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Letters to the editor

Roger Brown

With the G-8 Summit just over, this might be a good time to reflect on globalization and its impacts on the rest of the world. The following thoughts were originally expressed by Anne Norberg-Hodge in many of her different writings. I have reworked them in the interest of space and reading time, and I’ve added a few thoughts of my own. Today, 50 of the world’s largest economies are corporate, not national. The global economy they control is managed by institutions like the World Bank, the World Trade Organization and the IMF. These organizations are not accountable to any democratic constituency. They are corporations that are required by their stockholders to generate maximum profits in the shortest possible period of time. Little room is left for the consideration of social, ecological, or spiritual values. Globalization, as I see it, is one of the biggest problems facing the world today. The consumer culture. These corporate economies are a reflection of our present-day culture and very different from ancient cultures and even the culture that existed in this country a hundred years ago. What we have now is what Norberg-Hodges calls a consumer monoculture, and its hallmark is rampant materialism. President Bush acknowledged the importance consumption right after the shock of the 9/11 attacks. Consume, consume, consume, he said. We have to spend our way out of this depressing mess. We have to get the economy moving again. It seems China and India believe in the same principle. Consume, consume. So now we (the USA) are facing increasingly serious competition for nonrenewable natural resources like like oil and gas from other countries in the world. It’s being reflected in the prices at the gas pump. How many more people can we have consuming more and more resources on a finite planet? The most simplistic logic screams about limits. Monoculture. An unceasing flow of consumer nation media, public relations, advertising and movies is now being pumped into the most remote corners of the planet, and into the ancient, nonmaterial cultures that have been surviving there. The messages are aimed primarily at young people, promoting the new, modern, “cool” way of life. As a result the local cultures are gutted and replaced with versions of happiness that serve commercial interests at the expense of ecological and social needs. An expensive car or truck, a big house, a holiday out of the country, etc., are valued more than deep connections to our communities and the nature that surrounds us. As Norberg-Hodges says, “The irony is that we have perfect TV images, video games and music, but the culture promoting them is often so anemic and shallow it’s not worth watching.” The other part of the problem is that the Third World is being sold a life style, a consumer dream, that they will never be able to attain. In the Himalayas, I have personally witnessed changes taking place where gentle peaceful communities have started producing aggressive discontented people. They want what they know they can never have. Centralization. The large corporations that need a large work force draw whole rural populations into urban centers, resulting in torn-apart communities and families. The traditional cultures are lost and a growing sense of personal insecurity takes over. The people no longer sing and dance to their own stories, but take their cues from television programming that has nothing to do with them. They become passive instead of active members of these new urban industrial communities until some are recruited into gangs and terrorist activities as the discontentment and poverty becomes extreme. What can be done? To quote Norberg Hodges again, “Many of us avoid an honest examination of our lives in fear of exposing our contributions to global problems, but once we realize that globalization is creating a disconnected society, psychological deprivation, and environmental breakdown … we should be able to focus on the system we are in and it’s structural problems and violence” and work to change it. Yes, the giant systems that are a part of the global economy seem to defy individual involvement and initiative, but the situation is not as hopeless as it might seem. Understanding the system and its inherent problems is the first step, thereby removing ignorance.The next step is to examine “greed” and realize that the accumulation of wealth and material things can never replace compassion and wisdom as satisfying goals. Now is the time to behave. Attend to your needs, not your wants. Roger Brown Gypsum Vail, Colorado


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