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Keep Calm - Taking world events in stride.

Good Reads: Globalization and the glass half full

Here is a survey of a few good articles to explain global doom, the globalized taste in literature, and the peculiar mental shortcuts and errors that smart people make. 

By Scott BaldaufStaff writer / June 14, 2012



Eeyore Rules

If you have felt a sudden rush of hope this week, a sense of the incredible possibilities we all have to make a difference in this increasingly connected world of instant communications and idea-sharing, well, then clearly you haven’t been reading the newspapers recently.

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Because the newspapers are all full of dread. It’s as if Eeyore, A.A. Milne’s dour donkey, had quietly taken over the world, slipped something into all of our morning coffees and convinced us that the glass was, indeed, half full. If the 1990s were the decade of "Me," then the 2010s are the decade of "Meh."

In the United States, the economy is growing and jobs are being created, but alas, not fast enough to keep the unemployment rate down. That, apparently, spells doom for the current occupant of the White House. Young people are so disillusioned in the man they voted for in 2008 that they are unlikely to vote at all in the upcoming elections, according to this article by Andrew Baumann and Anna Greenberg in The Atlantic magazine.

Last days of Pompeii

But for sheer existential angst, you can’t beat the Greeks. There, life which used to be care-free – especially after Greece joined the eurozone and foresaw a forever supply of tourists and European business travelers – but now, according to this excellent story by Rachel Donadio in the New York Times, the mood in Greece is so downbeat that one Greek filmmaker described it as “the last days of Pompeii.”

In her Letter from Athens, Ms. Donadio writes:

The feeling that the country is about to undergo an even greater economic upheaval is inescapable. Highly educated young people are desperate to emigrate. Families are putting their property up for sale to pay debts. Banks long ago stopped lending. Casual conversations between friends end in tears.

Blaming globalization

The world has had economic downturns before, but what makes this one different goes beyond mere numbers on a balance sheet. Its roots are found in the growing doubts that people are having about our increasingly globalized world. Remember the hope people felt when the cold war ended, and the Berlin Wall fell? Remember when once-hostile African and Eastern European countries opened themselves up to foreign investment, and US and European stock markets soared? Remember when email became commonplace, when it became possible to send photos or documents or songs or videos as attachments with a simple mouse-click?

Social scientists created a word for that phenomenon: globalization. Hillary Clinton quoted an African proverb that it took a village to raise a child. And for a moment, we all felt like members of one big village.

Now, in the 2010s, we’re seeing the downside of that globalization. It’s not pretty.

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