God's lonely trumpet horn and the globalised world

By Festus L. Brotherson, Jr.
Guyana Chronicle
November 7, 1999

GLOBALISATION has produced not only many positive results for humans such as abundant goods and services, but also many negative consequences.

The Guyana Chronicle has been providing many valuable insights about this. A common negative result of the global sweep for the First, Second and Third Worlds is a widening gap between rapid changes that First World advanced technologies introduce and the human's ability to adapt to them.

One cause of this gap is human inability to develop instant yet deeper analytic capacities and problem-solving skills now demanded by a globalised world. Another stems from contraction of choices in states to such an extent that people are compelled by reason and government to give up key freedoms in order to preserve others and buttress basic security needs of the state. Much mental unsurety attends.

Globalisation comprises mainly three features: unprecedented high levels of domestic and international interconnectedness in politics, economy, environment, etc.; major cultural intermingling imperatives; and rapid development and spread of advanced technologies. The latter are the midwife of the unstoppable process. These features shrink our world into a transparently penetrated global village.

In areas such as personal privacy, association with others, and travel, freedoms are less. Also shrunk is space between cultures in a global work force and distance by the marvels of communication.

Contributing to heavy unease are dramatically improved weapons used by terrorists and other criminals. Because of these and other advanced technologies, even more individual freedoms will be curbed in order to protect the national security of the state whose power is usually itself under challenge from other aspects of globalisation such as international funding agencies, mega-corporations and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs).

In the US, advanced technology has led to misuse of confidential medical and other information. Current laws do not cover new moral territory charted by advances in medical technology such as human reproduction. More unease and contraction of freedom stem from schools routinely requiring students to pass through metal detectors for fear of their carrying guns. Items such as peeling knives and forks for cafeteria use, or pain medicines are banned for fear of their misuse for violence and substance abuse. In addition, video cameras on street corners and in businesses record people's every move for security purposes.

In Third World states, similar freedoms and more are being curtailed by police actions, other bureaucratic coercive means, copycat First World criminal behaviours, cultural intolerance, and over-reactions to dissent by decision-makers.

In both Worlds, fear of the consequences of `too much freedom' is a common factor. In Guyana, a major concern is irresponsible TV programming under "freedom of the press."

In `Into the Twilight', William Butler Yeats reflected: "And God stands winding His lonely trumpet horn, and time and the world are ever in flight." It is a sentiment that captures the state of our globe, across cultures and borders.

It is a world where people increasingly feel confused and disconnected from themselves, society and the world at large. They feel distant from God and try harder to hear His trumpet horn. Evidence the mass response when evangelist Benny Hinn visited Guyana recently.

It is a world whose pace of change is extremely dizzying and whose citizens are facing foreboding challenges of adapting to new realities. For most, even though the origins of mental disquiet and other confusion lie in large measure with the globalisation juggernaut, knowledge and understanding of this new beast of burden remain dangerously scant.

Most citizens are unable to deepen problem-solving skills and capacities for analysis. Why? Global imperatives of super satellites, super computers, faxes, e-mail, cellular phones, etc., that emanate from the First World in its relations with the Third World, shrink time and space for careful analysis before action is taken.

Demands for instant decisions and actions are disorienting. And Third World cultures have different work ethics and senses of value that do not easily fit the global capitalist notion that `time is money.' Confusion, apathy and rashness in the Third World abound.

Third World decision-makers are also caught between the compulsion to orient their citizens to the special demands of good citizenship (loyalty, reasonable contentment, and great sacrifice) that will lead to `development' and their inability on technological grounds to halt contrary values of penetrative globalisation. Trying to stop the latter also bruises people's democratic right to ideas, etc., in advanced democracies.

One result of mass media globalisation is information indigestion where people seek refuge from saturation `news' and other programmes as their own memory and attention span shrink as evidenced, in part, by shorter and shorter TV commercials. There is so much useless information in the globalised world that more and more people are tuning it out (with the good) just to keep sane from incessant bombardment.

People's right to choose what to hear and view also contracts because media technology's invasive power denies humans the ability to exercise much choice, e.g., jetliner crashes, Marilyn Monroe.

A HUMOROUS way of dealing with chronic information indigestion, the epidemic that pollutes from the explosion of so much repetitive and often worthless information in the globalised world, is to be found in the newsrooms of TV stations across the USA.

Here's your `info (information) to go' on this busy morning," says a typical news anchor and then provides a mixture of sense and nonsense. `Info to go' comprises a weather report, one-liner hard news items, and then "woman defends her right to keep fully grown pig as a pet," and suchlike comedy.

It is an attempt to use the culture of an instant society of coffee, fast foods, etc., to help people `listen and carry' just as quickly as they `pay and carry' those products. But dissimilar processes govern the digestion of information and the digestion of fast foods and this fact is ignored in these exercises.

People remain overwhelmed and still try to tune out or limit the ever-infringing penetrative power of wizardry-type mass communication in the globalised world.

In the advanced world, many rebel but most try to cope. They benefit from programmes to help them adjust.

In the Third World, such efforts are rare due to economic crises, apathy, and confusion about globalisation. The already wide gap between cultures of advanced societies and those of the poor states expands faster. Take the recent example of the downed Egyptian airliner that crashed off the eastern coast of the USA on Sunday, October 31, 1999. Extremely penetrative mass communication provided much sense and, overpoweringly so, speculation, double speak, and repackaging of already known scant information to seem new via sensational emphases. The clash of cultural difference between the USA and Egypt heightened in a hurry.

The Egyptians feared that the entire planet was being saturated with negative ethnocentric bias about their country. Responding, US decision-makers postponed a formal turning over of the investigation to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to allow Egyptian experts to partake in analysing data collected so far.

Such cooperation is rare with the Third World. Were it not for the special ties of Egypt and the USA, the former's internal crises with Islamic fundamentalism, and wider linkages with middle east politics, it is doubtful that this courtesy would have been extended. The event has dramatised deepened inter-connectedness and new cultural imperatives of globalisation.

In Third World States, globalisation imperatives cannot be stopped and must be satisfied. People resent ability of mass media (mainly foreign) to set priorities, values, and needs for them even while they welcome the marvels of the advanced world from which such power originates. One resulting irony now about the dizzying globalised world via satellite TV, cellular phones, e-mail, faxes, Internet, etc., is that, while there is more and more information about everything on the planet, there is also more and more misinformation due to people's confusion and need to preserve their sanity.

But even as we play up follies and hardships that attend globalisation, we must avoid extremism because globalisation has facilitated the most abundant production of goods and services in recorded human history. Yes, equitable access to them and distribution of them remain a problem. On the other hand, globalisation is showing the reality of an interconnected, interdependent world.

The unfolding process cannot assure logical responses of cooperation over conflict in human disputes either internationally or in nation states, given that human nature is driven by the instinct of winning, keeping and extending power. But people are starting to take note of as well as experience more dramatically the interconnectedness of life.

French political philosopher Rousseau early raised the improbability of realistic change in behaviour once humans lived in state and society as then and now constituted: "Our wisdom is slavish prudence; our customs consist in control, constraint, compulsion. Civilised man is born and dies a slave."

Globalised life reflects this same dichotomy between `free' man and his surroundings.

Another reason for down-playing gloom and doom due to globalisation is the fodder this gives extremists who are predicting the end of the world at start of the new millennium. Their ilk was wrong at the first millennium and throughout it. The new breed, by some alchemy, still insists that the world will come to an end come 2000. But we must have faith in God's will and human capacities to overcome hardships.

Many of today's hard challenges of the mind that globalisation presents are somewhat akin to yesterday's. The invention of the train, airplane and automobile brought cries of doom. Man, said zealous skeptics, was not created to live at such fast speeds. Such inventions were an immoral re-tinkering with God's work by heathen scientists!

On the other hand, Peter Selznick had it right when he said: "By long habituation, the individual absorbs a way of perceiving and evaluating his experience. This reduces his anxiety by lending the world of fact a familiar cast; and it helps assure an easy conformity with established practice." It is just that significant scientific discoveries often produce unanticipated consequences. We can predict, calculate, speculate and muse about expected benefits and drawbacks. But we can never accurately predict all outcomes.

It is the same with globalisation.

The isolated individual is sick," said G. C. Homans. "Social man is the masterpiece of existence," said Emile Durkheim. Is this fact or fiction in this globalised world of shrinking time and space, and contraction of freedoms?

Write Dr. Brotherson at P.O. Box 1283, Medina, Ohio

44258 or send e-mail to lysias2@yahoo.com

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