Does sharing a piece of McDonald’s Big Mac with a friend or having a sip of Coke in a local fast food mean that we are automatically becoming hostages of the contemporary “McDonaldization” or “Coca-Cocalization” trends? Or, is benefiting from the use of information communication technologies (ICT) by the well-off countries does in fact help in solving thorny problems of the Third World?
Nowadays, these and numerous related questions apparently shadow the popular concept of transforming the modern world into a “global village”. The very phrase, coined by Marshall McLuhan, is widely used in a variety of contexts, though its genuine content is true just to a limited extent, to say the least. I would classify three misconceptions that overestimate the role of a “global village”, specifically: we are all living in a homogenous world, information revolution is making the world a better place, and globalization is not impacting national identity.
Since world history has always been overwhelmed with various social divisions, nobody is ever able to ensure global cohesion. Bipolarity was well proven throughout the 20th century when the world fought against fascism, the U.S.A. clashed with the Soviet Union in a Cold War, and democratic states opposed totalitarian regimes. What is more, the “clash of civilizations” theory by Samuel P Huntington clearly shows that the contemporary society is even more multi-polarized due to religious, racial, linguistic and cultural diversifications etc. In particular, he argues, “Global conflict based on ideologies has been replaced by the clash of cultures. It will be where the ‘tectonic plates’ of different cultures meet that conflicts will erupt. The chaos in the Balkans, where Catholic Croats, Orthodox Serbs and Moslem Bosnians are at each other’s throats, lends weight to the argument”.(Samuel Huntington, "The Clash of Civilizations," Foreign Affairs, Summer 1993, pp. 22-49)
Therefore, the historical agenda of the last century has much determined the present state of international affairs that are more ambiguous than ever before. On the one hand, most of the sovereign states tend to observe and promote the whole entirety of democratic values; whereas on the other hand, a few of them are ready to lose a share in competitiveness under the conditions of globalization. Hence, the world is now threatened by the evil of terrorism, multinational conflicts, lack of natural resources and the emergence of environmental disasters, to name a few. These challenges mainly arise due to partial unity of the world leaders under the umbrella of multinational organizations, which are usually established to help the latter fulfill their own ambitions and not to solve urgent problems of humanity. Therefore, due to vivid disintegration, the problems placed on the global agenda get partial solutions, which significantly eliminate the priority of global values within the scope of a “global village” concept.
No matter how much ICT has changed and benefited contemporary inter-relations, I fully agree with the statement once expressed by Teresa Newman: “The Internet can be a great tool, and the best way to get information fast, which can be beneficial to anyone in certain circumstances (i.e. medical advice) but it is not going to make a ‘village’ out of the World”.(Teresa Newman, “Global Village: Possible or Desirable?”)
This statement is justified, since most of the world does not reap benefits from the use of high-tech advancement. On the contrary, the so-called “golden billion” states use ICT to get richer and more powerful, whereas poor countries are becoming poorer: “with a rich minority becoming richer and a poor majority becoming poorer, the growing social discrepancies between the different communities making up the global village are becoming more divisive than the highest barrier”. This is an apparent and striking diversification, which shows that some people are dying of malaria and starvation, while others are making easy cash via the World Wide Web.
According to Scott P Crawford, “some actors may become global information powers, but others, notably in the Third World countries, fear ‘electronic colonization’ and ‘information imperialism.’” Recently, the UN World Summit “On the Information Society” addressed the problem of digital divide on the declarative level, though real-to-life solution is not soon to emerge as for the time being the global poverty is far beyond the power of any community, even the network of communities within a “global village”.
National identity is another area affected by the “global village” concept. Along with eliminating time and space borders, we risk losing our identities under the umbrella of multinational corporations and multi-stakeholder organizations, such as EU, NATO, WTO et al. The problem is that leaders are mainly dictating their rules, while the rest of the member-states are often playing minor roles in the decision-making processes.
In this respect Stephen L. Talbott states that “if we really wanted a global village, we would start with the local culture, learn to live in it, share in it, appreciate it, begin to recognize what is highest in it - what expresses its noblest and most universal ideals - and encourage from within the culture the development and fulfillment of these ideals. Only in this way can any culture enlarge itself” (Chapter 9).
Apart from political and economic sovereignty, culture, language and traditions are also under the threat of global expansion on the part of artificial tendencies. Owing much to the well thought-out advertising and marketing, in many countries St. Valentine’s Day is joyfully celebrated, while particular national customs are forgotten since they are not so well promoted, and so risk to be shifted away in a decade or two. The same happens with linguistic, cultural and behavioral aspects, which we are losing through the years due to the permanent promotion of “globalized values”.
The abovementioned misconceptions generally underscore the artificiality of a “global village” concept, which is apparently irreplaceable in shifting borders of time and space, though it has nothing to do with making the modern world a less competitive place, solving global problems, and preserving national identity. Therefore, I would rather use the very phrase only in the context, determined by the real-to-life practice.