In response to the global financial crisis of 2008, the ensuing austerity measures, difficult jobs markets and a loss of sense of hope caused by ineffective leadership, provocative individuals and media outlets pursued a relentless torrent of anti-globalist rhetoric focussed on the idea that these problems were caused by ‘others’ (most often foreigners), and that the institutions of global governance and cooperation had proven themselves to be failures.
As is often the case, there are some hard truths to accept in these extreme points of view. Competition for jobs has certainly increased as a result of free travel throughout the EU. Students in the UK have been left with vast sums of debt when gaining a degree, to then find graduate jobs awarded to international students who choose to remain in the UK. Organisations such as the UN and the EU are demonstrably undermined by overly bureaucratic administration, corruption and petty political in-fighting. Globalisation has led to massive increases in environmental damage caused by everything from the greenhouse gasses emitted by budget airlines, to the deforestation of the Amazon caused by demand for cheap meat for global fast-food giants like McDonalds.
The end of globalisation
According to some, globalisation has categorically failed. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, this seems like a reasonable suggestion. Global travel has facilitated a more rapid spread of the disease than would have been possible only a decade ago. Lockdowns all over the world have caused massive retail chains to cancel fashion orders from suppliers in countries including Bangladesh – leading to an instant loss of critical income for families in developing countries. Accusations of global governance organisations’ complicity in cover-ups, endless conspiracy theories posted online, and a 15-minute news cycle delivered by mass media outlets whose business model is based on competing for our fleeting attention, all combine to give the impression that this moment in time represents the end game for the new ideals of global cooperation that grew out of the ashes of the devastation of World War 2.
So where does this leave us?
As a company specialising in working internationally, we are lucky enough to be in contact with positive, thoughtful and resilient people all over the world. From Kerala in India where the virus has been brought under control despite a lack of economic resources, to Tripoli in Libya where post-conflict instability is still the norm, the members of our global network tell us of positive steps that have been taken at both local and national level, to help people through a period of crisis and towards a future less bleak than is proposed by some.
This seems counterintuitive, but optimism in the face of adversity is not a new phenomenon. Given all of the negativity, bad news, loss, ongoing setbacks and problems, why do people remain hopeful of better things to come?
Finding hope in ashes
As a species, humans have proven themselves to be the most capable of all animals on Earth to adapt. In his book Sapiens, Yuval Noah Hariri suggests that hope and belief in our ideas are the things that led to this. He explains that there is no better time to be born than right now – as humanity continues to develop both our thinking and our technological capability, making our current education, financial, political and social conditions, better than those of yesterday.
With the ongoing evolution of the connected global workplace, we have all the tools that we require to be able to provide employment and education opportunities throughout the world – and we are continually developing new and innovative ways to do this. From remote learning technology, to intelligent supply chain infrastructure, the world today is a better place to live for the vast majority of people, than it was fifty or one hundred years ago.
Our current pandemic crisis is of course terrible. The long-term economic and social consequences will require many years of careful thought, considerate action and global cooperation to endure. But now is not a time for the selfish to take more for themselves, or for the provocative to amplify hatred and fuel misunderstanding, for the purposes of entertainment and making a fast buck.
Connecting to work together
Being part of a connected global community of thousands of like-minded people, all of whom are committed to supporting others in achieving life-changing opportunities through education, is a privilege.
It is something that not long ago would have been almost impossible to realise, incredibly expensive to administer, and vastly more difficult to access. The development of global communications technology, travel and community interconnectedness has given us all access to a depth of knowledge unlike anything before and provided us with the opportunity to connect with and support each other regardless of geographical and social divides.
Globalisation is certainly not perfect. But neither is nationalism or isolationism.
By looking beyond our immediate situation and giving consideration to the long-term future, we can work together as a global community to learn and to prosper. And if this work happens to be arduous, then so what? Because since when has the most successful species on the planet been afraid of a bit of hard work?