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She never saw any foreigners

When we tap our smartphoneÂ’s touch screen to book a last-minute flight to Hong Kong, we are living out the third phase of globalization that started half a millennium ago. The cost of transferring, managing and storing information has plummeted. Travelling has become cheap and intercontinental.

The first giant leap in globalization was maritime transport. It made global interaction possible, although interaction remained slow and troublesome.

The second phase of globalization started in the 19th century, when steam ships and trains, huffing and puffing, put themselves and many new locations on the map and telegraphy enabled sending short messages over long distances.

A little over a century ago, the discovery of landline telephone and combustion engine marked the beginning of efficient transfer of information and goods. Since the 1960s, jet planes have been taking people from one place to another at great speed.


During her long life, my great-grandmother Alma, born in 1897, witnessed three wars and FinlandÂ’s independence. In that time, even the Kainuu province in Northern Finland got electricity, running water, a train connection, cars, tractors and all sorts of gadgets. But when I asked the over 90-year-old Alma what one thing had changed the most, she said it was the position of women.

Alma never went abroad. I doubt she ever even saw the sea, let alone a foreigner.

My grandparents did not travel much either. I think the most distant place my grandfather Nikke ever visited was the town of Vyborg. It belongs to Russia now, but back then it was still a part of Finland.

“Our neighbourhood is the best place to be," he emphasized.

A year ago I flew to South America on a whim. In summer I travelled in Australia. I have friends working in Moscow, Madrid, New York and God knows where else. My uncle spends part of the year in Thailand. My aunt sends photos from Egypt. My mother used to live in the United States. My sister went out with a Greek.

I am not particularly international. The world is. An enormous change has taken place in an astonishingly short period of time. Today, Finland is a European country with residents from all over the world. The whole world is facing global, large-scale migration.


A child born in the 21st century is likely to witness changes as great as my great-grandmother did.

Perhaps, in the future, old age means aching hips at the age of 200. Perhaps last-minute flights to Moon happen all the time. Perhaps people have alienated from other people after creating a virtual reality that is too tempting. Or maybe overpopulation, running out of natural resources and climate change lead to a total economic collapse. Perhaps globalization with its intercontinental flights and optical fibre cable turns out to be no more than a split second in the course of history; perhaps humankind regresses into the state it was in previous millennia.

But what if the thing that changes the most is the position of human?


Seppo Honkanen



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Sivujen ulkoasu: Seppo Honkanen


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