The World Gets Bigger
We are accustomed to thinking of progress as continuous. But there have been other periods of globalization before ours -- and somehow the world broke apart again. During the Roman empire manufacturers traded throughout its length and breadth . For example, goods from Britain were sold in the Mediterranean. The empire's merchants traded with China over the Silk Road and with the subcontinent via the Indian ocean. It was a world without passports, a place in which St. Paul could say civis Romanus sum and claim protection.
When Roman order collapsed the world suddenly got bigger. Journeys of a week became detours of a month until they finally stopped altogether. "This breakdown was often fast and dramatic as it became unsafe to travel or carry goods over any distance; there was a consequent collapse in trade and manufacture for export. Major industries that depended on trade, such as large-scale pottery manufacture, vanished almost overnight in places like Britain. Tintagel in Cornwall, as well as several other centres, managed to obtain supplies of Mediterranean luxury goods well into the sixth century, but then lost their trading links. Administrative, educational and military infrastructure quickly vanished, and the loss of the established cursus honorum led to the collapse of the schools and to a rise of illiteracy even among the leadership."
It could never happen again. Or could it? Although the world is far from the Dark Ages, to a modest degree, yet quite distinctly, the process of globalization has retreated for the first time perhaps since the Second World War. The New Republic looks at the places where the FAA NOTAMs place restrictions on commercial flights operated by U.S. carriers.
For a while that map even included Israel because Hamas threatened to bombard it. It may include Israel again, given the unfinished business with Hamas. But there's also unfinished business with ISIS, ISIL, al-Shabab, al-Qaeda, the Taliban and what have you. And it's starting to put a crimp on things. Indeed the Daily Mail says aviation experts believe that whole air corridors may soon be closed or significantly re-routed as the "tranquility" areas of the world are expanded, both geographically and in terms of the increasing capability of anti-air weapons available to 'militants'.
But it isn't just missiles. It isn't just underwear bombs and implanted explosives. The other challenge of globalization is the spread of infectious disease. Millions of people are now moving by air or road. They bring whatever health problems they have with them. The ultimate carry-on bomb may be a virus.
One of the unappreciated aspects challenges of the breakdown on the US southern border is that "ICE isn’t screening for infectious diseases, instead relying on self-reporting. Immigrants are not detained for further health screening, 'unless they tell us they’re sick,' according to the ICE agent."
The bad news is that antibiotic-resistant TB is probably getting through. The good news is it isn't ebola. Africa is now in the throes of the worst outbreak of that disease in history. It is killing the doctors. It has spread by air travel to the mega-city of Lagos. Nobody knows where it stops because it is traveling along the same roads, railroads and airliners that are the highways of globalization.
There is no cure for ebola. The only defense of the authorities is enforcing draconian quarantine and the ruthless disposal of patient cadavers. Unfortunately most African governments are really nothing but corrupt cabals of bureaucrats. And many Africans see Ebola in witch-disease terms and either escape from the 'government hospital' -- unpleasant in the best of times -- and forcibly retrieve their relatives, steal the dead from the morgue for traditional burial and in one case attacked the Medicins Sans Frontieres hospital because they suspected the medicos were up to mumbo-jumbo or something of that nature.
What happens when ebola meets traditional Africa? Epidemic.
By tradition, only women were allowed to touch or wash her dead body, so the majority of the next cases were also women.
Sierra Leone officials have since banned traditional funerals and the bodies of Ebola victims must now be buried by health workers clad in green protective suits and face masks.
Schools in the Kenema area are closed and travel restricted.
At the Moala checkpoint on the road to Liberia, masked health workers take the temperature of all travelers to monitor for anyone who might be carrying a fever.
But many still put faith in traditional methods.
At the same Moala checkpoint, police and soldiers tied herbal rope bracelets around travellers' wrists, telling them a local traditional healer had been told in a dream that doing so could ward off Ebola...
Terrified by such reports, Isata Momoh, who came down with symptoms of the disease, initially fled the ambulance sent to take her to the hospital. "When I thought I had the sickness I ran away into the bushes and hid," she told Reuters.
One of the more interesting compounds of terrorism, ignorance and disease is the Bokoh Haram. They don't believe in quarantine, being no respecter of borders, orders or law. They don't believe in Western knowledge either. Once ebola hitches a ride with the Boko Haram who can say what will happen?
Some Africans believe the solution is to drive away the doctors. The New York Times reports:
“We don’t want any visitors,” said their leader, Faya Iroundouno, 17, president of Kolo Bengou’s youth league. ... The others nodded in agreement and fiddled with their slingshots. Singling out the international aid group Doctors Without Borders, Mr. Iroundouno continued, “Wherever those people have passed, the communities have been hit by illness.” ... On Friday alone, health authorities in Guinea confirmed 14 new cases of the disease....
Villagers flee at the sight of a Red Cross truck. When a Westerner passes, villagers cry out, “Ebola, Ebola!” and run away....
Workers and officials, blamed by panicked populations for spreading the virus, have been threatened with knives, stones and machetes, their vehicles sometimes surrounded by hostile mobs. Log barriers across narrow dirt roads block medical teams from reaching villages where the virus is suspected. Sick and dead villagers, cut off from help, are infecting others.
Today, as we watch crowds in Paris shout "Hamas, Hamas!" and multitudes on the southern border crying "Obama, Obama!" the West can only be grateful that its body politic is so much better educated than the Africans.
Globalization has had a good run. But it's hitting some speed bumps. Let's hope air travel recovers. Of course aircraft have others uses besides travel.
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