I’m currently staying in a wooden cabin in my dad’s back yard - glamorous I know - and whenever I need to go into the house, I put on my flip flops, cross the pavement, go into the back door, and switch them out for some slippers to keep the indoor floors clean.
Whilst in the process of this ritual today - taking off the slippers, putting on the flip flops, unlocking the back door, stepping out, relocking the back door, crossing to the cabin, unlocking the cabin, taking off the flip flops - I was struck by how globalised and homogeneous the world has become.
I purchased my flip flops whilst I was in Bali because my Balinese now-girlfriend hated how long it took me to take on and off my shoes. The flip-flops I bought were Havaianas, a Brazilian brand recommended by my Brazilian friend whilst I was in Thailand. Havaianas (and probably all modern flip-flops too) are based off of a Japanese flip-flop called Zōri, which became popular in the west after American, Australian, and New Zealander soldiers brought home after the end of World War II. Meanwhile, I took my pairs through Malaysia before returning to England with them, where I’m wearing them today.
Just for me to be wearing my flip flops, 9 countries were involved - and that’s just the ones I can count. The rubber that made them was probably produced or transited through many South American countries, and the finished product probably wasn’t shipped direct to Bali either.
I couldn’t help but consider in passing more items that I interacted with shortly before and after my flip flops. The slippers that I took off were acquired from a German hotel. The dinner I had just finished eating included swedish-inspired vege-meatballs produced by a dutch company, italian-inspired pasta sauce, and rice grains grown in Pakistan. My post-dinner raspberries were from Spain and my grapes were Chilean. Only my leeks and onions were actually British.
Let’s skip over the fact that I’m typing this on a Chinese-made laptop and saving it to a Taiwanese solid state drive, paid for with money paid to me by a British company who get paid by a truly international set of customers.
There’s no new revelations here. We all know these things, deep down. This was just a passing thought that I decided to trace down to a surface level, and managed to identify over a dozen countries that I had somehow - mostly indirectly - interacted with just in the previous few minutes.
It is any wonder, then, that something like the Coronavirus was able to hit the whole world so quickly? I wasn’t thinking about that until it came to write this musing, but what’s there is there.