Referring to our wired planet as a "global village" makes about as much sense as calling multinational companies "global craft shops": it works fine so long as you attach meaning only to the first word of the phrase. In the case of "global village," however, nearly all the emotional freight is delivered by the second word. Given how few of us can claim any direct experience of a traditional village culture, one wonders what it is we're really saying.
No one can doubt that the world's wiring reflects the imperatives of business. To a first approximation, the global village is the global "craft shop" -- which only adds to the perplexity, since the patterns of community we have built into our corporations are not widely felt to be villagelike.
On the other hand, we have fed for some years now on certain images of electronic, transnational, people-to-people contact. A few well- publicized faxes and Internet messages from Tienanmen Square and coup-threatened Russia greatly encouraged our already eager sentiments. Somehow we can't help ourselves: all this opportunity to pass messages around just must lead to an era of peace and neighborly understanding. At the very least, we cannot deny that the communication itself is a good thing!
There are strange juxtapositions here. Many of those societies in which the village has until now remained central -- societies where networking is as easy as saying hello to a neighbor -- are busily dissolving themselves in the cauldron of their own unrepressed fury, villager pitted mercilessly against villager. Surely this is not the community we wish to globalize! Where then, one asks, is our model? Perhaps it is merely a ghastly sense for the ironic that prompts us to hail the birth of the global village just as villages around the world are self-destructing. But the unwelcome thought nags: could it be that what we so eagerly embrace, unawares, are the powers of dissolution themselves?