What began as “several cases of unusual pneumonia” in Wuhan, China towards the end of last year, to shortly thereafter become a public health emergency there, has within a few months turned into a growing global pandemic.
Sad and frightening as this is, it is a reminder, even if a grim one, of what the world was predicted to become — a global village. With the world less than 36 hours apart by air travel, nothing better demonstrates the inherent danger that comes with the world as we now have it than the threats that come with the rapid transportation of viruses and their vectors from one part of the world to another through air travel.
The world has never been this inter-connected. While the airplane gave us wings to fly from one end of the world to the other, international television, with the live broadcast of news and events from every and anywhere, is further reducing the world, and bringing us together, even while also pulling us apart, in its own way. But it is the internet that has radically shrunk the world to the point that by virtue of convergence, we now carry the world around in our palms, bags and pockets. An event in one part of the world resonates in another, such that the world suddenly becomes one in pain, grief, joy, anxiety or panic, as these have presently gripped the globe, in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
It should be apparent now, to those who had been in doubt that we are all one, after all. By now, those who think otherwise should have realised that we are all holed up in one cave, even if in different parts of it. We are all in one cave and we all have to tread with caution for the sake of our survival. Terrorism, migration and disease sit on one of the multi-dimensional boards around which the mighty and the not-so-mighty, of necessity, must engage and cooperate.
The world has become a multi-dimensional board with multiple dimensions to it WITH overlapping interconnections. One might be the master on one board with military hardware or economic might but vulnerable to a minuscule power or even a non-state actor on another board. It is a different world now.
One can only hope that the coronavirus does not trigger such a devastating effect on the global economy, but we must take on-board that the world is no longer a village, it is now a cave and we are all in it. In this sense, power becomes a positive-sum game. It is not enough to think in terms of power over others. We must also think in terms of power to accomplish goals that involve power with others. On many transnational issues, empowering others can help us to accomplish our own goals. In this world, networks and connectedness become an important source of relevant power.
We must embrace the world for what it is or has become, to be able to think our way out of where we have found ourselves. We must pray that the world learns and embraces the right lessons. This time calls for a change of mindset, strategy and tools for engagement for even the most powerful.