Technology breaks down barriers

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 July, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 24 July, 1998, 12:00am

The 1990s will surely be seen as the time when the global village became a reality.

The rapid movement of people and ideas via jet travel, television and the Internet has brought unprecedented changes, especially in global politics.

The death of the Chinese democracy movement in Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989 seemed to spark demands for freedoms everywhere else in the world. Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev placed reform before power and the Iron Curtain fell in 1990. The tearing down of the Berlin Wall - long a symbol of oppression - triggered changes to Europe that, in the long term, will probably have more impact than the French Revolution and two world wars.

When the Gulf War began in 1991 the media seemed more interested in sophisticated weaponry than the causes of conflict. I received a New Zealand Media Peace Award at the end of the year and Aoraki (Mount Cook) lost part of its top.

Hopes for world peace were always punctuated by unpleasant events. The clash of religions, customs and beliefs in the old Yugoslavia gave the language a new euphemism for genocide - ethnic cleansing. However, another wall of oppression collapsed in South Africa when Nelson Mandela finally made his long walk to freedom with the fall of the apartheid system. High hopes were held for his new 'Rainbow Nation' born in 1994.

The remarkable events in the final years of the 20th century didn't stop there. Hong Kong returned to China in 1997, and who can predict what the global political landscape will look like in the next millennium as even more national, communications, economic, ethnic and personal barriers come tumbling down?