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Globalization: A Meditation
Today we're going to perform the operation of a kind of conceptual overhaul on the word, "globalization," as I mentioned in the summary. You know, as I always say, words are like any other devices that do work. They need regular attention, maintenance.
Like any device that can get rusty and breakdown if neglected, so too, can words malfunction---believe it or not---without regular "tune ups," so to speak. One of those words badly in need of attention, in my opinion, is globalization.
What is globalization?
Careful! It is not the same thing as, say, internationalism, at least not the way I define the term "internationalism." That is a key malfunction of the word globalization, its confusion with internationalism.
I define internationalism like this: It is the appreciation of global diversity. Simple.
That is NOT what globalization is. In fact---and I cannot stress this point strongly enough---globalization is, for all intents and purposes, the opposite of internationalism.
Now then: What is globalization?
Please forgive me but I am going to start in a seemingly silly way. But if you bear with me, you will see that there is a method to my madness.
Again, what is "globalization"?
Well, it is the "ization" (or just "ation") of the global, of the globe which is a representation of the planet Earth. Earth-a-lization somehow doesn't roll off the tongue the same way as "globalization," so we say globalization.
Bear with me, I'm going somewhere with this.
What does it mean when we apply the suffix "ation" to anything?
Orient-ation. It means to apply the process of orient-"ing" to whomever is in need of it, whomever is in need of, say, acclimatization. Anyone who needs to be, say, "familiarized" with something, yes?
Substanti-ation. The process of applying "substance" to something to give it more, heft, weight, significance, gravitas, if you will. It is the process of "fleshing out," say, an argument that initially comes off as rather "thin."
Applic-ation (the verb, not the noun form). It is the process of "applying" effort to something, or in one direction or another.
Assimil-ation. The process of assmiliat-ing. It is the process of making oneself "fit in," in a cultural sense.
The "ation" seems to signify a process.
Look at the picture of the globe above. Or don't, as you choose. But at least consider a globe, which is a model of the Earth.
What would it mean to say that we are going to "globalize" the globe, to apply the process of globaliz-ation to the globe?
Nothing because the globe is merely a representation of the Earth.
What would it mean to say that we are going to Earth-a-lize the Earth, to apply the process of Earth-a-lization to the Earth.
Awkward, because we just don't say things like "Earthalize" the Earth, or apply the process of "Earthalization" to the Earth.
What we say is globalize the Earth, to apply the process of globalization to or on the Earth---the goal is to apply the process of "globalization" to as much of the Earth as possible.
The other reason that the globalization of the globe is meaningless, is because the globe is already a globe. We might as well talk about the "rock-a-lization" or rocks.
Therefore, what do we mean when we talk about applying the process of "globalization" to or on the Earth?
Well, we certainly do not mean to "appreciate global diversity," which is what internationalism is.
What does globalization effectively seek to do to "global diversity"?
Here's a hint: What does the term standardi-z-ation mean (standardization)? It means to impose uniformity across space, does it not?
For example, if we wanted to "standardize," or impose "standardization" of fourth grade reading and math requirements across the United States of America, we would seek to make sure that fourth graders in all fifty states were responsible for the same level of proficiency and content knowledge in reading and math. We would impose a uniformity or sameness of expectations for fourth graders in all fifty states of these United States of America.
Again, what does "globalization," then, seek to do with the international scene?
Globalization seeks to "standardize" that global scene, does it not?
If an American citizen took a flight from Tennessee to Vietnam, for the purpose of enjoying "authentic" Memphis barbeque (Memphis is in Tennessee), would she be engaged in an act of internationalism or globalization?
The answer is "globalization," NOT "internationalism." Flying thousands of miles, half way around the world to "enjoy the tastes of home," is not the act of appreciating global diversity, even if one crosses and ocean and crosses a border.
The reproduction of "home" does not encourage the appreciation of global diversity.
Suppose I'm an American citizen, which I am, living in Alabama, which I do not, and I can watch "Hindi" movies on one of the cable channels that I get. The movies are shown with English subtitles. And lets say that I enjoy the "foreign" films very much.
Is there "globalization" or "internationalism" going on here?
Again, the answer is: "globalization" NOT "internationalism."
Really, you ask, even though "I like the 'foreign' films very much"?
Yes, there is "globalization" going on but most emphatically not "internationalism" happening!
Why do I say that?
Well, I suppose I should say that, by default, I suspect globalization not internationalism is going on. For one thing, how do I know that the language isn't being translated or "transliterated" in such a way as to especially appeal to an "American sensibility"? If we were to find out that this were the case, then we must say that a product is being served up to an American audience to make that American audience "comfortable," in spite of its allegedly "exotic" character.
Is that clear?
Good! Let's move on to something else, shall we?
The concept of "trade" is somewhat puzzling. That is to say I find it puzzling in the way its effective definition has changed. I suppose you can say that the world moved away from a truly internationalized trade to a globalized trade.
That is to say we, the world, have moved away from the internationalization ("ation") of trade to the globalization ("ation") of trade.
What's the difference?
Well, remember internationalism is the appreciation of global diversity. Globalization is the imposition of uniformity across international zones.
Trade in the sense of internationalism, then, is what is dismissively called "barter." It is about: You giving me something that I want and do not have; in exchange for my giving you something that you want and do not have.
This is the "commonsense" definition of "trade" that all children instinctively know, when they trade their baseball cards, matchbox cars, stamps, or whatever. That is the way trade used to be done in the world, from, say, about 5000 B.C.E. to, I want to say, around 1800 C.E. Because trade had been done this way, once upon a time, ideas, concepts, and knowledge were traded across borders as well as goods.
It is not our task, here, to try to figure out why the nature of "trade" changed. What I am interested in is that we all agree that our world today functions on the basis of the globalization of trade. By that I mean that a standardization has been placed on the goods that the nations of the world "trade" back and forth.
The question I'm interested in beyond that is: Is the globalization of trade (again, not the internationalization of trade) good, bad, or indifferent for workers?
Actually, before we get to that, there is a question that precedes it. That question is this: If globalization is the imposition of standardization across international zones, the who are driving it?
The answer to that question, of course, is that the powerful, industrialized Western countries are driving "globalization," chief among them the United States of America.
If that is true---and it is---then when we ask the question (Is globalization good, bad, or indifferent for workers?)---then we really need to say that it depends on which group of workers one is talking about.
If the manufacture of automobiles is no longer an unique American specialty, and the "whole world" now builds cars----what is the effect on "workers" when a plant is moved from Tennessee to China, for example?
Well, the answer involves frustrating ambiguity, does it not? The answer involves one of those "on the one hand" and "on the other hand" deals, does it not?
Workers in Tennessee lose out and workers in China gain. Workers in Tennessee lose high-paying employment, which didn't require a college degree and workers in China gain a chance to gain employment, which is low-paying by American standards, but relatively high-paying compared to what Chinese workers had been used to.
Another problem is this: With the moving of the plant from Tennessee to China, industrial, modernizing capacity is moved from the United States to the People's Republic of China. These transfers of industrial capacity allows China to get on the path to becoming as industrially modern as the United States.
China is not as industrially modern as the United States.
By the way, all of this begs another question: Why isn't China as industrially modern as the United States? And while we're at it, why isn't the whole world as industrially modern as the United States? This is another way of saying: Why isn't the whole world developed?
We live in a world of "uneven development." In that sense, then, we do not have globalization. We do not have the imposition of standardized developed meant across all international zones.
Why not? Since the United States and other Western European countries are driving the kind of "globalization" that we have, this leads one to wonder: Could the United States and Western Europe impose standardization of development, to their level, across the international zones, if those powers-that-be wanted to?
Is globally uniform industrialization possible?
From a progressive, and in my opinion, humane point of view that is desirable. That is to say the globally uniform industrialization is desirable. The whole world should be as developed as the United States, Canada, and Western Europe and Japan.
In this respect, the appropriate answer to the question (What do you think about globalization?) is the answer Gandhi notoriously gave when he was asked what he thought of Western civilization. He said he thought it was a good idea.
Question: What do you think about globalization (of development)?
Answer: I think its a good idea!
The Western countries are modern. The Democratic Republic of Congo is not.
Part of makes the Western countries modern are all the electronic devices we enjoy. I'm sure I needn't list them because if you're reading this, you are using one of them.
A vital element that makes the electronic devices work---and therefore makes us "modern"---is a substance called coltan. My understanding is that 70-80 percent of it is mined in the Congo.
Why can't the Congo be modern, then? Let me "read" you something from a Wikipedia article called, simply "Coltan." Under the heading of Resource curse we read:
"Countries rich in resources - such as Congo - have been affected by the phenomenon called 'resource curse.' This is a phenomenon where countries that are rich in resources have worse economic development than countries that have fewer resources. This phenomenon does not allow for the Congolese to have a balanced and sustained development.
"It also indicates a clear relationship between the wealth of resources '... and the likelihood of weak democratic development, corruption, and civil war. Such high levels of corruption lead to great political instability and issues because whoever controls the assets (mainly the political leaders, and the government in Congo) can use them to their own benefit. These resources generate wealth for these people which they use to stay in power '... either through legal means, or coercive ones (e.g. funding militias). The rise in the importance of coltan as a mineral crucial to technological products 'occurred as warlords and armies in the eastern Rwanda became a major exporter of coltan, benefitting from the weakness of the Congolese government."
It would appear, then, that another kind of globalization of which we are lacking is: the standardization across all the regional zones of the Earth, of the supply of natural resources. "God" seems to have neglected to attend to that detail.
What we seem to have in the Democratic Republic of Congo is a prolonged "gold rush." The thing about a gold rush is that you have guys sitting by the river with their trays, shifting the sand, trying to collect little bits of gold sediment at a time, and all that stuff. But then you have characters who find it simpler and easier to wait until another fellow has accumulated a sizeable amount, and then---as they used to say---"jump his claim," simply hijack the other guy's "claim."
Imagine the United States of America engaged in a perpetual "gold rush," desperately trying to supply Chinese buyers, say, with.... something. Imagine this happening in all fifty states, twenty-four-seven.
But still, with all that coltan lying around, why can't the Congo have a modern electronic and communication infrastructure as we do?
I would imagine this has something to do with multinational corporations buying the "mineral rights," depositing the money in the secret bank accounts of dictators, fixers, and strongmen, much of which is probably used to buy guns, because dictators can never have too many guns to protect himself from his own population, among other threats.
Well, there's always more one can say, but I'll let it go and end this thing!
Thank you for reading!