Make a World of Difference
Published in the Evening News, Edinburgh, 26 November 2001, p. 10 (originally submitted under the title Globalization, or One World?).
[In the light of the Twin Towers
attack on America], the world has to rethink the move towards increasing
globalisation, says Alastair McIntosh.
“Globalisation under Attack” shouts
October’s front page of the high finance magazine, The
if you want to know what globalisation is, and why it affects ordinary lives
even here in Edinburgh, read The
a social and environmental activist like me, it’s just music to the ears.
leading article by the magazine’s founding editor, Bernard Bracken, discusses
the implications for the world economy of the September 11th attacks.
He says, “The IMF and the World Bank may need to be more understanding at
these critical times.”
quotes, approvingly, from a United Nations report written before the Twin Towers
attack. This warned: “Increasing polarisation between the haves and have-nots
has become a feature of our world. Reversing this trend is the pre-eminent moral
and humanitarian challenge of our age. In the global village, someone else’s
poverty very soon becomes one’s own problem: of lack of markets for one’s
products, illegal immigration, pollution, contagious disease, insecurity,
as if that’s not enough, the bankers of the world then get a lecture from
Joseph E. Stiglitz, former chief economist at the World Bank.
protests from Seattle to Genoa have made one thing clear: many people are
unhappy about globalisation.”
continues: “Protests of this scale are almost invariably the tip of an
iceberg: for each protestor willing to travel … there are thousands of
sympathisers back home. The leaders of the world have grudgingly come to
Stiglitz, there is no question that globalisation and the Twin Towers attack are
somehow linked. On this, Osama bin Laden agrees.
a recent secretly arranged interview at a hideout near Kabul, bin Laden said
this to the Pakistani journalist, Hamid Mir: “The September 11 attacks were
not targeted at women and children. The real targets were America’s icons of
military and economic power…. We want to defend our people and our land…. If
we don’t get security, the Americans, too, will not get security.”
Stiglitz of the World Bank might not share bin Laden’s odious endorsement of
terrorism, but he concludes his article in The
Banker with these radical words. He
writes: “The basic problem has been one of voice: those who are affected by
the policies [of global economy] have had no seat at the table. And now they
have no seat at the tables at which reform is being discussed. We should not be
surprised that any modest reforms that do emerge will lack political legitimacy,
or will fail to quell the protesters whose voices have become increasingly loud
if there’s a consensus that “globalisation” has somehow destabilised the
globe itself, then what the hell do we mean by that word? It’s like we’re
all talking about it, but can we pin its meaning down?
think we can. And in my new book from Aurum Press, Soil
and Soul: People versus Corporate Power, I’ve suggested that Scottish history, literature and experience can
teach the world a lot about globalisation.
up in crofting culture on the Isle of Lewis, the son of a father who trained in
medicine at Edinburgh University, I saw globalisation sweep in with my own eyes.
boys we’d usually be guaranteed a good catch as we’d put out in our boats on
the local sea lochs. But around 1971, new technology, big trawlers bought on
hire purchase, and a break-down of respect for the three-mile limit meant that
all our inshore fish got gobbled up.
those days a boy could enter the world of men in such socially useful ways as
bringing home a good catch.
what’s left? Little wonder many kids seek their rites of passage in drug
culture, consumerism or violence.
happened with the fishing, you see, is that we got caught up in a dangerous new
attitude of false “progress”.
greed-driven boats were not marauding Spaniards, or even East-coasters. No. The
tragedy was that many were skippered from our own villages!
were destroying our own ecological systems for the sake of a quick buck, and to
pay off debt to a wider banker’s world. Not enough people realised, at the
time, that this would also unravel the ecology and social cohesion of our
“globalisation” really means, then, is something different from the honest
entrepreneurial spirit. Rather, it is money-grabbing freed of any restraint,
respect, and reverence.
is a form of advanced capitalism that turns everything into a commodity that can
be bought or sold. It values people and things only for their rate of return to
distant or anonymous shareholders.
Burns saw it all in the aftermath of Culloden. In his poem written in 1767, Strathallan’s
Lament, he depicts the
culturally-broken young Viscount Strathallan hiding in mountain cave.
wheel has driven o’er us,” says the crushed young man, who can no longer
enjoy “Crystal steamlets gently flowing,/ Busy haunts of base mankind.”
violence of war has killed something human and humane within. Only more
violence, as footsoldiers in the service of trade and empire, lies ahead. And so
Strathallan tragically concludes: “The wide world is all before us,/ But a
world without a friend.”
there’s the objection to the commodofication, the materialism, at the heart of
globalisation. It breaks right relationship in community with one another and
with this Earth. It creates a world without a friend – a breeding ground for
is why we must now replace “globalisation” with being participants in “One
need to see that there’s no such thing as getting stuff “cheap,” because
exploitation somewhere always boomerangs back.
we want an end to war, famine and pestilence, we must understand that power
rests in our own hands.
the corporations do manipulate us with the psychological hooks of their
marketing, those hooks only grip because we let them.
is up to us to try and buy, when we can, products based on fair trade, human
rights and low environmental impact.
Only then will we cease eating fear with what we consume.
Alastair McIntosh is a Fellow of
Edinburgh’s Centre for Human Ecology. Soil and Soul: People versus
Corporate Power is published by Aurum Press, £17.99.
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