The movement of planetary integration that five decades ago we began calling'globalization' has recently entered a new phase of acceleration. Like manyothers in the West, Americans have long known the day would come whenthey would have to treat the Chinese as equals. What they have had tocome to grips with in the past five years is that this would not waituntil 2040 or 2050 to happen -- the day has come and gone. And the Chinese are not justtheir equals. They have become their bankers -- with the unprecedented levelof interdependency that entails.
Why are we collectively failing to grasp the extent of this paradigm shiftand its far-reaching consequences?
First of all, because the West has a de facto monopoly on the narrative ofglobalization. We talk of an increasingly multipolar world, use acronyms(BRICs, CIVETS), concepts (emerging, multipolar), regions (Asia, LatinAmerica) or countries, as if the simple fact of uttering these words allowedus to truly grasp the magnitude and permanent nature of the changes at hand.
This quasi-monopoly has led us to think that what is happening at the momentis a crisis -- one that the West will emerge from still in the globaldriver's seat. Is it really?
For two-thirds of humanity today, the series of events the West has beenreferring to as a "crisis" since 2007 simply aren't so. At worst, economicgrowth is slowing -- but still to double the average Western rate. The Westhas also dominated the global conversation more broadly, its leaderseven sometimes equating the financial crisis with a "crisis of globalization".
This too is false -- and Eurocentric.
Trade and investment between Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, SouthAsia, and the Far East has risen in many connections by over 1000 percent inthe past decade (yes, one thousand percent). Globalization simply doesnot cease to exist as a result of its no longer being driven byAmerica and Europe.
The second major issue with our current global narrative is that we havekept it largely faceless and nameless. We still live in a world where on theone hand there is Bill Gates and Angela Merkel, Barack Obama and Madonna,Oprah Winfrey and David Cameron, and on the other "the Chinese," "theIndians" and "the Brazilians." The new actors of globalization aren'tconcepts or acronyms; they aren't even regions or countries. They areindividual women and men, and it is time we became acquainted withthem.
Chinese, India, Arab, African billionaires are also generousphilanthropists in their countries and worldwide, even if they don'tsign Bill Gates' "Giving Pledge" or make the front page of the NewYork Times.
Beyond the daily impact on our world, a rebalancing act of planetarymagnitude is in the works. For the first time in five centuries,sixty-something white men from Western Europe and North America are nolonger calling all the shots across the globe. The balance isshifting: it takes only a few minutes in any major Asian airport tounderstand that the exclusive invitation-only party is over for theWest.
And takes just a few more minutes to understand this is only fair.
The third issue has to do with the crisis of the modern democratic processin a globalized age. Churchill once wrote that democracy was the worstpolitical system with the exception of every other form of government. Formost of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the issue of democracy wasabout people's self-determination and their right to live in a democraticstate. While Francis Fukuyama's The End of History has proved its limits, awhole new tension is emerging from the fundamental limitations of democraticgovernance. We are asking governments elected within the confines ofnation-states for four or five years at a time to adequately confrontissues (global warming, fishery depletion, energy supplies, water andfood shortages) which span the entire planet and require decades toadequately confront.
Western countries, particularly the United States, have abdicated the roleof consistent leader on these issues while often undermining theinternational bodies that would be the best stewards of the process.
In the meantime, electorates have not surprisingly begun to question whethertheir short-sighted governments should be entrusted with their own wealthand future, let alone that of the world.
So how to confront these new realities?
1. Continue to break the Western, quasi monopoly on the global narrative.For the world's sake but also the West's, the story of our planet needs tobe decentralized, which requires decentralizing information-gatheringand storytelling. Point-to-point journalism means an increasinglyholistic understanding of our world. Let us access more articles aboutIran coming from Austria or India. Give us more articles about miningin Mongolia by experts from Brazil. Learn about building advancedinfrastructure from the Turks. We need to enrich the current globalnarrative and give voice to the many who have been shut out oftraditional media structures.
2. Use all tools at our disposal to get acquainted with the people who arenewly-empowered. Where there aren't tools, let us build them and use all theplatforms available to connect and learn about the real lives of billionsonce on the periphery of Western empires and now becoming central toglobalization.
3. Use new transnational issue driven networks to advance the debate onglobal issues rather than waiting for the agenda to come fromWashington or Beijing. Whether UNITAID or the Clinton GlobalInitiative, new virtual and creative tools now allow for globalparticipation in fundraising and development spending.
Our global narrative is stale, and international dynamics are shiftingmore rapidly than most in the West recognize. Many of the countries werefer to as "emerging" no longer are -- they are well out of thecocoon. Information structures are evolving, traditional hierarchiescollapsing. This needs to happen faster: new times, not justcountries, are emerging.