Globalization wields powerful influence over societies and cultures. Business travelers and tourists both observe and distribute new ideas. New ideas, interactions, foods and products are tried, then embraced or discarded. With the internet or satellite television, films, publications, photographs, news reports and cartoons can travel instantly, entertaining or angering audiences around the globe. With social media like Facebook or Twitter, individuals offer news and own instant pronouncements on trends. Whether slowly through immigration or immediately online, these connections bring about some convergence of norms on fashion to human rights while also provoking challenges from traditionalists. A global society has emerged, and it’s tightly linked.
Since human migrations began, germs have traveled with people, animals and traded goods. In an interconnected and mobile world, diseases such as HIV/AIDS and SARS can spread rapidly. Yet international cooperation through agencies such as the World Health Organization also allows for a collective response to global health threats and faster response times. Nations have developed diverse health care systems, aiming for cost-effective treatment. Yet the diverse systems contribute to disparities in global health, including availability of technology, pharmaceutical companies targeting innovations to maximize profits, and providers abandoning areas of need for higher salaries in the West, just to name a few.
As governments confront many challenges that are global in scale, leaders find they must cooperate in responding to financial, climate, terrorism and other crises. As a result, a global audience has developed keen interest in how and why nations select their leaders. On one hand, citizens expect sensible and collective action, transparency and fair representation; on the other hand, citizens and leaders fret about compromising security, sovereignty or loss of control. Diplomats and global organizations like the United Nations aim to achieve a balance, even as global communications allow citizens in democracies or authoritarian states to steer attention to issues. Attention to citizen demands and multilateral cooperation contribute to stability.
The links between security and globalization were highlighted by the 2001 terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, DC, and the subsequent long wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Lingering poverty, inequality, religious extremism and war can sow discontent and resentment as unprecedented global mobility lends access to education and travel in other countries. Despite use of drones, cyber-warfare and other advanced weapons technology to mount counterterrorist attacks, the marginalized can strike out at vulnerable urban or economic centers. Annual global defense spending exceeds $1.6 trillion. Containing the trade in weapons, whether nuclear bombs or assault rifles, and preventing them from falling into the wrong hands remain a challenge.