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The challenges of living in the Global Village

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DURING THE LAST ten days or so this country was in a state of near panic as word spread about the deadly coronavirus.

Fifteen or 20 years ago it would not have been so. During the last ten days or so this country was in a state of near panic as word spread about the deadly coronavirus. Fifteen or 20 years ago it would not have been so.

We would have heard about it and concluded that it was far away from us. Today our context is now the global environment and we have to be cognizant of the fact that the world in which we live is being radically transformed by the digital revolution’s wide-ranging advances in communication, that have shrunk it into a global village. Thus, anything that happens in any part of the world, regardless of how remote, has to be monitored for possible impact on our lives.

This has many aspects to it. Before Independence Britain intervened for us, though not necessarily on our behalf, in the international community. In fact, even after we became an Associated State they still did, for although we were given control of our internal affairs, they retained control of Defence, and External Affairs, critical areas in navigating the international community.

After October 1979 we did what was expected of us and sought membership in international bodies, leading to our becoming a temporary member of the UN Security Council.

But even without Independence countries are still exposed to the dynamics of the Global Village in its many forms.

Today, Social Media, a product of the Digital Revolution, is ensuring that we stay connected.

We can no longer hide our dirty linen from public view, because anything that happens is picked up by people wherever they are. I imagine that when we secured a seat on the Security Council, persons all over the world would have been tearing their maps apart trying to find that small dot that represents SVG. They might have been assisted by knowledge that it was near to Mustique or the Grenadines, even without knowing that they are a part of us. The coronavirus issue would have reminded us that we are no remote isolated entity.

One of the major challenges has to do with the growth of social media to which we all have access in one form or the other.

It means that increasingly we get our information from different sources, some credible, some not so. But this is not limited to Social Media. The BBC in one of its news items on Wednesday made the point that a number of news websites incorrectly used a decade-old map to conclude that “no country was safe from coronavirus tentacles” and revealing “how thousands of Wuhan travellers could have spread coronavirus to 400 cities worldwide”.

How do we know what to believe, with a lot of fake news being spread either deliberately, carelessly, or unconsciously? This is of course a difficult, if not impossible, question to answer.

In our society almost everyone has access to either a computer, a mobile phone or tablet and is quite willing to pass on any information that comes to him/her. Our education has not provided us with the tools for critical thinking and we absorb whatever comes as if it was the “gospel truth”.

In this kind of situation those in authority have to ensure that information about any crisis or matters of national importance are provided as quickly as possible. Failure to do so will leave space for the propagation of rumours and false news. This is complicated by the fact that our people are increasingly losing confidence in what they hear from the political directorate.

But there are other areas with which we will have to grapple. The CDC’s Chairman’s comment that we do not have to be naked or revealing to sell our costumes. What levels of nakedness are we prepared to accept? Is it that we have to fall into the times? Is there room today for cultural appropriateness? Important questions that need discussion.

● Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian

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