The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, January 23, 2009


Local globalization

“Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.” – Anaïs Nin

Count the number of words in this article that have the suffixes “ization” or “ize” tacked onto them. These suffixes connote action and a sea change in the status quo. You will find a lot of them.

Is there anyone out there who has not heard the term “globalization”? We have been shining a spotlight on this word, examining its meaning and its ramifications for America, for Carlisle and for each of us.

Globalization is a term that seems to have been percolating for some time. It may trace its roots to “modernization,” an old word that suggests the improvement of old machinery, old political systems, old educational methods and old lifestyles to become “progressive.” Five or six hundred years ago, explorations and colonization in the New World modernized conventional thinking, science, and just about everything about the culture of old Europe. The clipper ships and steamships of the 19th century modernized the world in their turns by creating trade routes that brought the world’s products into people’s living rooms. World trade and the industrial revolution combined to create the rise of a new middle class that rose to cultural and political power.

At the turn of the 20th century, “modernization” meant assimilating into our lives and culture new machinery like the telephone and the automobile, and shortly afterward, the airplane. My great-grandfather would not allow a telephone in his home because he feared the loss of his privacy and quiet. This was perhaps a prescient opinion, given the evolution of that device from the early Bell telephones to today’s cell phones, but fear, I think, was the wrong response. Winston Churchill and his staff monitored the conduct of World War II from a state-of-the-art underground bunker in London, passing news over telephone lines and tracking battles by moving pins on maps. Not long afterward, television had brought the world so close to us that we could all watch Walter Cronkite report on the battles in Vietnam shortly after they happened.

The telephone, car, airplane and television changed transportation, exploration, urban planning and warfare forever. The neighborhoods of the 1930s, immortalized by the Little Rascals and the Dead End Kids, became the urban sprawl of the 1980s, obliging parents to schedule play dates across town and drive their children to after-school activities. The microchip catapulted us into the age of the personal computer. Then we watched the Gulf War live by satellite television, at the very moment the explosions in Baghdad and the fires in Kuwaiti oil fields were taking place.

The difference between the modernizations of earlier ages and the globalization of today is probably that sense of the instantaneous. Globalization really is modernization, but it seems like a larger and more awesome concept because it is happening all over the world at just about the same moment. It is revolutionizing world trade, finance, politics, climate and personal standards of living with a speed unimaginable in previous centuries. World finances are inextricably entwined; when there is an economic downturn, it reverberates instantly across the world. Democratization, westernization and U.S.-driven ideologies are being called into question. National borders are blurring and changing almost daily as economic and social changes shift traditional power structures around.

And we are all talking about it. In this year, when reduced retirement accounts, savings and investments as well as employment insecurities have traumatized every one of us, Carlisleans are coming out of their homes to theorize, exchange ideas and act. In its worst and scariest sense, globalization is the “Ization” monster under the bed that will swallow us if we dare to put our toes on the floor. In its best sense, it is the meeting of friends who, by becoming friends, change the status quo and give birth to a better world. People in Carlisle are reading, meeting to make new friends and cement older friendships, support each other, network and devise creative ways to accomplish civic and philanthropic projects. We are globalizing locally. Keep it up, Carlisle! ∆

© 2009 The Carlisle Mosquito