The end of globalization?

April 2004

One of my watch journalist friends, Timm Delfs, just took over managing a boutique in Basel, specialized not in watches, but in… sundials. The other day, I got to thinking about why he decided to do this. He is a connoisseur of everything to to do with horology, so why didn’t he go to work for a store selling ‘grand complications’ı Maybe it was just because he simply wanted to find the ‘time’, the time to live, to dream, to plan, to imagine, the time to love seeing time pass and doing nothing. Or, maybe he wanted to take the time to calculate, using the complex sundials, the time that falls upon us from the sky.
Another random thought came to mind. I am planning a trip to Ethiopia in the fall. While reading up about the country, I discovered a rather interesting piece of ‘trivia’. In Ethiopia, there is an ‘Ethiopian time’ that has nothing to do with our normal time zones. Rather, it is an ‘Ethiopian way’ of reading the time. The day, on a watch adjusted to Ethiopian time, does not begin at 12 o’clock (nor at 24.00), but at 6 o’clock. When you look at an Ethiopian watch, you read, for example, 16.45, but the real time is 22.45. If you have an appointment at 08.00, you must understand that the meeting will take place at 14.00. Is this really importantı After all, the fact that we read time in one way or another is only a matter of convention. And, aren’t conventions meant to be transgressedı
This leads to another thought… at a time of proclaimed globalization, it seems to me that the world is becoming, on the contrary, even more divided, to the point of fracturing into a thousand and one divergent entities. Little by little, I am becoming more certain of this. We are not living at the ‘dawn’ of so-called globalization. It is nothing more than an ideological concept that is running out of steam, and has nothing to do with the ‘speed’ of our Internet connections. This ‘speed’ does not prevent disparities from being created nor differences from becoming greater.
At each advancing step of ‘globalization’, a new ‘nationalism’ rises up to block it.
The divisions between the rich and poor, the ‘connected’ and ‘disconnected’ are widening. The world is in constant transformation, but also in constant differentiation. Today, China is the world’s factory, much like Manchester and Liverpool were in the last century. And who knows, perhaps tomorrow China may also be the nervous, intellectual, cultural and commercial centre of our planet. And, look at India. This nation is already the biggest information technology ‘hub’ of the entire world!
While those obsessed with the short-term continue to believe that history has been written, to the great relief of their ‘shareholders’, we know that it is far from being finished. We prefer the long-term view of things, which allows us to ‘waste our time’ as we consult our sundials. We have all the time in the world. Time is on our side.