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Is Globalisation actually Disempowering?

Updated: Jul 14, 2022

Watch this video by Yann Martel

on Big Think to find out, and answer the questions with your tutor.

  1. Does Yann Martel think that the idea that "the world is a village" is true or false?

  2. Fill in the missing words: "In fact it’s remarkable how ________________ we are."

  3. As what kind of species does Yann Martel classify humans as?

  4. What is "flight distance" according to the speaker?

  5. Are flamingos natural flyers?

  6. What have humans done with technology to increase our sensorial capacity?

  7. How many degrees of separation are there?

  8. What does sensorial overload do to us?

  9. Fill in the missing words: "If you gave a deer a hearing capacity of _____ feet it'd be hearing way more noises than it needs to process."

  10. Fill in the missing words: "At one point we ______ it out because it’s too much."

  11. Does the speaker think globalisation creates unity?

  12. Fill in the missing words: " without empowering us that we can really ______ about it."

  13. What are your thoughts on this video?

  14. What kind of organisation would you found if you had the funds to do so?

  15. Do you think globalisation empowers or disempowers us?


I don’t think that globalization, globalism, this idea that the world is a village is true. In fact it’s remarkable how culture bound we are. And that’s not a limitation, that’s just a feature of us as a species. We are animals and animals operate based on their empirical senses. So take a deer in a forest. A deer in a forest has the eyesight, the smell and the hearing that it needs to survive. And so there’s an interesting concept in zoology of flight distance which is the distance that an animal needs to be aware of something that might endanger it that will trigger a flight response. So animals have different kinds of flight distances. So a flamingo if it sees a threatening animal needs a certain distance so that it can start flapping its wings and fly away. Flamingos are not natural flyers so they need – so it’s like maybe 150 meters let’s say. So they have senses that are good enough for them to survive. What we have done with our technology is so increased our sensorial capacity that if a ferry overturns in Bangladesh we hear about it here in New York 50,000 miles away which means our senses are overloaded with information which in an animal would stress it to death. If you increase the deer’s capacity to hear beyond the whatever it can hear – let’s say a deer can hear, I don’t know what the distance is. Let’s say a deer can hear 300 meters away. That’s what it needs let’s say. I’m sure it’s closer than that but let’s say it’s 100 meters away. You know a deer needs to hear that distance and if anything is coming or running towards it, a lion, a tiger, a wolf the hundred feet will be enough for it to turn and decamp and so it’s not stressed. If there’s a perimeter of 100 meters around a diameter, a radius, sorry. A hundred meters around it where there’s no sounds it’ll be at rest unstressed. If you gave a deer a hearing capacity of 1,000 feet you’d be hearing way more noises than it needs to process. You’d be hearing about wolves or tigers that are way too far to endanger it. Yet it’s aware of them therefore it would be stressed. And I suspect in our world and this idea of globalization we are hearing things that are so far away from us that actually have no consequence on us as individuals. Now cumulatively of course they do. We are ultimately connected. There are six degrees of separation. So that’s the reason behind human rights advocacy that when an individual is being tortured to death in Egypt or in China it should matter to us. It should. But in a practical way each one of us every single day there’s only so many groans and cries and shrieks from around the world that we can hear where it keeps on being meaningful. At one point we block it out because it’s too much. So I think globalization creates a sense of unity without empowering us that we can really do something about it. And so that’s – it’s that schizophrenia that we live with every single day. You read about, you know, you read The New York Times which is a fantastic newspaper with an extraordinary coverage of many realities. Most articles there’s very little you can do about. And so it’s kind of disempowering. So I find globalization while in a sense being well-meaning giving us eyes around the globe is also some ways disempowering because it tells us things about which we can do nothing. So ultimately I think we have to limit the information and go deeper. And so I think that’s what often happens.

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