I have already finished my teaching stint at Linköping University. As I said in the previous posts, I have been in Sweden for some time now and though I am quite worried about not being able to go home because Thai demonstrators have seized the airport (something really, really bizarre to the eyes of the whole wide world, I know, but as many people say — This is Thailand), I am enjoying my stay here. Sweden is a peaceful country, I mean literally. What struck me when I came to Sweden and also Norway was how quiet things are around here. How tranquil. Compare this with the hustle bustle and all the noises of Bangkok.
I used the book on Technology, Globalization and Philosophy edited by David Tabachnik and Toivo Koivukoski. This is a collection of papers written by some notable philosophers and political scientists. One of them is Don Ihde, who wrote on “What Globalization Do We Want?,” which to my mind is one of the strongest chapters in the book. Ihde talks about the phenomenon of globalization, which in the past was something rather abstract, and when we talk about the phenomenon as something really directly perceptible and tangible, he mentions the ‘earth shots’ that astronauts abroad Apollo 8 first took when they traveled outside of the earth’s orbit and looked back at it from very far out. Here is such a shot from the NASA website:
Very beautiful, isn’t it. Ihde’s point is that this is the very first time that people can view their earth from way out. Before Apollo 8 it was not possible to have a real look at the earth, except through some representations such as a map or a drawing of it. But not directly. The point is that, when we talk about globalization, this is it. We are looking at it, the very phenomenon of globalization itself. Ihde is asking what kind of globalization we want, and certainly this gives much food for thought, for here is the kind of globalization that we can perceive directly.
There are thus many layers of meanings in the shot. Three astronaust were on board Apollo 8, a product of the Cold War and intense competition among nations. It was a product of high technology at that time, and certainly a product of immense amount of manpower and funding that went behind it. And beyond that the picture itself represents a new age of humankind. I think this is even more important hermeneutically than Armstrong’s landing on the moon. The earth shot is the first time we humans have a reflective image of ourselves in the midst of the void space. What came after that, such as with Apollo 11, was rather an afterthought.
So we are looking at ourselves. The earth as a “pale blue dot” hovering in the vastness and blackness of space. This is it. This is where we are, and for the time being we have no escape. It is almost spiritual. It IS spiritual. The blue sea, the white cloud, the green and brown landscape. We can’t see people from that far up of course, but we know we are all there, all of us.