This post has been inspired after reading the Guardian article Globalisation Once Made the World Go Around. Is it About to Grind to a Halt?
We’ve all been caught off-guard by the big political events of 2016. Brexit was a surprise at home and in the international community; a lot of those who voted to leave the EU didn’t actually see it coming. And then there’s President Trump; who knew that he would come from the back of the pack to winning the US presidential election? Any doubt about his motives were put aside after his inauguration speech and the recent ban on immigrants entering the country. He is cutting off from the world and putting America first. So where does this leave globalisation and what does it mean to how millennials will bring up their children?
The millennial parent has grown up in a world of increasing globalisation.
For those born from the 1980s onwards we have only ever known life inside the European Union. We barely remember the last days of the Cold War, but we may recollect images of the Berlin Wall coming down. This was a world of increasing technical connection, with the advent of the world wide web, instantaneous access to information and communication. I presumed this would simply continue; that I was a global citizen and the UK was a global hub where people came together and did business. I assumed this was a world that my daughter would inherit when she becomes an adult in 2030.
And then 2016 happened and we have started to witness the end of the 20th century globalisation experiment.
My daughter is four years old and she will only know a UK outside the European Union. She will spend the next four years of her life learning about and hearing from a President of the United States who preaches protectionism and division with the words “America First”. And she will see as other European countries start to challenge the system and shout “[My country] first!
How do we explain this new world to our children? More importantly, how do we prepare them for it?
Whatever our views there’s no sense debating the outcome. We simply have to move forward. With hindsight, I think the backlash against globalisation is entirely natural and we should have looked out for it. We are not solitary animals. We live in family units of 2, 3, and 4+ in our homes around the world. We choose to join with other family units through friendships, shared interests and backgrounds and through these we form communities. We are part of local regions, each with their own sense of identity. And on a wider scale we live in societies with elected governments. Those governments then represent us as whole and make decisions on our behalf.
The problems come when our sense of belonging, so important to the family unit, is removed and the decisions and powers that govern us become centralised.
People have seen this form of swift globalisation and seen their choices and powers eroded. Take the wonky banana story as an example. I think the world is being pushed together too fast and people are beginning to revolt against it. It’s not that people want to be apart from the rest of the world, but their core sense of identity has been degraded. People want to be connected to others but they’re not ready to be thrust together quite so soon; we still have too many differences.
So how do we prepare our children for the years ahead?
The UK is out of the EU and our country has to renegotiate its relationships not just with our European neighbours but also with other countries around the world. It may take many years and the children of millennial parents may even be adults by the time it’s sorted. But it may never be truly sorted. Maybe this isn’t a bad thing; it will force us to look at the world afresh and decide how we want to engage with others. In order to help our children grow into this new world, we must be increasingly engaged with one another. We should make an effort to show them the world from another point of view. This doesn’t mean simply googling information on other cultures and interests, rather we must make an effort to meet people from all different backgrounds. We should teach them the importance of working with others and cooperating. We should tell them to be proud of who they are, to have a sense of identity and belonging, and an obligation to live their values. We hear a lot about the importance of patriotism from people like Trump. Pride in your country is a good thing as long as it’s not at the denigration of others. Our children should have pride in the good that their country does in the world, not just in how powerful their country is.
The first attempt at globalisation in the 20th century was a good start but it hasn’t quite worked out yet.
Maybe it was forced on people too soon. The millennial parent has grown up in a semi-globalised world but now we’re back to the drawing board. If we bring up our children to be global citizens, they will hopefully make positive decisions when they are in charge. So let’s look forward, not back. And outwards, not in.