It’s not about the ships.
The important thing is how cargo gets from one part of the world to another.
Sometimes the best way is on a ship that passes through the Canal. But not all cargo stays in ships as it goes through the Canal. The canal administration understands that is a node in a flow of global commerce from everywhere to everywhere. The canal is an important part of Panama’s brand: “Bridge of the World, Heart of the Universe.”
Panama is about connectivity between humans. But the Canal doesn’t produce the connectivity as much as it was itself a product of global connectivity. Once built, the Canal became a new and influential path for creating and consolidating other global connections through cargo and communications. Cargo is how people get connected to each other through processes of production and consumption. Communication is the dialogue that creates cargo and makes it flow. The canal shapes all kinds of connections around the world!
The widening of the canal will allow more cargo to pass through the canal on fewer ships, and increase reliance on communication. It will transform places around the globe — its already changing the transportation infrastructure of the United States. Some of the changes are foreseeable and others will come about in unforeseeable ways.
Global connections in Panama not only flow through the canal but also through the stories of its people. Cargo moving from everywhere to everywhere is only a rendition of a more important connection embodied by the people of Panama who built and run the Canal.
The varieties and mixtures of cultures, ethnicities, stories, and languages make Panama part of Africa, India, Pakistan, Eastern Europe, Colombia, the USA, Venezuela, China, Trinidad, Cuba, France, and literally every other part of the globe.Panamanians, and how they give expression to the globe, affect deeply how you experience your participation in the world, though you may rarely think of them.
Some Panamanians are richly rewarded for their contribution to Panama’s role in creating and sustaining global connections. But some are not. The hard work of those who are not rewarded richly still makes a huge difference for you. Your experience of the globe is shaped by them, though they appear to be unimportant. Most Panamanians cannot move around the globe as easily as the cargo that they help flow freely around the world.
Even though humans are not given the freedom to move like cargo, it is the connections between humans that reflects our shared origins. The migrations and exile that produced all of us, remind us that we share a planet. Our cultural differences and similarities tell of the interactions that made each of us into who we are.
And Panama reminds that our very diverse world is built on connections. In the same way, the destiny of each distant and seemingly non-influential human is tied to the destiny of all of us.
Our habit is to think that we should protect ourselves from others, from scary people in other parts of the world. In reality, we must come to terms with who they are, who we are in relation to them and why we fear each other. What does the way we deal with them say about us? What does it say about them? What does the interaction between us teach us about humanity?
Perhaps this has something to do with the idea that we find in the Bible and elsewhere that humans were made by God in his image and likeness.
Given the things that image bearers do to each other, and claim for themselves, this idea about God can be troubling. Particularly when we think about other people as enemies and overlook the connections.
Blended, connecting Panama. “Puente del Mundo, Corazón del Universo”. The bridge of the world, and the heart of the universe.