What does it mean to belong to a global world?
I’m typing this at around 39,000 feet en route to visit a dear friend in Rome. It’s the second time this year that I’ve done this trip as well as visits to Tirana and Prague under my belt. Across March and April, my colleague will fly to NYC, San Diego, Mauritius, back to NYC, back to San Diego and then potentially another NYC trip at the beginning of May. All of our trips are a mixture of business and pleasure and our collective air mileage is startling; let alone our carbon footprint.
We are deeply privileged, my colleague and I, to see so much of the world, to meet so many people, to experience so many things. But what does it mean to belong to a global world when that world comes to us instead?
I’ve long been thinking about this issue, how when I travel abroad I’m a tourist with very little responsibility. I must behave myself appropriately in public, not becoming a “lewd Brit abroad”, that sort of thing, but I’m absolved of any real responsibility to the country in which I’m visiting. In fact, in many economically developing countries I’m actively discouraged in giving to those who are begging on the street or those who clearly need medical assistance. On trips to India and Cambodia for both work and tourism I’ve been told not to give, even when the need is visibly great, for gangs taking advantage of the impoverished are many and my First World guilt money is not the way to solve such a widespread issue.
But what then for when I’m on home soil? Who takes responsibility for the rough sleepers, the zero-hour contractors and the shift-working parents? Certainly not our esteemed Conservative government, who continue to line the pockets of big businesses, their old University chums and tax-avoiders. Who takes responsibility for the refugees who, if they manage to break free from the endless cycle of poverty in Calais’ Jungle, find themselves in an angry and suspicious Britain, isolated from their children, wider family and friends?
The world is shrinking; my travel exploits are testimony to that. In under 12 hours I can be on the West Coast of America, in under 24 I can literally be on the other side of the world in Australia. And it’s getting cheaper to do so, with the boom of budget airlines, the world is becoming more and more accessible to more and more people. Countries are also opening up and welcoming people in. Secretive nations of years gone by such as Albania and Myanmar are opening their doors to the world, even North Korea allows a certain number of supervised tourists in a year.
But globalisation is also occurring thanks to the technological leaps and bounds of the last decade alone. Regardless of whether I actually choose to visit another country or not, I can communicate with the rest of the world literally at the press of a button; and most cost effectively too. It is a normal for me to place a call to New York as it is to contact my parents in East Sussex. I can WhatsApp my best friends in Tirana and Rome in the same way that I can send a text to ask my partner what he wants for dinner when he’s less than a mile away at work.
We are being brought closer and closer together every day, worlds are colliding on a global scale and cultures are having to figure out how we are to live together in this ever changing landscape. The wealthy and privileged can no longer cut themselves off from the poor, they cannot disregard those who are literally or figuratively on the doorstep any longer.
When Jesus was asked “who is my neighbour?” he responded in a startling fashion. His life and ministry were for the disadvantaged, the isolated, the impoverished and the broken. When David Cameron stands up at Easter and applauds our Christian nation, I do not know which Christ it is that he speaks of. His Christianity sees the rich take from the NHS, the rich fuel suspicion and war by continuing our nuclear weapons program, the rich take advantage of the young who seek further education and the rich choose profit above the lives of innocents in the Middle East. When we follow these paths, we do not follow the broken and humiliated incarnate God but an Emperor of times long gone, driven by power and domination, not by love and self-sacrifice.
I guess it’s easy for me to say, as I now begin my descent into Rome for a few days of wedding planning with dear friends. It’s easy for me to question what it means to be a follower of Christ in a truly global world, it’s less easy to actually do anything about it.
We all must accept that with great globalisation comes great responsibility. What does that mean practically? Well, if you have the answer then let me know.