Wednesday, December 5, 2007

A Final Question

I had the thought recently that our collective imagining, longing for, and fantasies of the universal - the Borg in Star Trek, or the Matrix, or even 1984 - are a modern phenomenon. I couldn't think of any imaginings of the global from before the modern epoch. But as I widened the scope of what I considered, I decided that the Christian and Islamic empires of the past centuries, and particularly the religious ideologies they created around an ideal world, the afterlife, and judgment day, may as well be Luddite versions of the Borg - a collection of unthinking, unindivduated, enthralled humanoids united by a single consciousness. This refutes my previous conceptions that the conflict between the global and the local, the universal and the specific, was a recent consequence of an increasingly inter-connected world. Does the desire and fear of the universal, the unresolvable tension between the global and the local, stem from something more existential, something inherent to the human condition? Or can it be traced to more modern developments, the perceived increasing "sameness" of the world, and the growing conception that we are all one species sharing a small planet?

1 comment:

Zack McCune said...

Jacob, interesting questions.

I think your conclusions about the Christian and Islamic Empires and their perceptions of the global are accurate, though people in these empires may not have "understood" the immenseness or the difference of their totalizing world view, they nonetheless understood a vision of the global created by the Empire. Ironically, as Empires expand (think Roman or Islamic) they only continue to meet and incorporate difference creating the sense of the cosmopolitan that we investigated near the beginning of the course.

As for ending questions, it seems that people are paradoxical: they seek to be both a part of the community (be it a neighborhood, nation, or global "village") while seeking to retain agency and individuality. They want to relate to a community on their own terms, creating things like today's society's "multiculturalism," a plurality of cultural identities shared under some form of an umbrella community.

This tension, the tension between giving in to the will of a collective and preserving the idea of a self may be the reason that reconciling the global with the local is such an impossible task. In any case, any attempt to relate the local to the global or vice versa, necessitates an act of translation that in effect renders the global localized, or the local globalized.