Try to imagine what a million people look like, gathering in one place. It’s hard – huge sports stadiums hold, at most, a hundred thousand. The crowd on the mall for the Olympics in London, or marches in Washington? Probably 400 thousand max. I’ve never seen a million people in one place, but I can just about get my imagination around it.
Now realize over 50 million people died in WW II. FIFTY million. Or more.
All over the planet, from Thailand to Taiwan, Alaska to Albania, Moscow to Halifax. It’s mind boggling.The second World War was a horrible thing. There’s no denying it, and I would not wish its repeat on anyone!
My father and all four of his brothers were in that war. So was my mom, in an air-training base in Ontario. And an interesting thought occurred to me today, as I was thinking about a TV show that featured the Dunkirk evacuation, and feeling a twinge of sadness over the lost lives. And the thought was this:
World War Two was probably the beginning of what we would now call ‘globalization.’ And I mean by that both the global nature of trade, but also, and perhaps more importantly, the global blending and changing of cultures.
English girls, brought up in the stifling confines of England’s class structure, suddenly found themselves being courted by American and Canadian boys, with a much freer idea of woman’s roles, and a soldier’s openness to procreation! It was a heady, intoxicating blend, as my parents war-time affairs proved to me. They both, decades later, ended up getting back together with their wartime lovers. Not that those later relationships worked out, but it showed how those war years were, in their imaginations and memories, high points in their lives.
For my dad, a young man from Princeton, British Columbia – a small mining and ranching town of maybe 700, isolated in the interior woods of B.C., the change from riding his horse to visit relatives, to shipping off to England and seeing ‘The Blitz” first hand, obviously changed his world completely, and forever. And such transformations happened to almost everyone on the planet!
Between the technologies that emerged from the war – radio, radar, air travel – and the expanded view of the world that every participant experienced, humanity as a whole was never going to be the same!
The forces and dynamics that the war unleashed or revealed – global trade, cultural mingling, mass communications, global travel – have made sure that no country or culture can remain stuck in the past, or unchanged.
Oh, sure, a few have tried. North Korea comes to mind. But they also have the Bomb, and are basically in traumatic withdrawal from their own post-war war. So even their isolation is, in some ways, a result of the global war forces that shaped today’s international landscape.
And what occurs to me, now, is: what’s next?
What events are going to take us, collectively, on the next step of global, human evolution?
Is it going to be global warming, with all it’s attendant natural disasters? Or, on a more positive note, the creation of cheap, clean, endless energy implied by nuclear fusion? Or some other change that will sweep our world, and change all of us – ALL of us – forever.
And do you think, just maybe, that this time, we could manage it without having to see 50 million die?Maybe a ‘post-war’ world could be the next big thing.
It’s nice to dream of a world transformed, isn’t it? And to know that it HAS happened.