Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Internationalism vs. globalisation

It is a global trend. The effects, people say, are significant. Globalisation - and 'neo-liberalism' - have helped global GDP and wealth soar. National borders are being thawed and the whole world is one big community.

Though the actual impacts of globalisation are far from rosy. People talk of the 'trickling down' effects of neo-liberalism. People from lower social strata would accrue wealth. What we see instead is a 'trickling up' effect. Higher strata are becoming obscenely wealthy. What is the popular statistic right now? That 1% wealthiest in the world have more money than all of the lower strata (say, the bottom 50%) combined?

Examples like India, China and Brazil are cited as exemplars of globalisation. Yet, while it is true that there are sectors of the population which are far wealthier and have a better standard of life, there are other areas with rampant poverty. It is disproportionate to say that these countries are booming and it is disingenuous to say that they are enjoying the rewards of globalism.

Culturally, globalisation really has a habit of rooting out local culture. Think of every McDonald's installed for every restaurant of local cuisine torn down. Trends are generally set by the USA. So, Hollywood films dominate the global market place. People from other cultures jettison their values and mimic the American way of life. (Which was always rather artificial. The early settlers left behind their European culture and heritage and became 'Americans' - i.e. overly materialistic and with the desire to amass capital.)

The main beef I have with globalisation is that it erodes democracy. Political institutions have little power. Where is the power? It is with bankers and executives. They control the free market economy. 

What's more is that political institutions in themselves are becoming more centralised. In the EU, most monetary issues are dictated by the EU. Austerity measures are a pre-requisite to being a member. This also applies to many laws. If a country has a visionary outlook - like Scotland did, however fanciful their proposals of the SNP were - it does not have self-determination. It is mired in technocratic bureaucracy which is centralised in Brussels. 

This is why I think that it is important to distinguish between internationalism and globalism. Globalisation stands for everything mentioned above. Internationalists, meanwhile, are far from isolationists. They want to co-operate with other countries diplomatically. They also have a humanitarian streak and are keen to send aid to countries imperiled by war.

I would take this even further and argue that national borders are erroneous. I would call myself a 'cosmopolite.' It is an imperative to look into foreign cultures and familiarise yourself with their literature. It is a shame that this kind of outlook has been adopted by the globalism. 

But what we are seeing now is that globalism is actually helping to stoke up xenophobia. Far-right parties with racist views are winning seats in the European Parliament. The EU started with the benign premise that it would end war and instigate a more co-operative global alliance. What we are instead seeing is that countries are closing borders and becoming virulently xenophobic. Far-right parties want to become isolationist states and are intent on purging out foreigners.

What I think is quite sad is that the left doesn't really have a narrative on globalisation. The Labour party, for instance, is very wishy-washy. It insists that the EU needs to be reformed, but they are intent on wearing the EU credential proudly on their lapels. Anti-globalisation rhetoric has been appropriated by right-wing populism - and we are all the worse for it.

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