Berlin Speech by Federal President Johannes Rau in the Communication Museum, Berlin on May 13, 2002
Opportunity, not Fate – Giving Globalization Political Shape
Three years ago, half the German population had never heard the word "globalization." Today virtually everyone is familiar with it. No political debate, no speech on the future of society, no economic analysis is complete without it.
The "one world" – which just a few years ago was the hope of alternative movements and so-called Third World groups – now seems to be becoming reality in quite a different way than once envisaged – through cross-border cash flows and company mergers, through the Internet and mobile phones.
We encounter the word "globalization" almost daily as an argument, albeit an argument for many different things: for radical education reform, for English lessons even in kindergarten, but also for cutting jobs, easing ethical standards, for instance in genetic engineering, for relocating company headquarters, for mergers – even for strawberries being available all year round.
Some say that globalization leads to the loss of familiar ties and the undermining of the nation-state – and are afraid of this. Others are delighted that the rule of the market and its laws will soon apply everywhere and to everything.
To some it all seems like an inescapable fate, a disaster, to others it is the promise of a golden age.
The range of views is great, as is the uncertainty about what globalization means – for the individual, for families, for our society as a whole:
– Globalization is when the company you work for is suddenly competing with companies from parts of the world you'd barely heard of before.
– Globalization is when young people hiking in the Andes contact their parents in Oberursel from the Internet café in Quito and quickly send them the first digital photos by e-mail.
– Globalization is when we book our holiday on the Internet and when pupils use the Internet in the afternoons to gather material from America for their homework.
– Globalization is when the car we buy is made up of parts from many countries, when "Made in Germany" in some cases refers only to the idea, the final assembly or the brand name.
– Globalization is when people throughout the world had to watch live on September 11th as the World Trade Center collapsed burying thousands of people.
– Globalization is when a criminal act that shatters the whole world is planned and steered from remote mountain caves.