Migrants celebrate their arrival on Greek island Kos - courtesy Reuters

The global village and the migrant crisis affecting Europe

Humanity now lives in a global village. The idea of a 'global village' was defined by the Canadian philosopher Marshal McLuhan in the 1960s. McLuhan was ahead of his time in claiming that information technology (IT) was breaking through the geographical barriers which separated humanity throughout our history. With the creation of technology capable of digitally moving information throughout the world, it became possible for individuals on either side of an ocean to communicate and share ideas almost instantaneously. McLuhan's claim is significant since he saw how IT would became a major influence on human societies long before the Internet become accessible in nearly every home in the Western world. Moreover, McLuhan's work also foreshadowed how technology would bring humanity into a single unified community, a 'global village', quite similar to the world we live within in the twenty-first century.

In the summer of 2015 the world is witnessing the effects of the 'global village' through the migration crisis confronting Europe. While there undoubtedly are some Syrian refugees within the hundreds of thousands of people wandering into Europe, there are also numerous individuals from Asia, Eurasia, and Africa, and this is the aspect of the crisis deserving urgent attention. Instead of referring to the migrants for what they are, 'migrants', many have collectively defined the crisis in terms of a 'refugee' crisis arguably motivated by emotional sentiments from the suffering experienced by migrants along their journey.

Nevertheless, an interpretation of the migrant crisis as a 'refugee crisis' avoids a substantial aspect of the circumstances affecting situation: namely, after four years of the conflict in Syria and with millions of Syrians already registered living in refugee camps, it is highly improbable that the migrants wandering through Europe on their way (primarily) to Germany and Sweden are all ‘Syrian refugees’. We are living in a global village defined by our IT networks and it is therefore reasonable to claim that many will risk their lives traveling to other parts of the physical village which they know much about based on their interactions with IT.

In other words, there is a reason why the majority of the migrants want to go to Germany and Sweden, and not stay in Greece, Macedonia, Serbia, or Hungary – and this has to do with the well-known fact that the northern European nation-states have generous welfare policies. It all comes down to the realization that even in the least developed societies it is not difficult to acquire access to not only a computer or a television, but also a mobile phone. Through the television the individual has access to images and sounds depicting life in more developed societies - and these begin to seem real and accessible when images of migrants successfully making their way to Germany are portrayed via news media. With the mobile phone, the individual can communicate with friends and relatives from all around the world – even those who have already made their journey and settled down in, for instance, Germany or Sweden. And of course, if one has access to the Internet the images and sounds of more developed societies become available in 'real-time'.

Therefore, with access to even the more 'basic' means of information technology, individuals in 'less developed' societies are shown what life is like 'on the other side of the Sea'. In many contexts, an individual may weigh the risk of traveling to a more developed society as more rewarding than the cost of staying where they are currently living. While I am not claiming that all of the migrants traveling through Europe are not refugees, it is worth understanding the world we live in today is well connected through IT - and people all over the world have access to information on the greatest scale in human history. Consequently, based on the realization that humanity exists within a ‘global village’, it is reasonable to argue that an individual might risk their current life because they are well aware that life on the 'other side' is ‘better’ than where they currently dwell.