Is globalization the takeover of happy communities by big evil businesses (for those on the left) or by big evil New World Order (by those on the Right) or is it the way of salvation to stop poverty and hunger?

Well, economics is not my expertise, so I’ll try it this way.

Do missionaries, by decreasing traditional beliefs, destroy simple societies? Are boarding schools that require language immersion and teaching the western ways of life (and thereby destroying family and tribal traditions) good or evil?
This year the answer is evil, but before you answer that, let me remind you that the idea that we should not change the lifestyle of simpler indigenous peoples was the idea behind apartheid.

A subtle subtheme in Lord of the Rings is the “sin” of the elves. Yes, elves are the “perfect men” but they have a sin: the wish to preserve their way of life. And to do this, they made the original rings, which led to Sauron learning to make the great ring of power.

You see, there is no such thing as a perfect world. Things change, and one cannot keep out the changes, no matter how hard you try. All you can do is try to limit the evil of your own back yard: whether that is the traditional societies with their poverty and ignorance, or the fully globalized yuppies with their materialism.

So I have three articles in which to show the complexities of globalization:

One: PBS article with a college professor who fights globalization and thinks having poor farmers live organically is the answer. LINK

I say yes to her fighting the degradation of the environment and exploitation of workers by middle men.

I also say yes to saving traditional seeds, and using organic ways to grow crops. It’s healthier for both the farmer and those who eat the food. But the dirty little secret is that organic methods are harder, have a smaller yield, and if this was the only option, the increased price would lead to hunger in the urban poor.(note: our family sells organic brown rice. but our yield is not as high as using chemicals, and so we sell it at twice as much as ordinary rice, so we sell it to the health conscious in Manila, not locally).

And in the middle of the interview, she paints a romantic picture of the good old days and says the farmers want things to stay the same. Ah yes, but is she the one bending over 12 hours a day to plant and harvest rice? No, I don’t think so.

One of the dangers of making this type of anti globalization thinking is that they don’t see how life was lived in the good old days, nor that with population increases, living an old fashioned organic life would lead to mass famine. Nor do they ask if farmers, whose religion stresses obedience to fate, might not start asking: why am I so poor?

In other words, unless you live in a hermit kingdom like North Korea, people will find out that there are alternatives, and might want change.

Which brings us to the second globalization story: Riots in China.

They don’t get much publicity but there have been quite a few, and the few reports suggest the cause is frustration with globalization: i.e. that the cities get all the benefits and the country folk don’t.
The riot in the link is about a riot over increasing bus fares two years after the buses were privatized.
Now, in the West, privatization means better service, but often in Asia it means corruption: You have a monopoly, so you bribe officials to make the largest profit, and raise fares as high as you can. Hence the riot.
In other words, it is not a riot against globalization per se (you don’t see farmers destroying buses because they want to walk or use oxcarts like their ancestors) but about corruption and lack of opportunity for becoming wealthy in rural areas.

Here in the Philippines, we have the same split: Lots of rich people, a small but growing middle class that is largely funded by overseas jobs, and lots of poor people left on the farms.

But unlike China, there are no laws preventing migration to cities for jobs, and indeed the government encourages workers to take overseas jobs.

But when young people work overseas, it is not good for families. Many young children are raised by extended families while mom works as a nurse in Chicago or as a maid in Saudi.

The hope is that these skilled workers will come back and start businesses. But to start a business, the problem is cheap imports (mainly from China) that make it impossible to manufacture items or grow things that will be cheaper than the imports.

Yet in places like the Philippines, things are optimistic, if for no other reason than we can talk about such things, and have decided to embrace the future.

So what is the answer? Ah, that’s my point. There is no one answer. Things change, and although you can try to stop the bad side effects of change, you cannot stop change.

And remember that  globalization, with it’s greed and corruption and materialistic basis, has decreased poverty and brought the with it the benefits of knowledge, wealth making, and freedom.


Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines with her husband, six dogs, three cats, and a large extended family. Her webpage is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket, and she writes essays on religion and social policy on Boinkie’s Blog.

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