The Global-Local Schism: birth pangs of a new world?
The modern political crises in the West has left many shocked. The events of Brexit and Trump, words which have now attained an almost occult resonance, are seemingly the result of years of neglectful governance in the unstoppable pursuit of globalisation. In hindsight it is easy to suggest that we should have seen this coming and on reflection perhaps it is even obvious. Here, I wish to share the view with which I see these events which I hope can provide an insightful and, hopefully, rational perspective on what is happening.
This view first and foremost places human nature directly in line with universal laws. It is a view of philosophical naturalism which, importantly, includes human activity and does not regard it as an exception. In the humdrum of our daily lives we often mistakenly believe we (or perhaps more conspiratorially, ‘other people’) are in control of shaping society and our own destinies within it. But on closer inspection this view disintegrates. There is not, and has never been, on any level, any separation between human, animal, plant, mineral and, even deeper, the scientific laws, both known and unknown, which govern what can and cannot take place in our universe. Although we put ourselves at the top of the hierarchy on this planet, of the discoverers of universal truths and leaps of ingenuity in art, science, philosophy and business, it takes no great leap of imagination anymore to imagine millions of similar occurrences of intelligent life throughout the Universe. They way our civilisation is laid out in a sporadic hierarchical fashion- cities surrounded by small towns, separated over vast distances- mimics galactic structures, animal species, bubbles forming on a liquid surface, cell biology and atomic structures. Whether guided through conscious or unconscious processes on the parts of millions of automated agents or defined by physical laws, society is a product of this universe. We do not have the original claim to it.
It is thus that we come to look at the developments of our contemporary society as a natural progression of a humanoid species. Our societal structures have evolved from a Euclidean sensibility, with strong local connections and common bonds, and have rapidly broadened into national, continental and now global structures so that, not only can a person born and raised in London feel more in common with someone from Paris, Milan, New York, Tokyo or Singapore than they do with those from Cornwall, Norfolk or Yorkshire, but economically and culturally speaking there are arguably now stronger ties between them. It is important to note that this is not the same as differences between the rich and the poor or simply between country and city life. It goes deeper than this, because now thanks to the transport industry, global corporations and the internet, there is an emerging and merged culture literally shared all over the world which is founded on, and much quicker to take up in, the social freedoms offered by life in a global city.
Large metropolises had been built by various indigenous cultures to help to serve them. Now, in the ever emerging global city culture, these local surroundings are quickly forgotten and cast aside as unimportant, essentially left behind, and the millions of people living in these areas are now left wondering “what is going on? Isn’t [insert city name] an [insert country adjective] city? Why is it being flooded by people from all around the world?”. They still falsely perceive that the city belongs first and foremost to their country. But we’re beginning to realise that this is not really the case any longer. These cities are truly, though perhaps still in their infancy, global cities [The Global City: New York, London, Tokyo. (1991) - Princeton University Press].
Indeed, it may be regarded as no coincidence that the host countries of the only two Alpha ++ rank cities- New York and London- are now undergoing reactionary nationalist movements. The fact that Paris is the only Western Alpha+ city also alludes to the uncomfortable state of affairs leading up to the coming French Presidential elections, the result of which will lay bear the extent of this phenomenon.
And here is the schism which has developed between globally minded governments and their national populations through the geometric realities of international hubs residing inside a national context. Our basic model of the world, as nations united by a common culture interacting with each other is now entirely false and the cracks are there for all to see. In a long line of historical perpsective shifts, we as a species, whether we like it or not, are compelled to go beyond our now irrelevant nationalistic perspectives and embrace the global. We may see in our time that cities like London and New York will cease to be merged with a national identity and, perhaps, the sooner this occurs the better.
So, how concerned should we be? Perhaps this depends on your view of reality. If you believe, as many naturalist atheists will tend to, that the emergence of humanity is nothing other than random chance provided by a multiverse of all possible physical parameters, then we may conclude that, almost definitely, our luck has ran out. Humanity may be a possibility in our universe (which is a property held by a significantly small number of possible universes) but the chances of our universe being one which also can give rise to a fully modernised and integrated world, united and looking to the future, and the possibility that our planet is exactly such a world is likely miniscule at best. This is especially so in the face of considerable challenges of sustainability and climate change. If, however, you are a person of faith or who excludes the idea of a multiverse, then one may reckon if we’ve gotten this far, perhaps we are ‘destined’ to get much further.
Whichever the reality, we must hope that the cracks appearing in our society will be attributed in the wikipedia pages of the future to the hatching of the global age.
…and don’t put too much hope in the French elections.