Monday, December 29, 2003

Globalisation debate - Part 3 - Any Answers?

In my last 2 articles I presented my view about the positive and negative sides of globalisation. I wondered if it was all too easy to highlight the problems that face the world today, suggesting that we should ponder over the plight and needs of the helpless and starving. Do we tend to simply say lets help them, rather than suggest some real solutions or answers? Interestingly, during festive periods across the global, different cultures establish charity collections to ensure that we think of others. Does this mean that charities have year-round collections? Unfortunately not. Consider if you can name consistent investment schemes from multi-national firms or the establishment of collaborative country development teams? How well do we know about the valuable work performed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) or United Nations (UN). I’m sure we all know the name of this year’s seasonal number one pop single!

Last week, over the Xmas break during I sought the sun and it happened to be in a developing country. I won’t mention its name as I believe that what I witnessed could be seen in any country that has ‘flashy’ hotels that cocoon the aware and exclude the hungry. You may now be asking why I decided to book a holiday in such a place. I have to inform you that at the time I genuinely didn’t know how bad the situation there is. Instead, I relied on a travel agency, its brochure and appeal of I was oblivious to and compelled to gain some natural vitamin D!

The place I visited was in Africa with its many diverse faces and dialectics. One episode will haunt me for the rest of my life. It happened last Friday. We were scheduled by the tour guide to visit a mini-desert area and return after an hour in the desert to the a village house to have lunch with a local family. The temperature soared to over 75degF during our trip. On route 6 local children all varying in age from between 7 and 12 accompanied us. The desert guide was 16 and I was to discover later that he would serve us our lunch. At one point during the desert tour, each child ran up a sand dune and performed unique somersaults, smiling upon successful completion. Their confident manoeuvres gave the impression that the desert was their daily playground. They were all barefooted and clothed in wool’s that had ground-in dust and dirt.

After lunch we were to head back to the main city. Standing outside the house about to board the air-conditioned mini-bus that would take us back to our hotel I poked for loose change in my pocket. I clutched what I had, unfortunately it wasn’t very much. I then proceeded to opened up my left hand to offer it to the 6 children, thinking that each could share what little I was offering. To my astonishment, all 6 arms and hands lunged forward and both clinging and grabbing my hand as in shock I closed it. The change had gone but only one child, coincidentally the oldest was successful in claiming the loose coins that I had displayed for offer. He swiftly pushed them into his side trouser pocket - he gave me the impression that his instant successful gain was not for sharing. My hand throbbed for a second but my heart hurt more. What I had witnessed was what could be described as both a ‘plea and point of desperation’.

You may now be considering the what the reasoning is behind this article. I simply wanted to say that there must be some answers to help resolve the world crisis. Globalisation brings this issue home to us, yet we appear immunised to consider answers. Remember in mathematics we may work hard to get an answers and obtain pleasing marks and comments from our teachers, but what are we doing to help understand the negative permutations that we see in front of us?

Here are some suggested ways forward:
1. Global solution centres – Country subsidised
2. Global initiatives set-up – supported by both countries and companies
3. Public communication and understanding of political problems
4. Tolerance to eradicate racism and respect religious beliefs
5. Reduction of arms sales
6. Freeing of world debt
7. Establishment of training initiatives
8. Public communication of corporate / multinational initiatives
9. Lobbying your MP for more visibility of issues and ownership of cases of plight
10. Set-up of a global secondment schemes.

A final thought. I noticed that I could buy the latest cellular phones and get a connection. But many are unable to eat!? We have solutions, we need the will to work together to believe in them.

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Monday, December 15, 2003

Is globalisation good or bad’ – Part 2

Last week the column featured the issue of whether globalisation was good or bad. Many of the conclusions suggested that in order for us to know more about each other, with respect to poverty, health and economic exploits, it’s important for us to be more connected. Today’s world has fantastic connectivity (possible in essence due to the Sikh inventor who invented Fibre-optics technology). More than ever communication between countries is made possible together with reduced rates. However, it’s sad that sometimes our closest relatives and friends can become distant, often around materialistic misunderstandings.

From Dido’s 2003 album her second single release is called ‘life for rent’. One of the lines suggests that we don’t really own anything personally. I believe that this is true, as there is nothing we can take with us apart from experiences and positive deeds, held in our souls. Therefore, why should countries be so possessive? International trade tariffs take the toll on certain countries. Dictators destroy the lives of the innocent, but why is there less pressure internationally to resolve such basic issues as world hunger and debt. The issue fails to appear during arms sales? Is there no passion to help people with basic food, water and health? Everyday in our working lives we create opportunities and resolve work related issues. Unfortunately knowing about a desperate situation in the world, people hope that someone else will help. In 2005 it will be 20 years since ‘Live Aid’ was organised by Bob Geldof. I found his interview on Jonathan Ross (Friday night) inspiring. He suggested that in 2005 London had an opportunity to assemble a knowledge set to develop a plan for resolving problems in Africa.

Today globalisation appears to be viewed as a corporate opportunity. For example, global marketing by large soft drink firms, continuous product placement, satellite TV channel broadcasting repetitive syndicated content, internationally timed movie releases and associated branding/merchandising.

Instead of appreciating world cinema, we see Hollywood and Bollywood hype. Instead of recognising that pricing should be fair for pharmaceuticals, we see limited access to medicines where there is a desperate need together with inconsistent charging. Instead of recognising all men and women as equal we see prehistoric justice schemes reign. Instead of viewing globalisation as an opportunity to help each other many consider it as a threat to personal livelihood. Maybe the latter stance is based on protectionism or conditioning due to the immense gap that has developed over the centuries between Western and Eastern economics? Colonies and their associated handovers have created further issues.

Ending on a positive, let’s be wary of what is marketed to us and instead develop an energy that can consider and respect the needs of others. Don’t be afraid to explain the background behind the purchase of branded goods. Consider Fair Trade and demand change from global firms to ensure basic human rights for their international suppliers. We do have the ability to help each other, we need the will and perseverance to hope that change can follow through.

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Monday, December 08, 2003

Globalisation, is it good or bad? - Part1

Talking with a friend recently about how fast news spreads around the world, we pondered over the above statement. My friend suggested that globalisation is bad. Reasons… In his view, information overload appeared to be his ‘hang up’.

I disagree. In a world where there isn’t enough information on the truth of corporate greed, local exploitation and basic human rights, the more we can understand the plight of those around, I believe the greater chance for us to be motivated to do something about. Although the latter sounds idealistic, the alternative is apathy and a dumbed down media engine.

Consider the flowers one may purchase from a supermarket. Without coverage of how farm hands are forced to work under extreme health and safety non-compliance, we may never have discovered the real facts of this situation. Sweat shops, child labour, arms sales and disrespect of religious artefacts are all issues that could be described as newsworthy but should be considered in the context of raising awareness and purporting to place them on today’s political agenda.

However, although we are presented with this information on a daily basis, how many of us simply accept, forget and occasionally give to a charity collection – the latter being a good step but when do we get to hear about the improvements we seek – NB continuity of news items is often missing.

The purpose of raising these issues with regard to globalisation is the hope that people will consider the implication of their apathy. In 1971 Marvin Gaye released, ‘What’s going on’. Unfortunately, the words from yesteryear are still applicable today. Common denominators such as war, epidemics and poverty are still prominent. So whose fault is this? I suggest that we’re all equally to blame for today’s outcome. Blaming politicians doesn’t help. Greater personal will to challenge for change is required. For example, raising local awareness, communicating with politicians, writing letters of support or if applicable concern about social issues and developing a greater understanding of those around us.

I’ve recently watched ‘Pay it forward’, in my view the theme sent out a message of greater understanding between people. Therefore, globalisation can be good only if we use the information we gain to understand the experiences of others to create a greater good.Consider world music, world cinema and appreciate the thousands of dialects that people have developed to communicate. In a connected world, isn’t it sad that we sometimes don’t want to talk to our own relatives? Even people living next to each other will never enter each others home, in fear of either making the first move, being too busy or ‘bending’ to simple egotism.

I believe we’re all here on this Earth for too short a time and there fore need to develop more confidence in each other. I was saddened by the comments made to the Sikh runner at the recent New York Marathon. I won’t repeat them but they were from a camp that failed to understand that all communities suffered on that awful day on 9/11. However, there were many in the crowd that gave encouragement applause and positive comments and were appreciative of the determination of the runner. Let that be a message for us, respecting each other in a world where there is so much positive energy means we have to try harder to sustain it. Sustaining the positiveness in a global state can only be achieved through working together to share the resources we have, forgiving debt and rejoicing in our diversity.

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