Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The genie is out of the bottle: History/Modernity 101

“From the discovery of the wheel to the launch of the World Wide Web, key advancements have changed the way the human species lives.” [Top Ten Greatest Inventions that Changed the World, Lydia, 29th Sep 2014] 

What happened to the good old days? Man didn’t even need “clothing” until he was driven out of Eden? “Paper was invented in ancient China . . . Earlier materials used [papyrus, parchment, palm leaves] were expensive and in short supply, but paper [from wood, rags] could be processed everywhere and provided a cheaper alternative . . .” [Smith, op. cit.]

“Paper . . . is the biggest casualty of the decade. With most communication now conducted online . . . paper is now on serious life support . . . after a 2,000-year reign.” [21 Things That Became Obsolete This Decade, Bianca Male, Business Insider, 11th Dec 2009]

Should we turn back the hands of time? A friend tells the wife and writer that she’s traveling to the Philippines to visit their call-center service provider and get the latest batch they hired up to speed. “We have a US-domestic operation but prefer the Philippines. Our graduates won’t do call-center nor the night-shift. And the Philippine time zone is just perfect – and we get college-educated people at lower costs.” [If we don’t value insularity in the BPO industry, why don’t we go beyond? Confused or what?]

An Australian friend recently spent a week in the UK. “Globalization is good for you and me. But I met people that aren’t meant to be expatriates and felt Brexit is the only option for them.” Is globalization bad for the average Joe – which explains the Trump phenomenon, and the like? What about the big guys?

“Yahoo’s Sale to Verizon Ends an Era for a Web Pioneer,” Vindu Goel and Michael J. de la Merced, The New York Times, 24th Jul 2016. “Yahoo was the front door to the web for an early generation of internet users.

“But the internet is an unforgiving place for yesterday’s great idea . . . The board . . . has agreed to sell Yahoo’s core internet operations and land holdings to Verizon Communications for $4.8 billion . . . After the sale, Yahoo shareholders will be left with about $41 billion in investments in . . . Alibaba, Yahoo Japan and a small portfolio of patents. That compares with Yahoo’s peak value of more than $125 billion.

“Founded in 1994, Yahoo was one of the last independently operated pioneers of the web . . . Started as a directory of websites, the company was soon doing much more, offering searches, email, shopping and news . . . In the end, the company was done in by Google and Facebook . . . that figured out that survival required a continuous process of reinvention and staying ahead of the next big thing. Yahoo, which flirted with buying both companies . . . watched its fortunes sink as users moved on to apps and social networks.”

“From the iPhone to the Garmin, advancements and gadgets introduced this decade changed the whole world. They've affected how we live, do business, acquire information, and connect with others . . . In the process, a few things that once were considered social mainstays are now either obsolete or well on their way.” [Male, op. cit.]

Should we turn back the hands of time? Imagine if we never knew about the Top Ten Greatest Inventions that Changed the World: (1) Compass; (2) Internal combustion engine; (3) Computer; (4) Penicillin; (5) Wheel; (6) World Wide Web; (7) Light bulb; (8) Contraception; (9) Telephone; (10) Paper. [Smith, op. cit.]

And imagine old Europe. “The European Union is set up with the aim of ending the frequent and bloody wars between neighbors, which culminated in the Second World War. As of 1950, the European Coal and Steel Community begins to unite European countries economically and politically in order to secure lasting peace. The six founding countries are Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. The 1950s are dominated by a cold war between east and west. Protests in Hungary against the Communist regime are put down by Soviet tanks in 1956. In 1957, the Treaty of Rome creates the European Economic Community (EEC), or ‘Common Market’.

“The 1960s is a good period for the economy, helped by the fact that EU countries stop charging custom duties when they trade with each other. They also agree joint control over food production, so that everybody now has enough to eat – and soon there is even surplus agricultural produce. May 1968 becomes famous for student riots in Paris, and many changes in society and behavior become associated with the so-called ’68-generation’.

“Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom join the European Union on 1 January 1973, raising the number of Member States to nine. The short, yet brutal, Arab-Israeli war of October 1973 results in an energy crisis and economic problems in Europe. The last right-wing dictatorships in Europe come to an end with the overthrow of the Salazar regime in Portugal in 1974 and the death of General Franco of Spain in 1975. The EU regional policy starts to transfer huge sums of money to create jobs and infrastructure in poorer areas. The European Parliament increases its influence in EU affairs and in 1979 all citizens can, for the first time, elect their members directly. The fight against pollution intensifies in the 1970s.

“The Polish trade union, Solidarność, and its leader Lech Walesa, become household names across Europe and the world following the Gdansk shipyard strikes in the summer of 1980. In 1981, Greece becomes the 10th member of the EU, and Spain and Portugal follow five years later. In 1986 the Single European Act is signed. This is a treaty which provides the basis for a vast six-year program aimed at sorting out the problems with the free flow of trade across EU borders and thus creates the ‘Single Market’. There is major political upheaval when, on 9 November 1989, the Berlin Wall is pulled down and the border between East and West Germany is opened for the first time in 28 years. This leads to the reunification of Germany, when both East and West Germany are united in October 1990.

“With the collapse of communism across central and eastern Europe, Europeans become closer neighbors. In 1993 the Single Market is completed with the 'four freedoms' of: movement of goods, services, people and money. The 1990s is also the decade of two treaties: the ‘Maastricht’ Treaty on European Union in 1993 and the Treaty of Amsterdam in 1999. People are concerned about how to protect the environment and also how Europeans can act together when it comes to security and defense matters. In 1995 the EU gains three more new members: Austria, Finland and Sweden. A small village in Luxembourg gives its name to the ‘Schengen’ agreements that gradually allow people to travel without having their passports checked at the borders. Millions of young people study in other countries with EU support.

“The euro is now the new currency for many Europeans. 11 September 2001 becomes synonymous with the 'War on Terror' after hijacked airliners are flown into buildings in New York and Washington. EU countries begin to work much more closely together to fight crime. The political divisions between east and west Europe are finally declared healed when no fewer than 10 new countries join the EU in 2004, followed by Bulgaria and Romania in 2007. A financial crisis hits the global economy in September 2008. The Treaty of Lisbon is ratified by all EU countries before entering into force in 2009. It provides the EU with modern institutions and more efficient working methods.

“The global economic crisis strikes hard in Europe. The EU helps several countries to confront their difficulties and establishes the 'Banking Union' to ensure safer and more reliable banks. Croatia becomes the 28th member of the EU in 2013. Climate change is still high on the agenda and leaders agree to reduce harmful emissions. European elections are held in 2014 and more Euro sceptics are elected into the European Parliament. A new security policy is established in the wake of the annexation of Crimea by Russia. Religious extremism increases in the Middle East and various countries and regions around the world, leading to unrest and wars which result in many people fleeing their homes and seeking refuge in Europe. The EU is not only faced with the dilemma of how to take care of them, but also finds itself the target of several terrorist attacks.” [The history of the European Union,]

And history repeats. That is, man despite his inherent capacity (i.e., the image and likeness of The Creator) retreats into his shell when threatened. And threats could come from wherever. Thus the dichotomy, e.g., globalization means big opportunity that comes with big competition – and threats that must be managed. That is, “Man is the measure of all things.” [Protagoras]

“In 1940, as the United States debated whether to enter World War II, British spies disseminated rumors to discredit prominent American isolationists and worked to promote politicians who favored intervention.” [Donald Trump’s Appeal to Russia Shocks Foreign Policy Experts, Max Fisher, The Interpreter, The New York Times, 28th Jul 2016]

And what about today? “Support for Brexit was strongest among pensioners, around 60% of whom voted to Leave. Those who did so in order to limit migration may find, too late, that they were the ones who needed it most.

“One in 20 people employed in adult social care—which includes old folks’ homes and social work, for instance—is EU-born, a total of about 75,000 people. The sector is already acutely understaffed: last year there were 70,000 unfilled vacancies.” [Somebody call a doctor, Brexit and public services, The Economist, 30th Jul 2016].

“Britain's vote in June to leave the EU has brought economic uncertainty to the fore . . . one survey of business activity recorded its sharpest drop in 20 years . . . Brexit and a weaker pound make for a weaker share price; Qatar Airways raises its equity to 20% in British Airways' parent, IAG.  [The Economist, 6th Aug 2016]

“Bank of England wields stimulus ‘sledgehammer’ to beat Brexit blues – cut interest rate to a record-low 0.25 percent.” [Reuters, 4th Aug 2016]. And leaves little elbow room but print money in future. In the meantime, Japan and Germany – while losing manufacturing jobs given China and, as importantly, automation like peers in the West – export more than import to keep their economies on an even keel.

“Why independence, if the slaves of today will be the tyrants of tomorrow? And that they will be such is not to be doubted, for he who submits to tyranny loves it.” [We are ruled by Rizal’s ‘tyrants of tomorrow,’ Editorial, The Manila Times, 29th Dec 2015]

 “As a major component for the education and reorientation of our people, mainstream media – their reporters, writers, photographers, columnists and editors – have an obligation to this country . . .” [Era of documented irrelevance: Mainstream media, critics and protesters, Homobono A. Adaza, The Manila Times, 25th Nov 2015]

 “Development [is informed by a people’s] worldview, cognitive capacity, values, moral development, self-identity, spirituality, and leadership . . .” [Frederic Laloux, Reinventing organizations, Nelson Parker, 2014]

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