It is difficult not to be affected by the disaster of the Malaysian airliner the crashed, apparently having been shot down, in Eastern Ukraine. That is true emotionally – when contemplating how the death of so many can come out of, literally, the clear blue sky – but also in a basic factual sense: almost all of us are affected in some way. The victims came from at least 11 different nations, the vast majority Dutch. I just heard a news report saying that the investigation would involve amongst others Malaysia, since it was their airline, the United States, since the aircraft was built by Boeing, and the UK, since the engines were built by Rolls-Royce.
This begins to point to the huge array of organizations in some way involved in this single event. They include national governments, of course, as well as international bodies like the EU and the UN, but also airport authorities at Schiphol and Kuala Lumpur, Eurocontrol and a multiplicity of other agencies which manage air space – the International Civil Aviation Authority, the European Civil Aviation Conference and the European Aviation Safety Agency being just some. Then there are the news agencies reporting on it, the many bodies providing commentary to the media upon it, and the social media organizations like Twitter, Youtube and Facebook where, as with any contemporary event, there is a mass of comment and reporting.
And then we come to the victims, who as well as being individuals and family members were intimately involved in organizations of all sorts. Many were going to a conference in Australia on AIDS and so were members of multiple medical and advocacy organizations, including the former President of the International AIDS Society. It’s being reported that several others were employees of Shell Oil. Some were students and on the news today I heard representatives of their universities and sports clubs commenting on their loss.
Ever since the term ‘the global village’ was coined (or, anyway, popularized) in1962 by the communications philosopher Marshall McLuhan it has been a cliché. And, like most clichés, it captures a truth. Perhaps the truth is not so much one of the personal interconnections of a village but of organizational connections. I wrote in a recent post about ‘cosmopolitans and locals’, but perhaps that has become an inadequate distinction. Something like 300 million people pass annually through Europe’s five busiest airports. Whether they are globe-trotting executives or 10-day holidaymakers they may all have felt a chill when learning of the MH17 crash. Through the dense webs of organizational connections we are all becoming both global and local. Where is the global and local when a fan of provincial British football club who has been to every one of its games since 1973 dies on a Malaysian aircraft, built in the United States, over Ukraine, on his way from Holland to New Zealand?