Brett Hetherington

Banner photos: Cornelia Kraft

Worshipping the gods of commerce

 

[A version of this article was first published in Kansai Scene magazine and was co-written with Anil Ramsingh.]

 

In 1994 a UN Human Development report stated that what we are now seeing is:

“an arresting picture of unprecedented human progress and unspeakable human misery, of humanity’s advances on several fronts mixed with humanity’s retreat on several others, of a breath-taking globalization of prosperity side by side with a depressing globalization of poverty.”

We have to ask: In the last decade and a half, what has changed?

Samuel Huntington is a political scientist and member of the Trilateral Commission think-tank. He believes that the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meetings in places like Turin [and held again in Davos, Switzerland during January and February in 2009] have become the main venue for the meeting of the “people who control virtually all the international institutions, many of the world’s governments and the bulk of the world’s economic and military capabilities.”

The WEF calls itself a “non-profit” organization. It is financially supported by the most profitable businesses in the world: Monsanto, McDonalds, Novartis, Deutsche Bank, Siemens, Philip Morris, Du Pont and hundreds of others whose interests the WEF is most concerned with.

Huntington says that the main aim of the WEF group is to build up a “global community, a worldwide network between the decision-makers from the economy, politics, science and the media.”

According to the Independent Media Centre, the WEF are practitioners of a world-encompassing capitalist economy based on profit maximization and the expansion of the power of transnational corporations over the state. In short, as one activist puts it: “They want to turn the world into one big shopping mall.”

Joshua Karliner, author of The Corporate Planet says that this new economy leaves more than 20% of the developing world’s population going hungry every night. 25% lack safe drinking water and 30% live in a state of dismal poverty.

Meanwhile, the gap between rich and poor has at least doubled. The widest gap in the industrialized word exists in the USA, supposedly the world most “successful” economy.

 

Fattening up…

But the USA is only a part of the overall problem. When it is added to Japan, Germany, Canada, France, Italy and the UK as the largest economies in the world, together they make up less than 12% of the planet’s population. They consume 43% of the world’s fossil fuels, 64% of its paper and 60% of its mineral resources.

The USA has less than 5% of the world’s people but creates a half of the world’s solid waste.

 

No logic and No Logo

The word “globalization” has come to mean much more than trade between countries, but this is the main concern of governments. It explains why they act in the interests of the biggest, profiteering companies.

In an exclusive interview Naomi Klein, the author of No Logo, told me that she is alarmed because she thinks “we no longer have a clear sense of ourselves as public citizens [but rather] only as shoppers, and anyone who raises these concerns is labeled anti-democratic.”

Certainly, there are benefits of globalization, particularly when this means the sharing of ways of life across borders. The question remains however, what do we do when globalization ends up being the opposite: mono-culture and exploitation by corporatization?