Why I am a globaliser

Luís Ángel Fernández Hermana - @luisangelfh
29 January, 2019
Editorial: 277
Fecha de publicación original: 24 julio, 2001

Those who arrive are never late

Genoa has added one more bead, martyr included, to the rosary of demonstrations organised by the inaccurately named anti-globalisation movement. Once again, the fury of events has clouded the basic issues. But we must not lose sight of these basic issues, for if we do we will find ourselves walking arm-in-arm with people we would otherwise never share a beer with in a bar. I consider myself a wholehearted globaliser, and if I could be more of one I would. My reasons cannot be summed up in a simple Decalogue (so media-friendly, so hygienic). Nor do I feel I have to define this globalisation further (critical, alternative, a token of solidarity, neo-internationalist, etc.), because as far as I am concerned, the only way I am able to understand reality is from a critical point of view.

Globalisation, apart from being understood as an inevitable spin-off of this stage in the development of capitalism (and that is a subject still very much open to discussion), seems to me to be the only way out of the problems facing the world (hunger, neo-liberalism, poverty). But whether we are prepared to confront these problems within the globalisation framework and deal with the consequences of trying to resolve them is another thing. For the moment anyway, this is not exactly happening within the globalisation movement. Some of the most complex issues affecting us are being rolled wily nilly into one generalised and undifferentiated discussion, as though they were all the same thing and easily resolved with a simple recipe. This makes us lose sight of the real issues that would help our understanding of the world we live in. What we have is a simple tune with verses that are easy to remember but that mean very little.

So, as an active globaliser, and in the hopes that this classification doesn’t sound too pretentious, I am in favour of:-

The Net. This is a place where the possibility of both personal and collective expression on a global scale exists, and where the combination of information and knowledge aimed at creating a vision of the world based on horizontal, transversal and collateral perspectives is now starting to bear fruit. The Net, then, is the platform that offers me the global environment where I am able to express, together with millions of people, the fact that the world I live in is not a very nice place, that my voice be heard and that what others have to say is heard too. I would like the decision-makers of the world to be accountable for the decisions they make and take me into account before they make them. And they will not be able to escape because, sooner or later, there will not be another world outside the Net where they can carry on doing as they like.

The propagation of technology. Since the Bandung Conference in 1955, when 29 nations met giving birth to the Non-Aligned Movement and the Third World block, one of the most oft repeated demands of these countries at conferences of all kinds (international, regional, local, etc,) has always been the transfer of technology. And we the rich have never complied, which is precisely why we are rich. We have never transferred technology and, when we have, it has been obsolete or third grade. And we still refuse to believe –because it doesn’t suit us– that this is one of the factors truly responsible for first class poverty and misery. The Internet now makes it possible the transfer of that technology not to rest solely in the hands of politicians and big transnationals. The spread of knowledge via the Net allows a whole series of intermediate steps which will make it possible for technology of all kinds to reach these places or at least the knowledge for manufacturing and making use of them on a personal, collective, organisational, business administration or any other institutional level within a global context.

Education and fulfilling basic needs as a part of one package. For decades we have hidden behind the subterfuge that what those who are not so fortunate and well-endowed as we are need is food first and education later. But we have denied them the most basic education: learning in order to eat. We have systematically haggled with them over the necessary knowledge for producing, distributing, organising and prospering. And we are still doing it, with the international commercial structure of GATT established at the Uruguay Round of Talks, within the World Trade Organisation and with the proposals of a multitude of anti-globalisation NGOs whose funds depend on a marked separation between food and education (thousands of “development projects” are based on this kind of thinking). The networks could do more to change this situation in favour of global education than the paternalistic goodwill of self-satisfied nations ever could.

Responsible consumption. We the rich, tall, strong, healthy, youthful and tough (with or without artificial aid), the most well-dressed and well-fed sector of the planet, that 20% who consume 80% of the world’s total resources, were not always that way. No bible ordained that we were destined for this paradise either. We got to be here by making sure that no-one else did. Anti-globalisation activists should reflect on the fact that very often this is the only reason they have time to think about anti-globalisation and that, among other things, thanks to industrial and agricultural subsidies over the last few years more people have died of hunger than in wars. The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) of the European Union, for instance, is responsible for more genocide and famine than us well-meaning Europeans would like to admit. Thanks to the CAP every single head of cattle from Spain to Sweden receives a dollar a day subsidy , the same amount of money on which a thousand million people are forced to subsist in the world. As a result we can eat cheap meat and 80% of the world is excluded from doing business with us because of these tariff barriers. Now we say we want to solve the problem by cancelling their external debts. Without giving up our cheap subsidised meat of course.

The dissemination of information and knowledge through the networks. I don’t believe for one moment, as some info-opulent people claim (20% of the world) that more information (“an excess of information!”) means less democracy (anti-globalisation activists such as Ignacio Ramonet for instance). It is not we who have to do the talking, but them (the other 80%). We have exercised gross autism towards them from the time of colonisation right up until the present day. And, despite our growing awareness of the complex problems of a global world, we still try our best to speak for them and tell them what kind of world we think we should live in.

Bringing an end to the lethal cynism that the poor, apart from not having enough to eat, are stupid because they can’t find electricity either. What on earth do they want the Internet for then? Relationships formed via the Net could help us become innovative in wiping out these kinds of attitudes.

Using our consumer power to influence global politics. Our companies mould the social and physical landscape which up until now we either didn’t see or didn’t want to see. Or else we were unable to influence what we saw. Through the Net and the voices of those (the other 80%) we can now find out what they are doing, how they are doing it and what the consequences will be. Our money keeps these organisations, such as telecommunications, food, infrastructure (electricity, energy, etc.) companies, going. And we can tell them via our bills (after we have made the relevant agreements amongst consumers through the Net) what we think about what they are, or are not, doing.

Incorporating the highest possible number of the world’s citizens into the new virtual space created by the networks where the only way of operating is via negotiation. This is something we are still evidently unable to do because the whole social system seems to be geared towards confrontation.

Enhancing new ways of relating to one another and conducting politics via the networks in order either to influence traditional politics or seek new means of action based on new interests developed within virtual space no matter what the economic, social, cultural, physical and spiritual distances that lie between us may be.

Making interaction one of the basic and fundamental rights of the Knowledge Society. Open architecture networks, like the Internet, increase our capacity for participation and interaction at all levels and in all situations. As a result, while information and knowledge systems grow and expand, so does the personal and collective maturation process of those who create and use them.

Contributing to the emergence of a global system of ethics. This, of course, must be subject to negotiation between individuals and collectives who act, altogether, within networks of all kinds (human, economic, political and social) articulated by computer networks that make up the global technological space where they operate. An ethical system which orientates the priorities of public and private activities in a global context.

Dealing with the fear that the others (the other 80%) might come and take the precarious well-being we enjoy, at their cost, away from us. These others will come, in real or virtual space, right in to our dining rooms to tell us what we are doing to them and how they think things could be improved. That is what globalisation means. If we are governed by fear of this encounter (more and more intense with every passing day) then we will really end up being anti-globalisers like the World Bank and the gang of the G-7+1 who have just made the amazing discovery in Genoa that barriers to free trade contribute to increased poverty in developing countries.

Negotiating historical debts. The rich countries have enjoyed a “moratorium” of over a century on polluting the planet and sacking its resources in the name of relentless, no holds barred industrialisation. Its well-being has depended on this moratorium. Now they want to bring this all to an end and “put everyone on a par”. Their conditions, according to them (and we accept), should be the conditions of everyone: healthy food based on the quality control criteria determined by a historical legacy which only they have enjoyed. The same as those they want to apply to the rules of commerce, work, human rights etc. These historical debts must be negotiated in a global space and not just by political agents, because the whole social architecture we will build this century and the type of environment that will sustain it, is at stake here.

To sum up, globalisation increases our personal and collective responsibilities and forces us to look the issues squarely in the face. We can’t run away from a world we don’t like, as we have done so far, putting the blame on “the rich” as though we have nothing to do with them. Globalisation is putting some very powerful tools in our hands and we can use them for different ends, to use them ourselves and aim for objectives negotiated in the global environment. We will reap what we sow. International financial and commercial bodies, as well as the council of the most powerful on the planet, have come to the conclusion that, from now on, they will have to meet in a desert, in a space capsule or on the peak of an inaccessible mountain if they don’t want the noise coming from what is going on all around them to be louder than any message they might wish to send out. Philosopher Javier Echevarría called his last book about the new feudalism of the Internet “Los señores del aire” (“Masters of the Air”). Well, it is there in the air that these masters will have to build their castles if their only thought is to hold out against the seige of the globalisation movement. Either that or they will have to come down to earth and accept us as part and parcel of their decisions. There is no other way out now.

Translation: Bridget King