What is the globe?

What is the globe?

With its sparse oases and isles now fully mapped, its arid deserts and snowy peaks mastered by commercial flight, its vast blue oceans crisscrossed with submarine communication cables, and all of it constantly surveyed by satellites, it seems impossible to talk about human civilisation today without first talking about the planet as a whole on which we make our home; the globe.

I touched on this in my last post. Be it through ‘globalisation’, the ‘world stage’, the ‘world wide web’, the ‘global village’, ‘global warming’, the ‘GFC’, the ‘UN’, the ‘WHO’, the ‘GPS’, ‘world politics’, ‘world peace’ or ‘saving the planet’, the ‘globe’ has become the first fact of modern life, the rubric under which our day to day lives are processed and make sense.

We hear an awful lot about it, but what actually is this elusive ‘globe’? What do we really mean by that word? It’s possible to start ruling out certain possibilities. For instance, the ‘globe’ is definitely not Earth. When people talk about the ‘world’ or the ‘globe’ in the way they so often do, it’s clear they’re not talking solely and scientifically about a lonesome third rock from the sun in an obscure corner of the universe. They’re talking about something else.

Specifically, it has to do with life, biology, the defining characteristic of our otherwise unnoteworthy planet. To some extent it includes all plant and animal life, but its scope is primarily focused on a much narrower phenomenon which smells… slightly anthropocentric.

Let’s cut to the chase. The globe is all about us. Humans.

What is the globe?

But even this doesn’t get to the bottom of it. When we talk about the ‘globe’ we’re not just talking about any other species or a collection of individuals living their own lives in isolation from one another. We’re not even talking about every single human being on this planet. Instead, what we’re talking about is a network of ideas about people, and the interactions and relationships between those people. From families, friends and neighbourhoods to social networks, markets, ethnicities and nations; we’re talking about an impersonal vision of the aggregate of all interpersonal relationships, both real and imagined, and attempting to explain them as a functioning whole.

Because of this, the ‘globe’ is looking more and more like an idea which is impossible to know anything concrete about. Put simply, the ‘globe’ is a metaphor for humanity, an abstract notion very loosely defined, perhaps more symbolic or poetic than actual, and not nearly as inclusive or all-encompassing as we’d like to imagine (more often than not it’s expressed from a decidedly Western perspective). We tend to talk about the globe as though it’s a single person, something we’re somehow at once a part of and apart from. But is this the best way to understand humanity today? Is humanity best thought of as a globally conscious entity?

In other words, is it helpful to conceive of humanity as a single, synchronised actor, aware at all times of what it’s doing, where it’s going, as though it’s headed in a direction or toward a coherent objective at all? Or is it better to imagine ourselves as pockets of isolated, unaware, uncoreographed chaos and mess? It’s clear that one conception has more sway over the other in modern cultural discourse, but it’s just as easy to see that both are always there. What does a preference for the former really get us? What is its explanatory power over the latter, and more importantly does it really map onto reality?

These are pretty tough questions, and they’ll take time to dissect fully. But they’re the sorts of big, open-ended questions this blog was set up to explore. With help.

Let’s start small. What does the ‘globe’ mean to you? Be as creative as you want in your answer.

Cheers,

Mark

1LEAVECOMMENT

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6 thoughts on “What is the globe?

  1. The first thing I think of is the little metal globe from grade school. Then I think of all the people we can connect with and it does seem that we have made our world smaller!
    Hey I got an error when coming to your blog today. You may want to send a short blog post out with the link to this blog so your friends stop by! I do know that you can’t change the timestamp after it blogs. Learned that the hard way!

  2. that’s an interesting question! what’s the globe? well for me it’s a fascinating thing. If you look at it from a distant it’s just blue. But the closer you get the more details you have while in the end you find the most amazing things and i am not referring just in humanity! we are just a fragment of this planet.

  3. For me it’s a place that is getting to the point were we are all buying the same brands, eating the same processed food. I wish we could diversify a bit more, just for interest’s sake ^^

  4. When you say ‘Globe’, the first thing that comes to my mind is Harland Williams singing “I’ve got the whole world in my hands” from space, referring to the gradually becoming distant ‘Earth’ as a ‘Giant Blueberry’ in the 1997 movie ‘Rocket Man’. Sine I watched that movie as a kid, I am afraid, that has been imprinted in my psyche and any reference to the Earth/Globe shall always bring that picture into my mind.

    Upon deeper reflection, however, I believe I visualize ‘the Globe’ exactly the way James Lovelock & Lynn Margulis propounded in the 1970s. I believe in the ‘Gaia Concept’. To me, all organisms, humans included, through their daily activities, unknowingly contribute to the ‘Life’ as a whole on this planet. There is therefore, in essence, just one living, breathing being/entity on this planet and all smaller entities merely form parts of it. Just like an animal body (as a whole) and its constituent cells, tissues and organs.

    And just as all cells in the body are ignorant of their connection to each other, we are, all living beings, interconnected by invisible threads of actions and their consequences, to each other, for as long as we shall live.

    Forgive me for such an immense comment O:)

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