Loud and clear comes the call, ‘Stop the bus, I want to get off!’. Roll back the clock. Make America great, again. Britons vote to leave the EU. Americans endorse Trump to oust immigrants. Lawmakers push analog switches for the electrical grid.
These voices are raised by those who wish to retreat from the global digital revolution. Technology has shrunk the planet. Movement and communication across borders is non-stop, fluid and frightening.
Significantly, the call to get off the bus comes largely from older less urbane generations. Almost everyone listens to the news, some of us obsessively. We are wired to listen to threats around us as a means of self-preservation. We are wired to circle the wagons and shut out others when threatened, to trust only those close to us to keep us safe.
As digital technology has shrunk the planet, human perception remains, well, human.
Millions of individuals perceive news as if it were coming from a village of a few hundred or a neighborhood of a few thousand people. So the news of a mass murder can hit our psyche as if it had happened in the pub down the street. If there’s a mass murderer loose in the neighborhood, “I must defend myself and my family in the best way I know how.”
F. D. Roosevelt held fireside chats to reassure Americans that they were safe from the war raging in Europe. Radio was then bringing war news from Belgium to the living rooms of Nebraska. War was not there, it was here. We were all at war. No one on the planet escaped. Since that time, still in living memory, we have been on the bus together. Six billion people facing a common future. Six billion people each with our own perception of the threat and our own will to preserve ourselves and our family.
For good or ill, younger, educated, well-traveled people have become more accustomed to living in this global village of billions of individuals. For them, the threat perception is blunted; the benefits of connectivity outweigh the dangers. They figure we’re safer together than apart.
What does this mean for the UAE, one of the most diverse locales in the world. Aside from the immediate challenge of travel visas, does it matter to the UAE what happens to Europe? Does it matter that Britain has begun to circle its wagons?