The world has become an uncomfortably small place. In the past, habits and cultures of other nations seemed little more than a curiosity to those of us who lived separated from the other continents by two oceans. Our friends in Canada were too like us to bear comparison and, mostly, we turned a blind eye to the comings and goings from of our southern neighbors as their trespass was needed to support our agriculture. Usually, we din’t think about our boarders except during a national election when some red-eyed patriot talks about building walls.
With or without walls, today information crosses borders as freely as the wind. Technology is the reason. And, as money pools where technology flourishes, wealthy countries become magnets for refuges escaping war, disease and famine Immigration, legal or illegal, is as ineluctable as a rising tide. Those unwilling to accept this fluidity will secure their own extinction.
Life gives us no option but to move forward. Technology accelerates the pace and is bringing the world together with explosive effect. Call it a culture shock. Sometimes the result is humorous. Belgians, for example, woke up one morning to discover their favorite breakfast spread, Sirip de Liege, had an Arab word plastered across its label. “Halal.” Why, why, why the citizens cried. Are we being taken over by the Arabs? Quite the reverse. Halal, the company explained, means a product is without pork, alcohol or other ingredients forbidden by the Quran. (“When breakfast is suddenly Halal,” by Béatrice Delvaux, excerpted from Le Soir in The Week, August 8, 2015, pg. 12) The word was added because the Belgian company intends to “invade” the Middle East.
Some changes are serious, however. In India, where doctors’ degrees can be purchased as well as earned, too many untutored physicians are prescribing antibiotics where they have no effect, like for the common cold or a hang nail. “The result is that India is developing new superbugs resistant to all known treatments.” (The Week, August 28, 2015 pg. 13) This news isn’t good in a world where populations intermingle, bringing superbugs with them.
The fluidity among cultures raises a questions about how technology should flow. Are all societies ready for advances at the same point in time? Or should some information be dispensed based upon a set of criteria? Western countries don’t distribute “how to” kits for building atomic bombs or making sarin gas, for example. Should the UN Council on Change consider the impact of technologies on some cultures? What, for example, would Syria be like today if more weaponized countries had refused to sell armaments to Bashar al-Assad?