Saturday, February 04, 2017

How to Be Global?

For being global, this is the worst of the time and the best of the time. 

The worst part is obvious: Various countries now want to put themselves 'First' and that is not an ideal scenario to start thinking globally. Multinationals are in retreat. Trade Wars seem imminent. Currency disputes are heating up and cross-border immigration is becoming more difficult. Even UK, which proclaims its ambition to be 'Global' and has always benefited from being open, has started pulling up the drawbridges and succumbing to Little Englanders.
 
However, in this, there is a new promise, and that is the best part. The globalisation that we saw from the breaking of the Berlin Wall to the breaking of the Wall Street Banks was about building global value chains, of moving capital and commodities across the boundaries. We may be approaching an end of this phase. But this marks the start of a new phase - when the problems are global, from migration to climate change to terrorism to education and unemployment - and this presents a new opportunity to think global. The transition from easy globalisation built around trade to complex globalisation of concepts and solutions creates the need for global professionals, those who can handle the complexity of globality rather than just being a 'body' and turning up to save costs.

This new globalisation opens the question - how to be global - in a different way. It is very attractive to dismiss any global approach as naïveté, devoid of reality or out of step with current sentiments. However, not having a global approach means being blind about all the big challenges of the time, believing that one could go back in time or hide behind closed doors. But the formula that would have served the business school types in an earlier time - accumulating intellectual, psychological and social capital in the wider world - would not be sufficient by itself. Those elements remain, as they are rather obvious and only stylistically made attractive - and one would need to have knowledge about the world, should understand its ways and have friends from different places - but these, by themselves, focus our minds on solving global problems.

The new attributes of becoming global would necessarily include three values - curiousity, cooperation and commitment - alongside the three capitals, intellectual, psychological and social.

Being genuinely Curious about global nature of our problems is a starting point. This may sound obvious, but it is not. For example, one may believe - and many do - that terrorism is a problem for America and Britain. But the curious, keen on following more global news than the sentimental BBC or egositical Fox, will know that it is a big problem for Pakistan, Iran, Egypt and Syria too. And, these countries, apart from regular bombings at mosques and market squares by terrorists additionally have to contend with bombings from American drones and all those 'coalition actions' if they ever try to step out of line. The curious will know that banning travel to keep America safe is crazy, as a country is not merely a territory (Mr Trump may think it is like a building) but its citizens too: It will be impossible to engage in the world if the Americans all have to stay home to be safe.

This will need Cooperation. Collaboration is a nice American word unleashed on the world, but the problem with collaboration is that it is something to do together towards one goal, the American one. True understanding the global nature of our problems will also lead to an appreciation of the multiplicity of goals it entails: That climate change is a comkon problem, but it presents different challenges to a village in Bangladesh, a fishing community in Southern India and an investment banker in Singapore. Collaborating towards the most important goal - making profits for the investment banker by the order of 'common-sense' preference - will not be enough to meet the challenge; a global approach would mean cooperating and solving each of these challenges together, which may mean giving up a bit of returns for the banker, and going more local for the fishermen and the farmer.

And, indeed, this will need a genuine Commitment to be global. This may mean going outside one's language bubble, as this may illuminate ideas and concepts which we will never understand otherwise. It will mean understanding cultures - not just in a kiss-bow-and-shake-hands style, but in a deep way of feeling its magic and learning its myths - by abandoning the normative judgements that we all make. This commitment will mean accepting that there is a global, human way of living and thinking, which is an objective we should all endeavour to achieve, by engagement with others. This does not mean abandoning our cultures, but using these as our sensibilities and tools to embrace and understand the world (just as we use our five senses, to approach the outside world).

It's a long shot, one may say, at this time of hatred and division. But such an inflection is the right opportunity: The oppressive globalisation, one that of destructive commercialisation, one way fits all politics and hierarchial visions of life, is in trouble. What we got since the 90s was rich men's globalisation, where money travelled free and ideas only went one way: What we got now is the rich trying to close the door and let everyone else find their way. This allows other ways to emerge, the possibilities of a different conversation to be visible. This is the time to become global, differently.

 
 




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