Wednesday, October 30, 2013

It’s a smaller world – Part 2

by Alan Noble on October 30, 2013

Editor’s Note: This is the second of a three part series written by my friend Alan Noble regarding how travel and technology have affected his life living in Nairobi, Kenya.

Last time I wrote about how advances in the world, particularly in travel and technology, have made it a smaller place. Often, those advances are good. But not always.

The joys we experience through travel and technology can and do often blow our minds. We marvel at new sights and feel “right there” through satellite-enabled video that puts us into the heart of someplace we’ve never been before. The flipside is that the same technology that makes our amazement so real likewise makes the horrors in our world – our increasingly small world – equally real. What I’ve come to learn, especially by living in another country, is that advancement doesn’t always equal progress.

The ability to watch the tsunami thrashing hotels and homes doesn’t necessarily mean that I should. This past summer I found myself gripped by the video that a witness taped of the crash of the Asiana Airlines airplane at San Francisco International Airport. I watched it over and over before I even was aware of my fixation. That advancement in technology, though an extension of our access to our world around us, is not what I would call progress.

The same applies to the recent events at the Westgate Mall, not far from my new home here in Nairobi. Many people ask if we were surprised by the attacks at the mall. We were not. We’d been given regular warnings about that place being a target due to its prime location for both Westerners and locals and its easy access. However, we were surprised and even sickened by the brazen, calculated, and brutal disregard of all people, including many women and children—who are typically left alone in assaults like these. Every bit of the focus by the attackers was on taking advantage of the sensational media attention that they garnered in the process. The technology that I so love, actually fortified the attackers with the massive attention that they sought.

Ironically, I didn’t have to travel far to experience all this. It came to me – who now lives minutes away from the scene – in the same way it came to my friends back home in the US. In this case, it didn’t matter where in this small world you lived. Technology created a level playing field for the messages and images to get out.

Having said that, what I am finding is that the repercussions of the event are radically different for those of us who are physically present in this city where the attacks occurred. In the next installment we will look at how insecurity in light of the attacks now impacts our thinking and changes how we view the world in which we live…especially our own corner of it.

To be continued…

If you haven’t done so yet, read Part 1 here

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