When I hear the word globalisation my mind instantaneously jumps to large corporations and globe-spanning trade conglomerates. However, if I were to retract the steps of this ongoing process and look back in time – not a whole lot would have changed. Spearheading the western expansion under the guise of imperial and colonial expansion during the late 1500s were, after all, the predecessors of modern day companies. The perhaps most famous company of the time, the Honourable East India Company, has made a resurgence in popular media i.e. Taboo, starring Tom Hardy.
In recent years, there have been a couple of disease scares, and we should be afraid. It is not without reason governments go to extraordinary lengths to avoid epidemics – and worse, pandemics. As our modern day, contemporary trading networks grow larger and evermore intricate, we become more closely connected with people across the globe. If we look at syphilis, a sexually transmitted disease some believe to have been carried back to Europe from the Americas by the Columbus’s sailors and contemporary seafarers, we can see how incredibly fast diseases can spread even without modern technology speeding up travel. The first documented outbreak of syphilis in Europe happened in Italy’s 1494/95 Nepal. The outbreak occurred during a French invasion, and since it was carried by French troops the disease became known as “French disease.” The truly terrifying thing about syphilis, however, is that it had reached China and been documented as early as 1505 – only 10 years later. Today, the spread of a similar disease could occur within days – if not hours.
Globalisation has also meant exploitation of people and resources. That was true then, just as it is true now. Although slavery is not as widespread, and countries not as often occupied (in the western world at least) as back in the 1500s-1800s, companies of today still outsource manufacturing to places where working conditions are not only dangerous, but often cruel as well – all in the name of profit. Sadly, the illegal trafficking of humans is still a problem.
Globalisation, however, is not an inherently evil process. As with any new phenomenon, any new change, human beings will find a way to exploit and abuse it. Therefore, it becomes even more important for us to be aware of how globalisation is affecting us. Instead of clamming up like molluscs, shutting our borders down, we should open our eyes to the foreign elements around us. Instead of simply drinking the tea we imported from China, we should open ourselves up to the culture and tradition that gave rise to the product in the first place. Hell, for the adventurous among us, go on a journey and visit! Make use of the globalising world and use it to enrich your own life with new experiences.
I once heard people talking about globalisation, or rather the movement of people as a consequence of globalisation, with great fear in their voices. They said, “would you rather have your country as a nation of the world – or have your country become a nation with the entire world in it?”
Well, if you ask me, I think the idea of having the entire world within a single nation sounds glorious! I almost become a little giddy at the thought of such cultural variety and richness! With a little understanding, and acceptance of things that are different, life becomes so much more than what it is for many of us. So much to see, to enjoy, and experience… I genuinely do not understand how that could be frightening to someone.