Session 2 – A Small Global Village


As a species, we humans can survive only within a human society in which everyone works in and performs a certain role. Each has a certain place in society, and with that role, a unique place in the human mosaic is filled. And as human history is progressing over time, we see that we are becoming an evermore complex society where people are increasingly dependent on one another.

We make all kinds of transactions between one another today. We transfer money from bank to bank and from continent to continent, we send ships with all kinds of cargo to every corner of the world, and even if I examine the shirt I'm wearing, I will find that numerous countries took part in producing it and getting it to me for use—the raw materials, their various methods of processing, the design, the sewing, selling, shipment, pricing, advertising, and so on, and the coordination of all of these components together.

These examples demonstrate our growing interdependence today. We are already so accustomed to it all that we take these complex interconnections and dependencies for granted. Even though for now it may only seem to us that our interdependence is primarily commercial, and that it doesn't require any emotional participation on our part, more and more lately, we have begun to see that the interconnections among us have reached such depths of multidimensional dependence, that it requires us to reexamine this, and to participate and coordinate these dependencies with closer contact and a more thorough personal participation, care, and concern.

We are already so interconnected with one another that if something happens in one country, it immediately affects not only its neighbors, but all of the other countries, as well. It is with good reason that today countries allow themselves to interfere with what happens in other countries, or even to demand the replacement of the government, as if it's not its own sovereign state.

An example of such a case is Syria. Countries from all over the world criticize it and ask, "How can you kill your own citizens like that? What is happening to you?" And the Syrian president cannot resist these inquiries, as if it's not his country and he is not its ruler.

Thus, it is clear to us that the interdependence among countries is now a given, and it obligates all of us together. This is why countries come with demands to the various international organizations, since without them we wouldn't be able to participate and exist in trade, science, culture, or anything else. If we want to live in a good way together, we must work to develop a level of culture, education, and approach to life throughout the world that is very similar to one another.

Over the past several decades, tourism has greatly developed and today many of us travel from country to country on a regular basis. It is no coincidence that countries have become much closer to each other in their way of life and worldview. We are all fed by the same few TV networks and news broadcasts, and we have had virtual connection over the internet for approximately 20 years now. Soon we will even be able to communicate without any language barriers at all by using simultaneous interpretation programs. Thus, even those without an understanding of English, the international language, will still be able to be connected with everyone.

Studies indicate that today we are so interconnected that through four people (it used to be six), any person in the world is connected to any other person on Earth. It is almost as if we're holding hands with the entire world.

Today countries cannot do whatever they want, even in their own soil, since we all know that by changing the composition of the land, it might change the balance with the entire  Earth's interior, which will affect not only its neighbors, but also further countries throughout the world. This is why many countries made agreements on various topics such as the world's fisheries and other various natural areas where there is the danger that our actions might harm one another, and the world that we share. Each country now has its own quota of toxic gasses that it is permitted to emit into the atmosphere, and quotas for exploiting other natural resources.

In other words, we are beginning to feel more and more that we are living together on one common Earth, that it is our common home, and within it we are all interconnected and interdependent. This is why, if we want to survive, we can no longer do whatever we want to our common home.

Regretably though, we are still continuing to evolve in an egoistic manner, where we are not as considerate of each other and our environment as we need to be, and we do not yet really feel that we are interconnected.

We have even abused the space around our planet. We've sent all kinds of spaceships into outer space, and have already caused significant disorders there in the process. There are numerous chunks of debris and particles in varying sizes floating lifelessly in space now. Sometimes we hear from our scientists that if there is the slightest malfunction or collision of this space junk, it could fall on any one of us at any given moment, or collide with a spaceship or satellite on its way to or from Earth.

There have also been some unpleasant natural phenomena lately, such as the volcanic eruption in Iceland that affected all of Europe, all the way to Siberia, shutting down the majority of airports on the continent. Likewise, the March 2011 tsunami that hit the nuclear power station in Japan affected the entire world, and made everyone rethink whether or not to construct new nuclear power stations, and perhaps to even stop the development of existing nuclear power plants.

Clearly, today no country can establish its own interior policy, much less a foreign policy without taking into consideration hundreds of other international factors. In each and every decision that each country makes, it must consider the effects it will have on the entire world. This is true for even the strongest countries, which now also must calculate their every decision carefully, since we are all so interdependent, that any change in any country will influence all the others.


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In recent years, we have become dependent upon each other on an international, global scale.

Main Points

  • Each and every one of us fulfills a particular function in human society, and therefore all are dependent upon everyone.
  • Over the years of human history, people and society have become more and more interdependent.


"This article proposes to go deeper into complex interdependence. The world is becoming increasingly 'information interdependent' and this essay is an attempt to apply the assumptions and concepts presented in complex interdependence to the information age."

Scientific Article published in Information, Communication & Society, Volume 3, Issue 3, 2000: "INFORMATION INTERDEPENDENCE: Keohane and Nye's Complex Interdependence in the Information Age"

"This convergence of disciplines reveals the social, transportation and technological networks that make up our world. These networks are, ultimately, made up of individuals. Individuals in turn relate back to the networks and define how they operate."

Book Excerpt - "Six-Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age"

"Communication technologies, including the invention of alphabetic writing, moveable type, and the electronic media from the telegraph to the telephone, radio, television, and networked personal computer have increased the unification of the world into a cosmopolitan web of competition and cooperation."

Book - "The Human Web: A Bird's-eye View of World History"

"The increase in complexity is directly related to sweeping changes in the structure and dynamics of human civilization—the increasing interdependence of the global economic and social system, and the instabilities of dictatorships, communism and corporate hierarchies. Our complex social environment is consistent with identifying global human civilization as an organism capable of complex behavior that protects its components (us) and which should be capable of responding effectively to complex environmental demands."

Report -"Complexity Rising: From Human Beings to Human Civilization, a Complexity Profile," in Encyclopedia of Life Support Systems, (United Nations, Oxford, UK, 2002); also NECSI Report 1997-12-01 (December 1997)

Engage Yourself

Question 1: Many researchers have proven the dependence and interconnection between economies, between nations, between societies, and even between all forms of life.  In his book, "What is Globalization," Ulrich Beck, a Sociology professor at the University of Munich in Germany, succinctly describes this principle:

" Globality means that from now on nothing which happens on our planet is only a limited local event; all inventions, victories and catastrophes affect the whole world, and we must reorient and reorganize our lives and actions, our organizations and institutions, along a 'local-global' axis."

a. Can you recall additional research studies presented in previous lessons of this course that emphasize this same principle?  Please write the name of the researcher and a brief description of the subject of the research:
1. Researcher Name: _____________________________________
    On the subject of:___________________________________
2. Researcher Name: _____________________________________
    On the subject of:___________________________________

b. What is shared by the three studies mentioned above? (The first of Ulrich Beck, and the additional two that you mentioned?)

Question 2: What is the feeling that has developed in recent years among people throughout the world?

Question 3: Here is a quotation from the transcript text of this session:

"In other words, we are beginning to feel more and more that we are living together on one common Earth, that it is our common home, and within it we are all interconnected and interdependent. This is why, if we want to survive, we can no longer do whatever we want to our common home."

a.  How much do you identify with what is said?  (1 – don't identify at  all 5 – identify very much):

b. Please explain your feeling about this and why you selected your above rating?

c. In your family, can every one of the members of the household do whatever s/he wants?

Question 4: In 2011, strong rains visited southern Thailand, causing severe flooding, even in the capitol city of Bangkok.  What happened as a result of the floods?  You are invited to discover the ripple effects throughout the world of this flooding, by reading the following article

What is the connection between the article and the content of this lesson?

Question 5: Have fun with this next exercise! Please choose an article of clothing that you are wearing right now (shoes, shirt, pants, and even socks).

a. I chose the following article of clothing:

b. Your mission is to research as best you can, which countries participate in the various manufacturing processes for article of clothing, beginning with the stage of the origins of the raw materials that compose it, throughout its manufacturing, shipping, and selling processes, until it arrives to you at home. Please present your findings below.

c. Were you surprised by your research? What do you think is learned from this one item of clothing concerning our interconnectedness and interdependence?

d. Now we will conduct a small experiment.

Look again at the article of clothing that you are wearing and that you chose to research.  Has your relationship to it changed, since your research on its processes of manufacture?

If you selected "Other," please specify:

Question 6: Please view the following two short videos about the human impact on space [link to the first video here, if needed.]

[link to 2nd video here, if needed]

a. What kind of feelings were aroused in you while watching these videos? (mark all the possibilities with which you identify)

b. Please briefly explain why you feel this way (also, if you selected "other," please specify and explain):

c. The term "SPACE JUNK" has become quite widespread, and as you can see, the subject certainly merits maximum media exposure.

Can you find 1 or 2 additional clips that illustrate the influence of man in the environment of space, and how all the fragments of junk found in space are liable to impact all of humanity in the future? (copy the link/s to the video/s you found below)?

d. In your opinion, what improvement can be made for all humanity and our world, if we begin to think about the consequences of waste disposal in space, and if we begin to feel the interdependence that exists between us and space?

Question 7: In the following lecture video clip, Dr. Gordon Brown, prime minister of Britain from 2007–2010, explains about a new future for the world.  Below, watch the video clip of his lecture and answer the following questions:

a. Summarize from the words of Brown regarding how a nation, like Britain, needs to behave in the new future? What relationship does he expect it to have in regard to other nations?

b. In Gordon Brown's TED Talk in 2009, "Wiring a Web for Global Good," he says:

"Climate change cannot be solved in one country, but has got to be solved by the world working together. A financial crisis, just as we have seen, could not be solved by America alone or Europe alone; it needed the world to work together. Take the problems of security and terrorism and, equally, the problem of human rights and development: they cannot be solved by Africa alone; they cannot be solved by America or Europe alone. We cannot solve these problems unless we work together.

So the great project of our generation, it seems to me, is to build for the first time, out of a global ethic and our global ability to communicate and organize together, a truly global society, built on that ethic but with institutions that can serve that global society and make for a different future."

You can view this wonderful TED Talk below, before answering the final question for this session. [link to video here, if needed.]


Can I say how delighted I am to be away from the calm of Westminster and Whitehall? (Laughter)

This is Kim, a nine-year-old Vietnam girl, her back ruined by napalm, and she awakened the conscience of the nation of America to begin to end the Vietnam War. This is Birhan, who was the Ethiopian girl who launched Live Aid in the 1980s, 15 minutes away from death when she was rescued, and that picture of her being rescued is one that went round the world. This is Tiananmen Square. A man before a tank became a picture that became a symbol for the whole world of resistance. This next is the Sudanese girl, a few moments from death, a vulture hovering in the background, a picture that went round the world and shocked people into action on poverty. This is Neda, the Iranian girl who was shot while at a demonstration with her father in Iran only a few weeks ago, and she is now the focus, rightly so, of the YouTube generation.

And what do all these pictures and events have in common? What they have in common is what we see unlocks what we cannot see. What we see unlocks the invisible ties and bonds of sympathy that bring us together to become a human community. What these pictures demonstrate is that we do feel the pain of others, however distantly. What I think these pictures demonstrate is that we do believe in something bigger than ourselves. What these pictures demonstrate is that there is a moral sense across all religions, across all faiths, across all continents -- a moral sense that not only do we share the pain of others, and believe in something bigger than ourselves but we have a duty to act when we see things that are wrong that need righted, see injuries that need to be corrected, see problems that need to be rectified.

There is a story about Olof Palme, the Swedish Prime Minister, going to see Ronald Reagan in America in the 1980s. Before he arrived Ronald Reagan said -- and he was the Swedish Social Democratic Prime Minister -- "Isn't this man a communist?" The reply was, "No, Mr President, he's an anti-communist." And Ronald Reagan said, "I don't care what kind of communist he is!" (Laughter) Ronald Reagan asked Olof Palme, the Social Democratic Prime Minister of Sweden, "Well, what do you believe in? Do you want to abolish the rich?" He said, "No, I want to abolish the poor." Our responsibility is to let everyone have the chance to realize their potential to the full.

I believe there is a moral sense and a global ethic that commands attention from people of every religion and every faith, and people of no faith. But I think what's new is that we now have the capacity to communicate instantaneously across frontiers right across the world. We now have the capacity to find common ground with people who we will never meet, but who we will meet through the Internet and through all the modern means of communication; that we now have the capacity to organize and take collective action together to deal with the problem or an injustice that we want to deal with; and I believe that this makes this a unique age in human history, and it is the start of what I would call the creation of a truly global society.

Go back 200 years when the slave trade was under pressure from William Wilberforce and all the protesters. They protested across Britain. They won public opinion over a long period of time. But it took 24 years for the campaign to be successful. What could they have done with the pictures that they could have shown if they were able to use the modern means of communication to win people's hearts and minds?

Or if you take Eglantyne Jebb, the woman who created Save the Children 90 years ago. She was so appalled by what was happening in Austria as a result of the First World War and what was happening to children who were part of the defeated families of Austria, that in Britain she wanted to take action, but she had to go house to house, leaflet to leaflet, to get people to attend a rally in the Royal Albert Hall that eventually gave birth to Save the Children, an international organization that is now fully recognized as one of the great institutions in our land and in the world. But what more could she have done if she'd had the modern means of communications available to her to create a sense that the injustice that people saw had to be acted upon immediately?

Now look at what's happened in the last 10 years. In Philippines in 2001, President Estrada -- a million people texted each other about the corruption of that regime, eventually brought it down and it was, of course, called the "coup de text." (Laughter) Then you have in Zimbabwe the first election under Robert Mugabe a year ago. Because people were able to take mobile phone photographs of what was happening at the polling stations, it was impossible for that Premier to fix that election in the way that he wanted to do. Or take Burma and the monks that were blogging out, a country that nobody knew anything about that was happening, until these blogs told the world that there was a repression, meaning that lives were being lost and people were being persecuted and Aung San Suu Kyi, who is one of the great prisoners of conscience of the world, had to be listened to. Then take Iran itself, and what people are doing today: following what happened to Neda, people who are preventing the security services of Iran finding those people who are blogging out of Iran, any by everybody who is blogging, changing their address to Tehran, Iran, and making it difficult for the security services.

Take, therefore, what modern technology is capable of: the power of our moral sense allied to the power of communications and our ability to organize internationally.

That, in my view, gives us the first opportunity as a community to fundamentally change the world. Foreign policy can never be the same again. It cannot be run by elites; it's got to be run by listening to the public opinions of peoples who are blogging, who are communicating with each other around the world. 200 years ago the problem we had to solve was slavery. 150 years ago I suppose the main problem in a country like ours was how young people, children, had the right to education. 100 years ago in most countries in Europe, the pressure was for the right to vote. 50 years ago the pressure was for the right to social security and welfare. In the last 50-60 years we have seen fascism, anti-Semitism, racism, apartheid, discrimination on the basis of sex and gender and sexuality; all these have come under pressure because of the campaigns that have been run by people to change the world.

I was with Nelson Mandela a year ago, when he was in London. I was at a concert that he was attending to mark his birthday and for the creation of new resources for his foundation. I was sitting next to Nelson Mandela -- I was very privileged to do so -- when Amy Winehouse came onto the stage. (Laughter) And Nelson Mandela was quite surprised at the appearance of the singer and I was explaining to him at the time who she was. Amy Winehouse said, "Nelson Mandela and I have a lot in common. My husband too has spent a long time in prison." (Laughter) Nelson Mandela then went down to the stage and he summarized the challenge for us all. He said in his lifetime he had climbed a great mountain, the mountain of challenging and then defeating racial oppression and defeating apartheid. He said that there was a greater challenge ahead, the challenge of poverty, of climate change -- global challenges that needed global solutions and needed the creation of a truly global society.

We are the first generation which is in a position to do this. Combine the power of a global ethic with the power of our ability to communicate and organize globally, with the challenges that we now face, most of which are global in their nature. Climate change cannot be solved in one country, but has got to be solved by the world working together. A financial crisis, just as we have seen, could not be solved by America alone or Europe alone; it needed the world to work together. Take the problems of security and terrorism and, equally, the problem of human rights and development: they cannot be solved by Africa alone; they cannot be solved by America or Europe alone. We cannot solve these problems unless we work together.

So the great project of our generation, it seems to me, is to build for the first time, out of a global ethic and our global ability to communicate and organize together, a truly global society, built on that ethic but with institutions that can serve that global society and make for a different future. We have now, and are the first generation with, the power to do this. Take climate change. Is it not absolutely scandalous that we have a situation where we know that there is a climate change problem, where we know also that that will mean we have to give more resources to the poorest countries to deal with that, when we want to create a global carbon market, but there is no global institution that people have been able to agree upon to deal with this problem? One of the things that has got to come out of Copenhagen in the next few months is an agreement that there will be a global environmental institution that is able to deal with the problems of persuading the whole of the world to move along a climate-change agenda.


One of the reasons why an institution is not in itself enough is that we have got to persuade people around the world to change their behavior as well, so you need that global ethic of fairness and responsibility across the generations. Take the financial crisis. If people in poorer countries can be hit by a crisis that starts in New York or starts in the sub-prime market of the United States of America. If people can find that that sub-prime product has been transferred across nations many, many times until it ends up in banks in Iceland or the rest in Britain, and people's ordinary savings are affected by it, then you cannot rely on a system of national supervision. You need in the long run for stability, for economic growth, for jobs, as well as for financial stability, global economic institutions that make sure that growth to be sustained has to be shared, and are built on the principle that the prosperity of this world is indivisible.

So another challenge for our generation is to create global institutions that reflect our ideas of fairness and responsibility, not the ideas that were the basis of the last stage of financial development over these recent years. Then take development and take the partnership we need between our countries and the rest of the world, the poorest part of the world. We do not have the basis of a proper partnership for the future, and yet, out of people's desire for a global ethic and a global society that can be done.

I have just been talking to the President of Sierra Leone. This is a country of six and a half million people, but it has only 80 doctors; it has 200 nurses; it has 120 midwives. You cannot begin to build a healthcare system for six million people with such limited resources.

Or take the girl I met when I was in Tanzania, a girl called Miriam. She was 11 years old; her parents had both died from AIDS, her mother and then her father. She was an AIDS orphan being handed across different extended families to be cared for. She herself was suffering from HIV; she was suffering from tuberculosis. I met her in a field, she was ragged, she had no shoes. When you looked in her eyes, any girl at the age of eleven is looking forward to the future, but there was an unreachable sadness in that girl's eyes and if I could have translated that to the rest of the world for that moment, I believe that all the work that it had done for the global HIV/AIDS fund would be rewarded by people being prepared to make donations.

We must then build a proper relationship between the richest and the poorest countries based on our desire that they are able to fend for themselves with the investment that is necessary in their agriculture, so that Africa is not a net importer of food, but an exporter of food.

Take the problems of human rights and the problems of security in so many countries around the world. Burma is in chains, Zimbabwe is a human tragedy, in Sudan thousands of people have died unnecessarily for wars that we could prevent. In the Rwanda Children's Museum, there is a photograph of a 10-year-old boy and the Children's Museum is commemorating the lives that were lost in the Rwandan genocide where a million people died.

There is a photograph of a boy called David. Beside that photograph there is the information about his life. It said "David, age 10." David: ambition to be a doctor. Favorite sport: football. What did he enjoy most? Making people laugh. How did he die? Tortured to death. Last words said to his mother who was also tortured to death: "Don't worry. The United Nations are coming." And we never did.

And that young boy believed our promises that we would help people in difficulty in Rwanda, and we never did.

So we have got to create in this world also institutions for peacekeeping and humanitarian aid, but also for reconstruction and security for some of the conflict-ridden states of the world. So my argument today is basically this. We have the means by which we could create a truly global society. The institutions of this global society can be created by our endeavors. That global ethic can infuse the fairness and responsibility that is necessary for these institutions to work, but we should not lose the chance in this generation, in this decade in particular, with President Obama in America, with other people working with us around the world, to create global institutions for the environment, and for finance, and for security and for development, that make sense of our responsibility to other peoples, our desire to bind the world together, and our need to tackle problems that everybody knows exist.

It is said that in Ancient Rome that when Cicero spoke to his audiences, people used to turn to each other and say about Cicero, "Great speech." But it is said that in Ancient Greece when Demosthenes spoke to his audiences, people turned to each other and didn't say "Great speech." They said, "Let's march." We should be marching towards a global society. Thank you.


If you were asked to summarize the ethics of Dr. Gordon Brown from both of these sources, and to convey them in a letter that you would write to the United Nations, how would you formulate it in your own words? *If you choose to do so, you may also integrate parts from the transcript text of this session that are connected to the words of Brown.