On one hand, it’s hard not to notice that the world is becoming “smaller.”

The Internet is one cause; others include air travel; a reduction in visa requirements; the rise of multinational corporations, especially in the hospitality industry (and they all serve the same American breakfast); American music piped in everywhere, all over the globe; the same cars; the same international coverage by the media …

As I travel around the world, I no longer feel the differences I used to expect when I crossed national boundaries. More and more, it seems like we all live in the same global village, even the same city.

These signs can be interpreted as signs of global integration. But sameness does not mean integration. It just means sameness.

On the other hand, I definitely see signs of disintegration.

We know that integration is a function of mutual trust and respect. When MT&R decline, integration, too, declines.

The following are some signs of declining trust:

AIDS has undermined trust enormously. Someone who is carrying the virus might not even know it, because there may not be symptoms until years after he has been exposed. It is reasonable to wonder how many partners he’s had during those years. And it’s just as reasonable for the person you are wondering about to wonder the same thing about you.

Can you trust this “sexual chain” that appears to mean that no one was infected?

No!

Thus, safe sex is now a requirement. And each time a condom is used, it manifests a lack of trust.

Condoms are also recommended  to avoid unwanted pregnancies, and that, too, can be a manifestation of no trust: The partners do not trust each other to take precautions like the pill.

Here is another: Remember the fear of SARS? I travel on airplanes a lot. If someone on the plane started coughing, I could see the people near him getting scared. Should they breathe the recirculated air?

I love folk dancing. In Israel recently, I was watching people do circle dances on the Tel Aviv promenade. I watched for an hour. I remember that circle dancing used to involve holding hands. Now, people dance in a circle, all right, but each dancer by him- or herself.

The same thing has happened to ballroom dancing. Compare the waltz, the tango, the rumba—to disco dancing. No one touches anymore.

What about the phenomenon of pre-nuptial agreements? And recently, I read about a new type of insurance policy for sale: divorce insurance. How is that for mutual trust? Now, when we get married we need a legal agreement as to who will own what if we get divorced. And, to minimize losses, both bride and groom (and maybe the mother-in-law, too) buy a divorce insurance policy.

At the same time that the world seems to grow smaller, it also gets bigger. Children move further away; my children, for instance, are all over the United States. How often do I see my children and grandchildren? Not very often, compared to the time of our grandparents. Back then, travel was more difficult, but families stayed closer together.

Television has contributed to the disintegration, too. Yes, you can watch CNN and know what is happening in the world, but television has also caused people to stay at home more, watching TV instead of getting together in person.

E-mail, Skype, Facebook—all the so-called community building software—has enabled more interacting, but less relating.

Honestly, I prefer the way life was in the past: It was simpler, time moved more slowly, and friendships were deeper and more real.

In effect, our standard of living have gone up, but our quality of life is down.