Back when the world was yet to become the global village and time flowed so slowly it seemed to stand still, people seemed to have more stability within their identities.
There were many things to identify with: nationality, native language, profession, native religion, the people around you in your locality. In fact, it was hard not to relate to and identify with these things.
In the world of today these are vanishing even more and more.
Telecommunications technologies and travel possibilities are reducing the significance of national boundaries rapidly. (Corporations are trying to come up with a thing called 'corporate loyalty', but it's just not the same as 'national loyalty' once was.)
Languages are losing their connection to cultural heritage and return more and more to their original purpose as tools for communication.
If one chooses a fixed profession and does not continuously improve as the profession morphs into something else, the world moves beyond and leaves the profession outdated.
With the advance of science, religions just don't hold the same power of persuasion they once had. Doubts spring up more quickly in an analytical mind.
In cities there are so many people around you that it harder to relate to any of them. Even if you do, time moves on quickly. The sense of belonging to a community is harder to find and more fleeting.
What is there left for a lowly human to identify with when seemingly his very essence is ripped out under him?
This is an excellent opportunity for individuals as well as humanity as a whole to look inward and look for deeper sources of identity. Doing so would enable us to form deeper and more meaningful connections between people and create strength out of chaos for humanity.
However, most people still are afraid of depths and are unable to look inwards. The identity of these people is eroded and all that's left is fear in all its fearsomeness.
Fear being a truly terrifying thing to face, it's better to cling to empty objects outside or remnants of what once was. This may provide momentary forgetfulness and relief, but it also feeds the inner terror of emptiness.
This is the state of the global village today.
Many are grasping at straws in fear of themselves, and many are working hard at selling straws to others - so they can afford their own straws to grasp at.