What characterizes our Times?

3 views
Skip to first unread message

Sam Carana

unread,
Apr 3, 2007, 5:51:44 AM4/3/07
to Humanities
What characterizes our Times? I recently asked friends to name for
things that were most characteristic of the times we live in now.
Here's the top ten answers I got.

1. Global Warming

Global warming and climate change loom large as challenges faced by
everyone on Earth. Will this unite the world into taking a joint
approach to combat the problems? Or will it divide the world? We seem
to have moved beyond an earlier split between those who acknowledged
and those who denied the need for action. The issue now is how to
implement action.

2. Terrorism

The US has troops all over the world, but who is the enemy? Wars used
to be fought between countries. Nowadays. conflicts are fought out
between groups within a country. The question is whether such
conflicts can be contained within a country. Fears are that terrorists
will increasingly strike globally to make their point.

3. Globalisation

McDonalds restaurants are everywhere, all over the world. You can walk
through shopping malls anywhere in the world and there's little
difference. Shoe shops in such malls were made in China, designed in
the US, carry an Italian brand name, while the profits go to a bank
account on the Bermudas. Trade has more and more global aspects and
there's no indication that this trend is reversing.

4. Air travel

Not only is trade going global, people are becoming mobile
globetrotters, backpackers holding multiple passports. In the old
days, only travelers, sailors and pilgrims had stories to tell about
distant countries (migrants don't count, they traveled one way only!)
Nowadays, tourists, diplomats, business people and students all fly
happily abroad, to return within weeks, sometimes days. People love to
fly. Despite the threat of terrorism and despite the concerns for
global warming, airlines keep moving more people between cities,
countries and continents. As airports become the hub of modern
society, entire cities start emerging around them.

5. Competition

It's the economy, stupid! It's some politicians' favorite phrase.
Finance, free trade, deregulation and competition policy seem to
dominate the agenda in many newspapers. Demographic changes,
immigration and changes in lifestyle have huge impacts on the economy,
making many people call for political action. Are we now living in the
Economic Society? With communism in retreat, has economics and
competition policy become the dominant ideology?

6. Urbanization

In what must count as the biggest population moves in history, a large
part of China's rural population has moved to settle in cities along
the coastline. Urbanization is happening all over the world. Big
cities keep on growing, while rural areas become less-densely
populated. Does the city skyline most symbolize modern times?

7. Drug-resistant diseases

AIDS, Avian influenza, TB and other bacteria that have become
resistant to anti-biotics. Some pretty scary pictures emerge on TV
from time to time, as diseases break out in one part of the world. In
today's global society with growing international air-travel, it seems
ever harder to stop new diseases from crossing borders and spreading
globally.

8. Science and Technology

All over the world, science and technology changes people's lives at
ever more rapid pace. New diseases call for new medical technology.
With more old people than ever populating most countries, the market
for new drugs and cures seems insatiable. Old people seek to extend
their lives, while young people may face the challenge of infertility.
Genetic engineering and bio-technology promise plants to cope with
climate change and yield higher crops for food and bio-fuel. Nowhere
is the impact of technology more apparent than in the merging areas of
computers and communications. Smart people now carry smartphones,
complete with camera, Internet access and GPS. Will the Internet turn
all of us into scientists?

9. Power of the individual

In the old days, people felt part of their family, of the place where
they worked, of a trade union and the same people they met every day.
They had the same friends since they went to school together.
Nowadays, people move more frequently, out of these traditional
networks. Families have become small, rather than extended. One person
can run a company from home. All this empowers the individual. The
challenge is for people to find things to identify with and ways to
interconnect and have a social life.

10. Decreasing relevance of the Nation-State

Are international treaties making the nation-state irrelevant? Given
that all the above points reflect global issues that seem to cross
national borders with increasing ease, does this mean the end of the
nation-state?

Indeed, I wonder if others who compiled a list of ten issues that most
characterized our times would come up with many different issues. Seen
in this light, is the nation-state the best instrument to tackle the
challenges posed by all these issues? Can we rely on political systems
that were designed to put the interest of the nation first, to
adequately deal with problems of a global nature? Can we rely on
national politics to solve global problems? Worse, is the rise in
prominence of all these global issues perhaps the result of an over-
reliance on national politics?

If national politics is indeed in decline, what will replace it?
Localism? World Government? Chaos and anarchy? Dog-eat-dog? Global
politics? The latter is an oxymoron as long as politics remains
inherently national. Perhaps the biggest challenge of our times is to
find coherent ways of dealing with global problems, without delegating
that task to national politicians and without relying too much on the
Nation-State model of politics to solve those problems. We need to
come up with modern responses to modern problems. How can we claim to
promote competition in the light of a declining bio-diversity? How can
the Internet create new ways of politics, such as digital voting,
opinion polling and lodging protests? We need all the imagination of
webdesigners, writers, film producers, artists and product designers
to visualize, articulate and otherwise express ideas, using the media
of our times to point at solutions that fit our times. Let's redesign
politics to fit our modern times.

nominal9

unread,
Apr 3, 2007, 7:45:42 PM4/3/07
to Humanities
A worthy topic, Mr. Carana. But one that I do not have much hope for.
I think, rather, realistically the likely course for world events is
toward some sort of "equalization" of power..... Everyone (States or
Peoples) getting some sort of "weapons" parity. Then, the world can
proceed from there. "Progress", as in international commerce, is
pretty much a given, at this point. There is not one country in the
world so "primitive" or societally/ideologically stunted as to
forswear or forsake Mass Materialistic Consumerism.... whether that is
Good or Bad, is another issue... But as to the rest of it? Some sort
of "utopian' world order???? I doubt that. Maybe some commercial
unions.... EU.... North America.... China.... Russia(alone or aligned
with EU?)....with "treaty" or trade agreements between and among
themselves. And, of course, a lagging "Third World".... that is the
sad part.
nominal4

Sam Carana

unread,
Apr 4, 2007, 1:48:00 AM4/4/07
to human...@googlegroups.com
Hi Nomlnal, thanks for that feedback. 
I remain an optimist in the sense that I do see progress in a lot of areas, but a lot of decisions hinge on having matters thought through a lot and considering the various scenarios. If I can contribute a little bit in that by bringing up some points, that's already reward enough for me personally.  

Cheers!
Sam Carana

nominal9

unread,
Apr 5, 2007, 2:03:11 PM4/5/07
to Humanities
> Hi Nomlnal, thanks for that feedback.
> I remain an optimist in the sense that I do see progress in a lot of areas,
> but a lot of decisions hinge on having matters thought through a lot and
> considering the various scenarios. If I can contribute a little bit in that
> by bringing up some points, that's already reward enough for me
> personally.
>
****
Me too.... I like optimism. I, myself, try to go about it..... maybe,
culturally.... If "we" can get enough people to, not necessarily,
think the same things, ideologically... but to be "able" to think
along each others' lines.... maybe there is some room for.... mutual
understanding?
nominal9

On Apr 4, 1:48 am, "Sam Carana" <sam.car...@gmail.com> wrote:
> Hi Nomlnal, thanks for that feedback.
> I remain an optimist in the sense that I do see progress in a lot of areas,
> but a lot of decisions hinge on having matters thought through a lot and
> considering the various scenarios. If I can contribute a little bit in that
> by bringing up some points, that's already reward enough for me
> personally.
>
> Cheers!
> Sam Carana
>

> > > politics to fit our modern times.- Hide quoted text -
>
> - Show quoted text -

Sam Carana

unread,
Apr 5, 2007, 10:59:24 PM4/5/07
to human...@googlegroups.com
On 4/6/07, nominal9 <nomi...@yahoo.com> wrote:

> Hi Nomlnal, thanks for that feedback.
> I remain an optimist in the sense that I do see progress in a lot of areas,
> but a lot of decisions hinge on having matters thought through a lot and
> considering the various scenarios. If I can contribute a little bit in that
> by bringing up some points, that's already reward enough for me
> personally.
>
****
Me too.... I like optimism. I, myself, try to go about it..... maybe,
culturally.... If "we" can get enough people to, not necessarily,
think the same things, ideologically... but to be "able" to think
along each others' lines.... maybe there is some room for.... mutual
understanding?
nominal9
 
 
I agree. There should be room for people to be different, in fact, diversity should be cherished.
If we agree on that, in principle, then we should also instill such principles into government.
A government that truly respected diversity would act to establish more diversity, in principle.
Instead, I see too many governments establishing monopolies to cement their grip over society.
 
Cheers!
Sam Carana

 
Reply all
Reply to author
Forward
0 new messages