world contains poverty as well as wealth. It contains corruption and abuse of power as well as honesty and openness. If we don’t oppose the negatives in our world, they will spread. Research by the international development organization Oxfam shows that wealth is being concentrated in fewer and fewer individuals, families, banks and companies, meaning that a growing number of people are having to share a very small piece of the economic pie. Poverty leads to greater population instability, war, and environmental destruction. Transparency International does a great job of judging the level of corruption in every country and tracing its global interconnections.
The current virus affecting public health and economies around the world is another challenge in our global village. With unlimited travel, different capacities to diagnose and treat the virus, and political differences in if and how to share what is actually happening in various countries, we all become vulnerable to a possible pandemic. Climate change, like the virus, spreads around our world too, often affecting the most innocent and vulnerable more than the perpetrators. Emissions don’t come equally from every country but impacts affect people, often unfairly.
There is a warning implicit in Marshall McLuhan’s ideas around Global Village and Medium is the Message. If you think of the world as one imagines a small town, gossip is often something that makes life difficult for innocent, unassuming people. With the overwhelming presence of social media and dark websites, our version of small town gossip is fake news and hate speech. Do you blame the technology, the people and companies behind it, or the people who use it to air their biases, insecurities and ideologies? This problem is as destructive as the spread of climate change, poverty and disease in our global village.
Taking care of our global village is a complex task. Today’s news points to the fact that we face many challenges to do this in a way that supports the livelihoods, health and sustainability of our human and natural populations. But, seeing our planet as a village and not just as a marketplace or a competition among groups is a good starting point.
Zack Gross is Board Chair of The Marquis Project, a Brandon-based international development organization.
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