Global Perspectives, part 2

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.

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Global Perspective on the Day-to-Day

Having a look around my desk and computer area, a familiar thought pops into my mind. “All of this ‘stuff’ really do come from all over the place.” This assignment (for my current history class) is not the first thing that have propmted that thought. Looking around this time, though, something new does strike me. Namely, patterns.

Inspecting the various electronic equipment that lie scattered about, the commonality between them should come as no surprise. They are all manufactured in China, or have parts that are. The raw material for most of my furniture is also largely from the east, although mainly Russia moreso then China – even if they are assembled locally. Well, with the exception of a relatively ancient family heirloom in the form of a couch, which as far I am aware is made in Norway from norwegian meterials.

Excluding one or two items, pertty much everything in this room comes from somewhere else. Even the books in my bookshelves. So, selecting one of these far-travelled objects – let us have a look at how it got here.

DelK4_Blog1_global_perspectiveThis is a jade necklace that I purchased locally. I picked this object because, unlike most of the other items, I know exactly where this one came from and how it came to Sweden. The jade itself is from Mayanmar (Burma), and was at some point transported northeast into china. There it was purchased by a tradesperson in its raw form and taken to a jeweller trained in working with jade. The artisan carved the dragon you see in the picture above and was paid by the tradesperson.

It is also the very same tradesperson who travelled to sweden at a later time (having purchased this bit of jade as a tourist) that I myself bought the necklace from. As it happened, the transaction occurred during a local, medieval, jousting re-enactment tournament. The interesting thing about this item is that even though it travelled to Sweden in the hands of private people rather than larger businesses – many items travel similar paths.

Now, going in to the realm of speculation, what could have prompted the seller to journey all the way from Sweden to China, purchase jade – have them fashioned into objects – travel home again and sell them at a small profit? Obviously there has to be some kind of demand, but how is that possible?

Increasing exposure to the far-away cultures? Perhaps. What this small jade necklace tells me, is that the average person’s view of the world is expanding. It could be that we are observing the pathways of the industries we are involved with – be it because we take an interest in global economy, environment, or sustainability.

The way I see it, the world is only getting smaller and the more people notice that, the harder it is for some of us to get along. But that is a different matter entirely.

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Spring Morning

I see before me a river valley,
Framed by cloud-piercing mountains.
I stand just above the tree-line,
Breathing cold, thin air.
With snow that never melts,
underneath my feet ~
I gaze down at spring,
in full bloom.
Yet just as a smile is about to find me,
I open my eyes.
Groggy, I stare… into the ceiling,
And curse my shitty curtains.

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Only With Time

Some say that time heals.

But in truth,

Pain is the is the cleanser.

Fear of this purging flame, 

Is not quite accurate.

Fear of the fire itself,

Or fear of being scorched ~

Pain is not scary, not even a little.

Only with time does it become truly terrifying.

Be it ache, wounds, or trauma,

It is not pain,

But pain without end ~

We should fear.

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Not Just Me

I used to dream of the wind. I welcomed her cold touch, no matter the season. I have always known, however, who is hiding in my shadow.I have dreamed of you as well.

It has been quite some time, since we spoke. Longer yet since I dreamed.I suppose I have hidden myself away a little too well. Escaped into my cave. But what use is trying, when your hiding from your own shadow?

Not quite true. A lie, if a brief one. It would be more accurate to say that I have hidden within my shadow. I like wearing it, it fits me like a nice coat.

I have what I need. A place to sleep, but nothing soft. My back cannot stand too soft. A blanket too, just the one. Then there are candles. Gentle, discrete, considerate candles.

Allow me a sigh as I speak, just the one is enough. It is high time we spoke. I want it back, you see. My ability to dream. I would not waste them on the wind. No, this time I would dream for two. Not just me.

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The Sounds of Very Old Things

When I think of China or Chinese culture, my mind inevitably goes to music. While there are a couple of ancient instruments, my favourite has to be the Erhu. Few things sound as haunting and beautiful as the Erhu in the hands of a master practitioner.

The sound of the Erhu is also something that sounds unmistakably Chinese, even to someone who does not know that an Erhu is a two-stringed, bowed musical instrument. For this reason, if I have to choose an item that to me represents the China’s ancient culture – I would have chosen something that represents the Erhu. Alas, I could not find such an object in the short timeframe I had at my disposal. I did however find this!


This is earthenware depicts a kneeling musician playing the Se (瑟), a very old form of Chinese zither – or Guzheng (古箏). Not to be confused with the Guqin(古琴)! The kneeling figure was part of a set, representing a troupe of musicians along with two dancers. They were found in the grave of a prince, presumably so that they could perform for him in the afterlife. The excavation occurred in 1989-1990, from Prince Chu’s(楚王) tomb at Tuolanshan(驮篮山), Xuzhou(徐州市), Jiangsu(江苏省). Music was a big part of court rituals, and the number of performers made available depended on a noble person’s rank. The earthenware itself dates from ca. 206 B.C. to 9 A.D. Western Han Dynasty.

The Se is sometimes said to be an older and larger version of the Guzheng, but what is the difference between the Guzheng and the Guqin? Well, for a start, the Guqin is smaller, has fewer strings and a deeper sound. The Guqin has also been considered a favourite of scholars and have been connected to persons such as Zhuge Liang (Kongming), and Confucius. Below is a dramatization of a moment out of the screen adaption of Romance of the Three Kingdoms from 2010. Here, Zhuge Liang performs his empty fort stratagem with the aid of a Guqin.

Now, if we were to listen to a performance of a Guzheng, we can both see and hear the differences in sound. Yet they both have the same unmistakably chinese feeling the Erhu has. Historically, the Guzheng is not, however, a female only instrument – or a “girly” instrument. Those notions are probably derived from current day popular culture i.e. Wuxia and fictional historical palace dramas.

One of the reasons I chose this earthenware figure, which was seen on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, is because I have seen it so many times in popular media and fiction. For me, it represents not only what once was, but also something very modern. That it is beautiful to listen to does not hurt either! To me it is not strange that this instrument has been around in one form or another since the warring states period, and I do not think it is going to disappear anytime soon.

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Talk to the Historical Hand

When we think of what of the past of what is modern day Israel, it is not without reason we tend to think of it as the cradle of the Abrahamic religions. After all, all three consider or have considered the place a holy land – albeit be it for different reasons. But this is not a post about religious doctrines. No, this is a post about hands. Yes, hands!


This is an ivory hand on display at the British Museum. It is from 1200 to 1400 BC, and found at the site of Lachish.  It was part of a composite statue, the majority of which would have probably been in wood but with the important features carved in ivory. Other than the hand, in this particular instance an eye was indeed found in conjunction. The people inhabiting the region at the time, the Canaanites, revered a pantheon of deities such as Ell, Baal, and Astarte. It is not known which deity the hand and eye could be meant to represent, though.

What strikes me as curious is the fact that they took such care and expended so much effort on the hands of this statue. My thoughts immediately jump to the plethora of rude gestures of various modern day cultures. But even insults aside, we humans seem to get very passionate when it comes to our hands and there is a tradition of certain body parts being more important extending even into the Islamic period. The Hamsa (seen below), or the hand of Fatima as it is also known, is used even today as a popular talisman for protection throughout the Middle East.


Here is where the creative writer in me wants to run off into the fictitious past of my imagination. Either that or my inner two-year old is feeling exceptionally mischievous today. I wonder, I really do, what kind of gestures the Canaanites would have found offensive. How would they react to a thumbs up as they venerated their dead relatives? What if a person could get flogged for not giving the gods the middle finger while presenting them with offerings?

I better stop right there, before my imagination takes me all the way down this particular rabbit hole…

Lastly, the truly fascinating thing about this item – this ivory hand – is the longevity of what it could have symbolised. What I mean by that is the cultural significance of the hand and that we can still see faint traces of the ancient among the living. This is why history is so fascinating! It lives and it breathes!


About: I have intentionally written this post a little tongue-in-cheek because I am still in a rough place emotionally – and using humour was the easiest way to cope and finish the assignment this post was intended for.  Thank you for reading.

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