We are living turbulent times in which divisiveness, like a specter, is making its fearful presence apparent in the most unexpected places, in the most unexpected ways. The notion of a world changing at an unprecedented pace has become part and parcel of the mainstream discourse, and been overused to the point of eroding all substantial meaning, of becoming less than a truism, an empty shell without content.
But despite this notional inflation, globalization and its consequence, as unperceivable as the tide slowly reaching its high point, has continued its movement, eventually striking with the full force of its consequences those who forgot that behind the appearance of an empty shell is hiding one of the most powerful forces of change that the world has known. The phenomenon is incremental, and communities seemingly inadvertently affected try to react, often too late, eventually throwing a tantrum at all those who sold them the dream of interconnected world where all would live together, trade together, for the benefit of all—a utopia of sorts, the coming of which was simply a matter of time.
The matter of the fact is that the Greek triangle so dear to the prospective thinking has been amputated of two of its limbs, namely those of thought and action, leaving the stage to the logorrheic soliloquy of aimless speeches that are the bearing fruit of disappointment, frustration, and anger, when not that of a cynical political opportunism that feeds on these feelings and sacrifices decency to the benefit of a shot-lived enhanced visibility. At best, a disenchanted pragmatism ends up becoming the consensual attitude leading to more or less conscious suspiciousness, isolationism, and distancing towards alterity.
However, globalization, despite hardly being reversible, need not be the epitome of an upcoming doom. Neither need it mimic the pattern of a full-blown class struggle where the majority suffers the tyranny of the few that have learned to enhance the attributes of their capital beyond ownership towards mobility.
Despite the ambient gloom, it is still time to make the case for a healthy globalization, in which democracy, inclusiveness, and the protection of nature have a place (or better) are the core values of an interconnected, worldwide society. It is still time to do so, provided that the discourse that will bring about this realist utopia is grounded in scientific inquiry and empirical evidence that demonstrate not only possibility but also its plausibility. It is still time to do so if the image of the future it bears is that of shared aspirations which, were they to be changing with time, would be so through governance mechanisms in which the acknowledgement of fundamental constraints does not mean the muzzling of individuality. And provided those, it becomes a matter of ethics to mobilize energies towards actions aimed at bringing about the desired change.
Paul Raskin’s Journey to Earthland, beyond being an admirable example of technical rigor endowed with a literary style of rare quality is, maybe more importantly, an advocacy exercise in favor of human imagination and creativity and an eye-opening plea in defense of the idea of a peaceful, healthy, and happy globalized human community. Journey to Earthland projects the image of a realist utopia that the reading of which would benefit anyone, especially in the turbulent times we live, in which rationality too often is the victim of the noise of buzzing information, and in which the specter of divisiveness hides, almost in plain sight.
Alioune Sall is the Founder and Executive Director of the African Futures Institute, a Pan-African think-tank established in 2004 which specializes in foresight exercises, research, and capacity development. Previously, he worked at the United Nations Development Programme for more than twenty years, including a tenure as Regional Coordinator of the African Futures Program from 1997 to 2003.
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