March 15, 2008
Bigger Ain't Better - A Manifesto for American Liberals
So how can any good liberal person sit there and support globalization? The new wave of non-profit industry that appears to be sweeping the nation, encompassing anything from global water quality to poverty-stricken villages in Africa and Haiti to international ethnic conflicts, is doing a disservice to the world and to Americans in particular. George Orwell made clear his position about socialism: that bureaucratic socialism further alienated the worker from a sense of purpose and dignity and contributed even more to class antagonisms ("all pigs are created equal, but some pigs are created more equal than others"). This is a point in the venture of our culture where a huge divergence is met and liberals as a group, again can be thrown to the blame. It is the social and economic liberals who must face the harsh indictment of responsibility for times like these. The free market ideology of contemporary Western liberalism allowed for corruption due to the over-inflation of industry. Somewhere along the way, someone had the brilliant idea that larger, more centalized industry could drive down the cost of goods and allow for more employment opportunities (iow: inflation from and out-of-balance and unmanagable supply and demand and lower wages for workers with increased remedial factory work). Did it work? Yes and no. It did what it was designed to do and that is, increase the wealth of nations and elevate the GDP of each nation that adopts such a model. What it didn't do was alter the rates of unemployment. Conservatives who stand against increases in minimum wage are correct in their assumption that wage inceases cut jobs. However, this is a catch-22. Wages are increased based on the cost of living. Minimum wage, in theory, was put in place so that a worker could have the security of a job that allowed that person the base pay for supporting their life. The problem is not with the wage increase, the problem is with the system that will not yield to low-end worker's rights and cut profits to support its employees. Being that there is a lockbox on the profits set aside for investors, who gets shafted? The people that have the money? Or the people that need the money?
So with this heavily-guarded interest, the "risk-taking" investors (hardly a risk when the profits are made, whether legally and ethically or not) are the ones who have the first dibs on the booty 'cause they just put so much on the line for it. This is the context for the next transition in American culture circa 1980 when regionalism started to really die and globalization started kicking in. As Americans became displeased with the disproportion of remedial jobs to skilled labor jobs, large national corporations started making deals with other "developing nations" (note the use of language suggesting that if you don't have capitalism in your area, you are lacking something. areas of the world aren't bad because of war, genocide, pollution and diseases arising from death, decay, and pollution, these areas are bad because they don't have capitalism (you cannot refute that this is not cultural hegemony, because it is). Compare surveys of the state of pre-colonial Africa with similar types of documents highlighting post-colonial Africa and tell me what the great benefit of giving a western structure to Africa was. Jobs that had involved little to no skill were given off to people in other nations with less restrictions on human rights violations. Did this open up jobs here? No. It took away jobs and created a huge push to make a lucrative business out of the technologies that were developed originally for war and corporate communication. Now you have the machines that drove industry through the 70s and 80s sitting on your desk.
There were pros and cons to this. Pros: business machines are cheaper, more opportunity to create local and regional business. Cons: the dot-com boom and bust and the revision of computer marketing strategies. Perhaps regionalism would have had an uprising and grassroots community development would have succeeded if it weren't for Wal-Mart and the rise of shopping malls. If you had the choice of going one place for everything with lower prices or several places for things with the prices of yesterday when a dollar meant something what would you pick? Don't even lie to me, you stupid, rebellious, Lasn-reading hipsters. Your dollar suddenly means less because there is more of it (see the context I established above), you will go and you will be drawn in to the sights, the smells and the sounds and you will have grown up only knowing shopping malls, image, competition, taste, cool, trendy. You will have become the consumer culture. People are cruel with this shit. It may look like a series of arbitrary images, but like money, it becomes a passionate and competitive game to outcool, out-trend and out-spend your opponent. And as companies like Apple computers started making graphical desktop options, the market shifted for computers and consumers want the computers for games and fun and novelty mostly. Again, we have a computer at our house and you don't. And even more, we have an Apple and you don't. Image + competition = brand loyalty.
And about the new wave of regionalism? Down town city spaces became ghost towns because of the dubbed "Wal-Mart effect." Small business is something virtually impossible to keep and would not last long without the intervention of town and state government grants. The very thing conservatives protest (socialism) is the very thing that supports "conservative" values (ie; home, family, community, etc). So as large business ventures go out of hand and the older generation, who had been under the foolish impression that capitalism is virtue because it creates opportunities, moves to make non-profit ventures (or repentent sinners such as Bill Gates move to prove that their wave of capitalism isn't all bad and there are good things it has... is... will do). This is our current crisis. Our culture is caught in the age of ideas, the age of solutions. Businesses start of the premise that they offer "solutions for... [insert clever-sounding piece of bullshit]." Corporations tout in the advertisements "we've created solutions for... [another clever-sounding piece of bullshit]." Global climate change has been an irrefutable problem... ask any PA resident about the weather. And now non-profit ventures see themselves as virtuous and valliant crusaders, giving [insert class, gender, race or nationality of people] [insert virtuous-sounding sollution]." Notice how all these ventures are pure abstractions. There is no specific pitch as to what exactly these entreprises do to what specific, measurable phenomenon of the world.
We are moving from an age of disciplinarianism to an age of interdisciplinarianism and innovation. We just now see how much the inflated economic entreprise affects us and we are trying to find something to work for to fix the problems that were caused by this vehicle which we are using to fix the problems. It's a chaotic viscious cycle. The world is pure abstraction. Poor people don't exist save the ones we see in print, on TV or on the internet. I have seen yuppies all but run over bums begging for a job in Shadyside, the same ones who feel like they are doing a service to society. What is society? Society is chaos. It is mass society. Mass society is people swarming around arbitrarily without the coherance of a movement looking for opportunity. Is there opportunity? Why is there the largest disparity between rich and poor with a quickly-vanishing middle class? Why? Because regionlism is dead. Because we have all lost a sense of place. Community does not exist in a geographical sense. Community is now ideological and ideologies clash. Call me anti-intellectual, I don't care. Intellect is dead. The American culture war is a product of this ideological grouping. More and more people have been forced into unemployment offices, on the phone, on job hunt web pages, onto online social networks. This has altered the social consious of people. Who does this hurt? The poor who are stuck in run-down communities, in the boondocks, in the ghettos. If the jobs go wherever they want, governed only by the arbitrary whims of a mass global society and the demands of the mass global economy, people are forced to constantly move. I will argue that always we are only responsible for what we see. That doesn't mean that we can help the people of Africa, Southeast Asia and South America, but what it does mean is that if we want to help them, we should move there and help them without mediation. Funneling money is counterproductive. Non-profit business is not virtuous. It is still business and must be met with every grain of distrust. Teach the people how to build homes, how to live from the land. How to defend the land that is rightfully theirs and form trade unions to secure just trading with buyers.
And for Godsakes, lets also work on America and her problems because the brooding, heartless conservative ideologies that are rising into dominance now are speaking to an oppressed people in America and promising many good things for lower-class Americans. LIBERALS: we know what we base our beliefs on and that is the liberation of humanity. We were opposed to slavery, we were there in the factories with the workers demanding fair treatment, we spoke up about the lynchings in Birmingham, the hate crimes against gays, lesbians and transgendered people, we demanded assylum inmates be treated with dignity and we saw that the death of the regimes of Hitler, Franco and Mussolini would be a reality. A liberal is always with the oppressed even in a physical sense, and the liberal must always guard the underdog from the teeth of his/her oppressor. America must not allow the shallow words of conservative power elites enter the possiblity of popularity.
While there are still communities standing, support your community. Volunteer. Clean up the place. Take pride in your town. Get to know the youth and the elderly and build up regional and community activity. Globalization is not a word in the liberal vocabulary. The chaos can only stop with you - stand firm, be active in local politics. Speak up at church about the real words of Christ and not some decontextualized interpretation. Help solve the problems at home, not with empty, glorious-sounding words but with real action. Bigger ain't better. It is only the small, base and wretched that can save the world.
Posted by EvanReynolds at March 15, 2008 4:52 PM
TrackBack URL for this entry: