The Burst of the Globalisation Bubble

12/07/2016 12:18 | Updated 12 July 2016

Until not long ago, globalisation seemed like an inevitable trend for contemporary world; a state of affairs we were all steering towards. Cheap travel, social media, exchange programs, all new forms of connectivity fuelled this perception of the world as a global village. All races, languages, cultures mixing and mingling in one big pot. Maybe not melting but at least a mingling pot with shared cultural knowledge.

Globalisation was never associated with class, background, origin or any other social factors. It was out there, like another natural element, that defined relationships between human beings in the modern world. It was perceived as something that brought humanity closer, perhaps at the expense of local identities and cultures.

Growing up in Eastern Europe, that was still drunk on the freedoms after the recent fall of the USSR - globalisation was something beyond cool. We had international teen magazines at our school library, our parents enjoyed the idea that (unlike them) we could dance to Spice Girls like the rest of the world and go to international camps, acquire foreign friends and eventually grow up to become global citizens who would work between New York and Paris. Something they couldn't do, unless they defected the Soviet Union fearing for their lives and accepting eternal separation from family and friends.

Now, I realise, that we mistook the technological developments that allowed easier travel and access to information for united humanity. Today, my experience has shown that the world is totally unglobalised, fragmented and disconnected. Globalisation is not a trend in society, it's a mindset that's determined by a person's experience, opportunities and background.

I started having an inkling that this was the case when I moved to live in "Western" Europe twelve years ago. I didn't expect that as a Russian-Latvian, my culture would be so unknown and ridiculed. I started feeling that globalisation was a one-way street and I had to be a human National Geographic channel for my country and my people. At that point, I started developing my social network to be composed of informed people, open to other cultures and foreign experiences.

Social media doesn't help either. You design your social space and furnish it with like-minded people. If you look at your Facebook or Twitter accounts, naturally, your wall is filled with people who have similar experiences and backgrounds. You will never (or rarely) expand your horizons through social media. It is, actually, the most restricting way to consume information or be connected.

I won't even start talking about Africa. I thought Eastern Europe was a dead zone, but since I've been working in East Africa, I personally experienced how this huge continent with so many languages, cultures and lifestyles has never even entered the globalisation pot.

Of course, Brexit prompted these thoughts. I didn't want to make it the core of this article, it doesn't deserve it. It was the last drop in the ocean. The last link that only proved that my experience of disconnectedness was true. As Alexander Betts puts it in his spectacular TED Talk on Brexit, globalisation took some of us on the journey with it but left many people behind.

In turns out globalisation is not a trend but a club and call me naive, but I didn't know it. And there are loads of people out there who are not part of it and are scared of this club. In the globalisation club people are tolerant and diverse, curious about each other and respectful. They marry out of their race and culture, because they think mixed race only makes us stronger and more beautiful. They preserve their origins and traditions but they learn languages and look for opportunities and integrate in other continents.

What's worrying is that I don't understand those who are not part of this club or what made them decide to not be part of it. Or did they actually decide? A few weeks ago in Kampala, I sat around a table with a Rwandan, a Ugandan and an Australian. I was unwinding the steps of how I got to sit at that table, calling such a diverse bunch of people my friends. And it took me the whole way back to my pre-school years when my Russian Mother started speaking English to me and giving me foreign literature to read.

Hang on, was I born to become a global citizen? Is it a privilege, a choice or education? I don't have an answer to this question yet. But something tells me the answers to these questions will help us communicate with those outside the club and maybe allow them to be part of it. They might eventually accept some form of membership.