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Global Fault Line

Humanity’s search for truth and curiosity to reach further locations have been an ever lasting ambition. Such a search for new trade routes led not only to the discovery of a new continent, but also to new discoveries in our thought such as Newton’s rule of gravity that describes both the falling of an apple from a tree and the orbit of Jupiter around the sun. Just as the inter-continental travel was instrumental in our generations understanding of physics, inter-planetary travel, that is likely to materialize in the next millenium, will play the same role in our children’s understanding of quantum theory.

Five hundred years ago, Cabeza de Vaco, a Spanish Explorer and one of the first inter-continental travelers, wrote to the Spanish King that the strange people living in this newly discovered continent, America, were as human as the Europeans. In doing so, he became the writer of one of the first books on human rights. At a time when human genome is being deciphered, and information processing is reaching mind boggling speeds, and costless communication in the form of free internet service is around the corner, we now have to consider the right of every one of six billion inhabitants of the world to participate in our governance structures.

One of the biggest earthquakes of the century that hit the densely populated Marmara region of Turkey, has amply demonstrated the need for reforming our governance structures. It all happened in 45 seconds. The North Anatolian Fault line was broken with the pressure from three continents across a length of 150km, causing an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.4 on Richter scale. The result was a loss of more than 20,000 people, at the industrial center of Turkey where the most dynamic forces of development were located. This unfortunate incident, that affected some 20 million people, led the Turks to reevaluate the role of the government, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the international community, and the individual.

This terrible disaster has shaken the public confidence in the central authority which was unprepared for a disaster of this scale, but at the same time, it increased public confidence in the unlimited instinct of solidarity between people as evidenced in the emergence of a dynamic civil search and rescue initiative, in international institutions due to responsive mobilization of foreign aid, and heightened friendly feelings between nations to such an extent to affect the diplomatic relations between countries. After suffering the action of the North Anatolian Fault line, the Turks are now trying to cope with the implications of the fault line formed by the contradictory effects of the globalization and localization processes.

In the past the state had few rivals. The world economy was not as closely integrated. The global corporate governance structures were not as developed as they are today. People’s concern for human rights, equity, environmental protection and international security were not as strong and their will to take part in governance were much less. Today, individuals’ urge to shape their future collectively is greater than ever. Their quest for new ways of governance is leading to fundamental changes whereby individuals, private and public institutions try to harmonise their diverse interests through complicated interactive decision making processes. New governance mechanisms involve new, variable, temporary or lasting partnerships, and networks whose rules of engagement are yet to be formalized.

Today, protection of free trade and clean environment, fight against terrorism and international crime organizations, and issues such as celestial property rights require supra-national governance structures. Hence, the formation of such institutions as WTO and even the European Union.

The question is whether the basic unit of aggregation should be national governments or individuals? If the answer is the latter, is our infrastructure and more importantly infrastructure of the individuals (their education level) sufficient to allow it? If not, are we leaving huge masses out of the governance structures? If so, is this sustainable and is this compatible with our value systems? Will we need another Cabeza de Vaco to remind us that all of the 6 billion inhabitants of our planet are humans? Finally, I would like to add, do we need a major international education effort to peacefully and meaningfully engage all the people in our new global governance structure?

At the same time, we should be aware of the two main threats originating from the nature of globalization-localization dualism and their potential for both integration and exclusion at the same time. The first of these threats is the ethnic, national or religion based conflicts which display a tendency to spread, and in some cases turn into ethnic cleansing. Stopping that nightmare will doubtlessly be one of the top priorities of a new global governance structure committed to the vision of democracy and equity.

In addition to this threat which tends to divide people with their geoegraphic borders, common ancestry or religious beliefs, there is a second one discriminating people on the basis of their social positions. This is an outcome of the communicaiton revolution which has de facto enabled present level of globalizaiton. Currently, there are serious imbalances in access to information and even the most basic technology. Two billion people – one in three individuals in the world – still lack electricity. In early 1990’s Bangladesh,China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, and Nigeria together had fewer telephone connections than Canada which has only 27m people.

Lack of appropriate infrastructure and the lack of education to participate in the new world of “connected society” is presenting a serious threat to establishing new governance structures based on the principles of democracy and equity. While for the “connected society”, the focus of exchanges in a wide range of fields from economy and politics to culture and social life is shifting from the real to the virtual sphere; and patterns of life, work, and sharing relationships are undergoing radical changes, those who are unable to catch up with this revolution are left outside the system at an increased pace. This development presents the danger of an alienated two-tier society in contrast to the exciting prospect of efficient governance patterns based on the principles of democracy and equity.

Unless we can provide an equitable distribution of knowledge and means of communication among the people, we cannot lead humanity to a world free of discrimination, prejudice, and animosity. This requires not only a reform in what and how we teach our children, but also a rethinking of the global priorities to make education of the masses the top priority. Otherwise, humanity will be shaken by the fault line between the enlightened and the ignorant.

This fault line differs from the geological one in that while the latter is a physical phenomenon, the former is in the minds of people, the most valuable piece of property in the 2000’s. Therefore, it is more difficult to observe and more difficult to repair. Unless we start a reform minded global education initiative, this fault line will be the most imporant impediment to the humanity’s continual search for truth in the new millenium.