Not long ago, you might have read this article on the screen of your desktop at the company office looking over your shoulder to make sure your manager wasn’t around. But these days, you’re more worried about your children or husband interrupting you in the living room. On the same note, if you have been caught in the swirl of globalization over the past many years and did not find yourself on one of the repatriation flights over the last few months, this might be the first Ramadan, Christmas or Diwali you will spend without your loved ones.
Globalization as we knew it vs. Distancing
Working from home is just one of the many newly widespread side-effects of the virus. Our lives and habits have changed abruptly due to imposed quarantines, curfews, mandatory mask-wearing or travel restrictions, just to mention a few.
Strange enough, those who promote social distancing are the ones who bolster integration and the blessings of globalization while those neglecting the importance of social distancing are promoting global distancing and disassembling the carefully constructed global system of the post-WWII world. On a personal footnote, I find it particularly improper and misleading that we labeled physical distancing as ‘social distancing.’ If I could warn my fellow global citizens about one thing, it would be the danger of becoming distanced — socially. We need empathy, solidarity and understanding now more than ever.
“But travel is only one way that the coronavirus is disrupting global interconnectedness. The pandemic is interrupting the flow of workers, money and goods that increasingly bound the postwar world, helped to lift more than a billion people out of poverty since the fall of the Berlin Wall and delivered unprecedented stability and prosperity to much of the planet. To encapsulate: U.S. investment in China raised demand for soybeans that enabled Brazilian farmers to buy German cars.” - says Anthony Faiola, a Washington Post senior correspondent, and I couldn't agree with him more.
Photo: Karolina Grabowska x Polina Tankilevitch x Matheus Bertelli x Pixaby x Abdel Rahman Abu Baker x Rod Long x Timothy Dykes
COVID has major impacts on all areas of life, even on religion. Saudi Arabia earlier this year announced it would slash the number of people allowed to make the Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, to no more than 10,000. As a comparison, 2.5 million people migrated to the symbolic point of ascension by Prophet Muhammad in 2019 alone.
The political scene
“The COVID-19 pandemic has ushered in a new climate of uncertainty which is fueling protectionism and playing into nationalist narratives.”
What can be said about the border closures, travel bans and severe transportation restrictions, the partial disruption or slowing down of the global supply chain coupled with the economic havoc fueled by record-high unemployment rates and the semi-halt of entire industries? Clearly, the political decision-makers are moving in that same populist-conservative-nationalist direction which has surfaced in the last decade. This wave of exclusivity has accelerated to an insane pace in 2020. Trump, Boris Johnson, Bolsonaro, Orban and many more are just the loud speakers of bi-polarised societies, the growing wealth gap and socio-economic effects of the abrupt golden-age of globalization.
The pandemic certainly plays into their hands in one way. However they are running the danger of becoming over-isolated and hence losing their competitive advantage taken for granted for decades.
Pankaj Ghemawat, a recently often cited expert on the topic says, “we are living in a semi-global world, where markets are global but regulatory institutions are still, for the most part, national. Seen in this light, what will the impact of COVID-19 be on sentiments towards and the power of global institutions of cooperation such as the WHO, UN and OECD? Will it be a repeat of the era which followed WWI and the formation of weak institutions such as the League of Nations? Or, will there be a recognition that global problems require global solutions with credible institutions to support them?”
As a dedicated lover of life, this is where I see the biggest challenge for humanity as a whole. If we cannot find a consensus on how to tackle global issues such as the destruction of habitats, climate change, global warming or plastic/toxic pollution, I am afraid that we might not leave the world to our children and grandchildren what we have inherited from our parents and grandparents.
Why is the most obvious the least relevant?
When I sat down to do some research on the topic, most of Google’s findings reflected the area decision-makers are primarily concerned about. Projections and forecasts talk about an economic recession worse than the Great Depression and for many, behind these numbers, lies immense hardship.
It would be logical to say we have overcome recessions and setbacks, world burnings and traumas in the past and we will do so again driven by economic growth aiming at perpetuity. The thing is, if our planet and resources and even people are enclosed in a finite system, why does our basic economic model act as if it’s infinite? The word is, this model is what caused the partial global shutdown. If your computer shuts down because of a system error, maybe the installation of new software is the right thing to do.
Photo: Markus Spiske x Axel Holen
There is always hope
Sir David Attenborough, one of the most enduring and charismatic giants of our modern times said that until there is a glimmer of hope we can do two things: sit back and do nothing or go out (metaphorically speaking in times of this pandemic) and do everything possible to save the planet and ourselves in it.
Our best hope, as many say, is innovation, technology, and the free flow of information. Frankly, we have it all out there. It is available. But the coordination and manipulation of various interest blocks would need to be regulated.
“In this sense, the world may well be becoming more globalized in terms of the flow of ideas and solutions, if not necessarily products.” - Omar Toulan, Professor of Strategy and International Management at IMD, says.
Humanity has arrived at a junction in 2020. Far-reaching and long lasting, the implications and consequences of which road we take, will define us as inhabitants of this pale blue dot.
-Author, David Simon, Founder and CEO of YNI Int. (Strawlific)
Top Photo: Joshua Rawson-Harris x Daniel Olah x Brian McGowan x Georg Eiermann x Greg Rosenke