I have no statistical data to confirm it, but increase in nationalism across the globe is becoming more evident by the day. Humanity seems to be revisiting the phase of clash of cultures that we had assumed to belong to history books only.
These developments are interesting, almost counter-intuitive, because humanity is also passing through an unprecedented change in terms of being connected. Technology has brought humanity closer, allowing us to access each other instantaneously, and be friends at the click of a button.
So, just when humanity across the globe can communicate seamlessly, why does the world look more divided than ever before?
While internet is rapidly connecting us, human brain is still not evolved to accept this change and respond to it. It has a million year old circuitry that needs to be understood before we assume smooth transition from isolated to inter-connected societies.
Though we live in a world of jet travel and Facetime, the truth is that, barely a hundred years back, nearly 90% of humanity had never traveled away from home. In past, human migrations have taken place, but only in dire states. Just like an ant colony, humanity always moves en masse, taking entire society and culture with it. And when such a migration encounters other society, the first contact is made with presumption of hostility.
Xenophobia, not just in humans, but in all life-forms is not an exception but an extremely ancient innate circuit that gets switched on when encountering an alien race. This makes a lot of evolutionary sense, as a trusting race that will lower its guards is likely to get wiped out. Extinct birds and animal species from various islands across the globe have shown us the fate of those trusting outsiders.
For human animal, survival is linked with resources and hence with territory. As a social animal, territory is extended up-to the level that can be defended by family or clan. For Homo sapiens, true kinship is actually limited to such territory and DNA sharing group. Traditional concept of nation is race-level DNA-connect, but lately it has seen a radical change. Modern nation has lost its physical DNA connect and turned into idea-based kinship.
As new nation is idea governed, an interesting possibility has emerged in the social media age, as the biggest deconstruction of humanity induced by social media is turning human being, too, into a set of ideas.
This loss of physicality may look trivial but it has, probably, severed the biggest innate connect that we have with fellow humans. We may not notice it, but meeting a fellow human being physically allows us to relate to similarities. The DNA in us senses the kinship, making us see merit in co-existing.
Over social media, we all turn into ideas. Instead of similarity, we now notice differences, making it easier to hate. As ideas, by nature, are competing memes, the social media interactions are naturally hostile. They have caused new xenophobia resulting into divides that never existed before. Social media has allowed us to know each other better as ideas we hold, whereby highlighting our dissimilarities.
As social media is not going to go away, humanity must learn to use it more sensibly by relating to the human being in flesh and blood at the other end instead of the idea. Let us relate to emotions of love and happiness, instead of ideas of capitalism or communism.
We must return to knowing that we are humans first and ideas later. If we do that, it will be easier to co-exist. If we don’t, the clash of ideas will destroy us humans.