She never went abroad

When we tap on our smartphone’s touch screen to book a last minute flight to Hong Kong, we are living the third phase of globalisation which started half a millennium ago. The costs for transferring, managing and storing information have collapsed. Travelling is cheap – and intercontinental.

The first giant leap was ocean sailing. It made the global yet slow and troublesome interaction possible.

The second phase of globalisation started in the 19th century when steam ships and trains huffed and puffed both themselves and many new locations on the map. Telegraphy made it possible to send short messages far.

A little over a century ago, landline telephone and combustion engine gradually started the efficient transferring of information and goods. Jet planes have been taking people from one place to another since the 1960s.

During her long life, my great-grandmother Alma witnessed three wars and Finland’s independency. Even the Kainuu province in Northern Finland got electricity, running water, train connection, cars, tractors and other gadgets. But when the over 90-year-old Alma pondered on the one thing that had changed the most, she stated that it was the position of women.

Alma never went abroad. I doubt that she ever even saw the sea, let alone anyone who was a foreigner.

My grandparents did not travel much either. I think that the most distant place my grandfather Nikke ever visited was the town of Vyborg. It belongs to Russia now but back then it was still a part of Finland.

”Our neighborhood is the best place to be”, he emphasised.

Last summer, I travelled to South America on a whim. Yesterday, I discussed going to Australia with a friend and to St. Petersburg with another. I have friends working in Moscow, Madrid, New York and God knows where else. My uncle lives in Thailand. My aunt sends photos on my mobile from Egypt. My mother used to live in the United States. My sister went out with a Greek man.

I am not particularly international. But the world is. A massive change has taken place in an astonishingly short period of time. Finland is now a European country with people from all over the world.

It is likely that a child born in the 21st century will witness as great changes as my great-grandmother did.

Perhaps, in the future, old age will mean aching hips at the age of 200. Perhaps last minute flights to Moon will happen all the time. Perhaps the humankind will alienate socially after creating a too tempting artificial virtual reality.

It is also possible that overpopulation, running out of natural resources and climate change along with bitter battles will lead to a complete economic collapse. Perhaps globalisation with its intercontinental flights and optical fibre cable is merely a blink of an eye in history: perhaps humankind will regress into a state in which it spent the previous millennia.

But what if the one thing that changes the most is the position of a human?

Seppo Honkanen
Aviisin pääkirjoitus 15/2010

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