1/26: Reflections on Modernity

Thursday 1/26 – in Amsterdam.

The flight from Detroit to Amsterdam took us 7 hours.  We will be in India tonight.  One hundred years ago it would have taken months to make this trip, and reaching Bhutan would have been impossible.  The rate of change in transportation, communication, knowledge and culture has seemed exponential even in the US.  In Bhutan the acceleration has been even more dramatic. By 1960 I had already flown in an airplane, spent time in a hospital, and graduated kindergarten.  I used the phone regularly and watched TV daily. In 1960 Bhutan there was no formal schooling outside of the monasteries, no telephones, no hospitals, no airplanes, no paved roads.  Television would not arrive for another 40 years.

What are the implications of going from an isolated, self sufficient, traditional Buddhist monarchy into the 21st century in 40 years?  Can Bhutan partake in the benefits of modernity without undermining the very qualities that have made it such a successful culture?  And how will the introduction of television, let alone the Internet, transform society?

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