Globalization from My Perspective
Excuse me if I ramble but this is one of those pieces where my creative daemon woke me & wouldn't let me go back to sleep until I had done its bidding. I understand what some artists mean when they say that they are merely the tool by which the art is expressed. Globalization, in a nutshell, is a very cleverly disguised political & sales campaign. Globalization's cheerleaders are like foxes claiming that they are humanitarians & if allowed to guard the hen house, they won't devour them. However, I say that we need watchdogs to keep the foxes from killing us. Furthermore, I see Globalization as Corporatism run amok and Mussolini's definition of fascism is pertinent here i.e. "fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power." And for the record, many of America's top corporations at the time e.g. Ford Motor Company, IBM, etc., were staunch supporters of Hitler & Mussol ini because under their bloody & brutal dictatorships, they did a booming business in Germany & Italy. In a totalitarian state, businessmen aren't troubled by pesky workers demanding rights. By the way, our current crook in residence in the White House, George �Dubya' Bush's grandfather did business with the Nazis until forbidden to do so any longer by our federal government. In addition, Ford & IBM sued the American government for war reparations because their factories in Germany were bombed by U.S. aircraft, and they won! Yet when our soldiers try to sue for being exposed to Agent Orange, Depleted Uranium, etc., and suffer from debilitating diseases & various forms of cancer, they are denied & written off as mentally deranged. Justice, American style! Lastly, as several insightful observers have noted, "globalization is a race to the bottom."
To illustrate, consider the fact that over two billion people subsist on $2 per day or less. And with t he passage of NAFTA (signed into law by President Clinton, the darling of many democrats & willfully blind progressives), GATT, the FTAA, & most recently, CAFTA, the floodgates of corporate greed have been opened. Corporations are now given tax breaks for closing up shop here in America & �outsourcing' decent paying jobs to other countries where they can pay workers a fraction of what they used to pay American workers. As a result, the middle class is a vanishing breed & record numbers of Americans have lost their homes, their pensions, their health insurance coverage, & their self-respect and are forced to take jobs flipping burgers, pumping gas, being a greeter at WalMart, etc. Many Americans who worked for 30 to 40 years & who looked forward to retirement, can no longer afford to retire and must take the demeaning & menial type jobs I listed above. Many children can no longer afford to rent a place of their own and are forced to live with their parents well beyond the age when most kids used to become independent.
Or consider the fact that for the past twenty years or so, two of the fastest growing and top industries in America have been the temporary job agencies & the construction of new prisons. At the risk of being guilty of oversimplifying, I find it very interesting that these two particular �industries,' are doing so well? Could it be the agenda of the powers that be to gradually force all workers to work for temp agencies & those who refuse to suffer the degradations & lack of rights and benefits of temp work, are locked up in our prisons---usually for petty �crimes?' Moreover, I know that I'll probably come across as a �bleeding-heart liberal,' but I believe most people who do resort to a life of crime, do so because they see little else in the way of options. It is damn near impossible for a single person to support themselves i.e. pay rent, utilities, food, car payment, auto & he alth insurance on minimum wage. Very few, if any, minimum wage jobs offer health insurance & this again reflects the absolute indifference to workers' welfare in this democratic republic of �free market' capitalism. I believe it was the rap artist, Eminem, who recently said that when an employer pays minimum wage, it's like saying that he'd pay you even less if he could. Now consider how much tougher it is for a young woman with children, to survive on minimum wage. She has to pay for childcare on top of everything else & that is why I believe many young, single mothers stay on welfare as long as they can because they won't be able to pay for a babysitter if they work & they won't have health insurance if they work. To demonstrate the utter callousness of the ruling elite, here's another example; it's been over ten years since we've had a raise in the minimum wage & every time it comes up for a vote, the majority of congressmen & senators vote it down or add an amendment giving the corporate cockroaches yet another tax break. Why do they resist so fiercely a few dollars increase in such a paltry wage for America's working citizens yet give themselves fantastic raises every year or so? It seems obvious to me, Congress are the whores for the corporate masters & do what they are told.
In another case of corporate greed or fascism, reflect on the fact that the government and corporations have also joined forces in the form of temporary agencies. I have been out of work frequently and for long periods of time over the past several years & I remember the shock I got when I first saw a job listed on the state employment office website but through a temporary agency. I'd guess that about half the jobs now listed on the state employment office website are through employment agencies? It just dawned on me recently that this should be against the law to say nothing of being unethical. Why? Because this is clearly an exa mple of the government and big business joining forces yet again to screw the working class. Temp agencies have become such a �growth industry' because they provide such a useful service for their corporate overlords i.e. they serve as a weeding-out filter for their corporate clients. In short, temp agencies sort out the undesirables i.e. those people like myself, who might rock the boat by questioning the authority of their �superiors.' Of course the agencies & the corporations themselves will never admit to this. No, they claim to serve the function of sorting-out those workers �not qualified.' I have signed up with dozens of temp agencies over the years & worked for several of the biggest ones. And I can't tell you how frustrated & pissed-off I have been time and time again.
To demonstrate, every temp agency makes you come into their office, take a series of �tests' of basic arithmetic, vocabulary, typing, etc. which usually takes a couple of hours &am p; then you have to be �interviewed' to determine whether you qualify for being screwed by them. Every temp agency like every state employment office worker who has �interviewed' me, asks �how much are you willing to work for?' And this is the key question they use to find out just how desperate you are & which tells them, this guy will take whatever crap job we offer him. What really infuriates me is the fact that many of these agencies charge their corporate clients two to three times what they pay us as workers. Moreover, it doesn't matter that many of these so-called temp agency �interviewers' can barely speak, read, or write proper English or that their forms & literature often have grammatical errors in them, they sit there in judgment of me & they are usually young enough to be my son or daughter. All that matters is that they have no integrity & are obedient, little lap-dogs. If I dare to say that I want a dollar or two more than minimum wage, I am to ld that they don't have any jobs that pay that high. After all, we can't expect them to cut into their profits, we're just the peasants doing the work.
In addition, it matters little that when I was in the 6th grade, my reading level was at the 11th grade, 6th month level & the average high school graduate today, reads at the 8th grade level. Or that I have been an avid reader all my life, earned a B.A. in English literature, have collected a personal library of several thousand books in philosophy, politics, history, the Classics, etc. and have read a good number of them & made copious notes in the blank pages. Nor does it matter that when I was in the army, I and 4 or 5 other guys out of my company were offered to be stationed wherever we wanted & trained in whatever we wanted if we'd go to Officer Candidate School & sign up for another 4 years of �service.' And when I took the test for the U.S. Navy several years later, they asked me to take the vocabulary section of the test over again because they had never seen such a high score & then offered me a year and a half of advanced training in electro nics. And it doesn't matter to these temp agencies that several of my college professors were amazed at the books & authors I'd read or were familiar with or that one of the top five teachers I've ever had, Mr. Garrot, a literature professor, told me that I should attend Stanford University because the caliber of instruction and students at Cal State Long Beach where I was attending, wasn't good enough for someone of my talents.
But these temp agencies advertise that they provide employers with the best qualified candidates for their companies. I am told that I am either under-qualified or over-qualified. Under-qualified because I don't know the latest spreadsheet software or some other trivial �skill.' It doesn't dawn on these morons that most people learn best by doing & that most of us learn on the job i.e. when we are in a position, we learn the skills as they come up in the course of performing our jobs. And it doesn't occur to these simpletons that my s trongest skill is my ability to learn which even a cursory glance at my resume clearly shows. Equally important is the matter of being �over-qualified,' what does this really mean in the mindset of these corporate screeners & human resource managers of the �business world?' I have read & heard time and time again that corporate America can't find enough qualified employees. And the �common wisdom' that most college students are fed is to specialize in some high-tech field yet by the time most students graduate from college, there is a �glut' in their field of study and they are forced to take some job far below their acquired skills & knowledge level. Sadly, �higher education' in America has become little more than a glorified trade school. Corporate America in its typical ignorance & shortsightedness has forgotten that imagination, thinking outside the box, rebelliousness, great depth & breadth of knowledge, etc., are the skills, abilities, & charact eristics of those who blaze new trails on the cutting edge of technology, science, & the arts.
In any case, can you understand my frustration & aggravation every time I hear one of these pea-brains tell me that I'm over or under-qualified? By the way, I don't mean this to sound like it is only me who is being persecuted or screwed by our �free market capitalist system.' No, I'm just telling you of my experiences and believe that there are countless millions of others who have experienced these travesties of justice in the work world as well. My story is emblematic of business as usual in America. Corporations also use the excuse of not being able to find enough �qualified' workers here to justify their moving overseas but this is just a ruse to hide the fact that it's really just a matter of greed on their part. Though I must admit that there is an element of truth in their claim. And our public schools & corporate media share a large portion of the blame here. I can't say for sure that it's a grand conspiracy but it is a very strange coincidence at least. Four of America's most well-known industrialists i.e. Rockefeller, Ford, Carnegie, & J.P. Morgan, all had a major hand in shaping our public educational system's policy & practices. And President Woodrow Wilson stated publicly that there was one type of education i.e. a liberal education, for a small, elite destined to rule, and the other type of education taught in our public schools was for the majority of America's working class. I recommend a book by John Taylor Gatto called The Underground History of American Education for anyone interested in learning more about our public educational system. I'm not saying that Gatto's words are the gospel truth & I have doubts about his intentions in writing this book but there is a helluva lot of food for thought in this book.
Equally important in the context of the �dumbing-down' (Gatto's term ) of America's workers via our public educational system is the responsibility of the corporate-owned media in misleading, misinforming, & leaving out critical news that could empower us. And if you'd like to inform yourself on this subject, Noam Chomsky is one author I recommend without reservations. Chomsky has written several books on this subject but I suggest Manufacturing Consent with his co-author, Edward S. Herman. In a nutshell, the corporate-owned mass or �mainstream media,' through a series of �filters,' partly consciously & partly subconsciously, weed-out the kind of news stories that criticize corporate America because it threatens their power over us and could cause them to lose money. We all know that television broadcasters as well as magazine publishers, radio broadcasters, & newspaper publishers depend on the money they get from their advertisers. Of course, this is accepted or understood to be a necessary requirement for the me dia, but is it? After all, the airwaves are really a public trust i.e. owned by us, the citizens. Yet, we sit by and allow the corporations to monopolize our airwaves & they become billionaires like Rupert Murdoch who is nothing but a sycophant to the corporate power elite & cares nothing about truth or facts. We, the public, are tossed a few bones in terms of broadcasts in the public interest & these crumbs from the tables of the robber barons are growing ever smaller. Lastly in regards to how the commercialization of our media helps to keep us down as workers, is the simple fact that they have one overall objective & that is to make us believe that greed is good. In brief, it is natural and necessary to want to own all the products that corporate America bombards us with in their advertisements. Materialism is good. He who dies with the most toys is the winner, is �successful.' Materialism is the marrow bone of Capitalism & the hell with the consequence s of unbridled materialism e.g. air, water, food, & products that are unhealthy and even cancer causing; fear of our neighbors, our fellow citizens, foreigners is rampant & we are resembling more a fortress state than a nation of free people; a perpetual state of war (we have been at war for my entire life---I was born in 1952); & we lead lives of quiet desperation as Emerson so eloquently put it. I have worked in factories, warehouses, etc. where I felt like a zombie just going through the motions of being a human & I kept my sanity by daydreaming and smoking pot. I am convinced that if it weren't for using the terrible, �devil's weed,' I would have lost my sanity or my soul. It's no accident or oversight that we were brought up to despise & fear communism and socialism & never hear any criticism of capitalism. The vast majority of Americans have never questioned capitalism, they simply accept it as being as natural a thing as the air we breathe i.e. there is no other economic or political system and to even raise such questions is heresy & whomever dares to question the status quo is suspect & dangerous!
Whatever happened to freedom of speech? And before you can have freedom of speech, you need freedom of thought. Do you recall the �free marketplace of ideas?' We live under the illusion of freedom but we have been indoctrinated for so long & we have been denied the access to the free marketplace of ideas for so long that the vast majority of Americans don't even realize they have been robbed of their birthright as American citizens! Yes, the mendacious merchants of materialism, mediocrity, & mayhem have succeeded brilliantly in pulling the wool over our eyes. And perhaps their greatest scam is the myth of the free market & free trade. Even before the passage of NAFTA, GATT, the FTAA, etc., there was no such thing as free trade or a free market. The larger the corporation, the more special fa vors or treatment they get from the government e.g. sweetheart contracts, tariffs to protect them from competition, outrageous tax breaks, bailed out by the federal government, freedom from prosecution when they violate the law, etc. Moreover, with the passage of the above mentioned �treaties,' the behemoth corporate frankensteins can now sue other nations if they refuse to allow these corporations from plundering their resources and markets. In brief, the gloves have come off in terms of the corporations' abilities & �rights' to rape, pillage, & plunder the planet.
In fact, if you'd like to get a much better understanding of the true power behind globalization, check into the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, & the World Trade Organization. These are the ultra-secret institutions pulling the strings of not only 99.9% of the world's population but also of just about every government on earth. Don't take my word for anything, check it out for yo urself. I am an amateur sleuth in these matters but I have been digging for years. Read what Joseph E. Stiglitz, chief economist & senior vice-president at the World Bank for almost three years, has to say in his book Globalization and Its Discontents. Or read John Perkins' book Confessions of An Economic Hit-Man. I haven't read all of Stiglitz's book yet but I have seen Perkins on alternative media, cable access television & have read a good portion of his book & it is truly disturbing to learn of his work in destabilizing developing countries' economies & in particular, of when he failed and the �jackals' would be sent in. And if the �jackals' failed in their attempts to assassinate a uncooperative national leader, the U.S. military would be sent in under the pretext of bringing �democracy' and �freedom' to an oppressed people.
Balanced against the current state of affairs in terms of economics, I recently sent an essay of mine to a renowned scholar, James Petras, & he did me the honor of responding to me via e-mail. I have seen essays of his over the years but don't claim to actually be very familiar with his work so I looked him up on the Internet & found an interesting piece he wrote titled Capitalism versus socialism: The great debate revisited. In brief, he points out how the former communist countries who are now pursuing the capitalist model, are doing far worse by every standard of measuring the general welfare of the people. I can hear the free market fundamentalists already, �but this isn't fair because it takes time for the invisible hand of the market to work its magic.' I agree with Mr. Petras though in that 15 years of transitioning to capitalism is more than adequate & clearly shows the shortcomings of �capitalism.' Note that Mr. Petras does not deny t he shortcomings of communism either & it should also be noted that there are some differences between socialism and communism though not in most pundits minds of the right wing. I for one, would love to try living in socialist Scandinavia for several years. Why? Because they have national health care, quality housing, education, employment, etc. for just about their entire population from what I understand? And so what if they pay 60 to 70% in taxes because if all your basic necessities are taken care of & are of top quality, then the rest of your earnings are purely disposable income i.e. for luxuries or whatever you so choose.
This brings me to the subject of fear. Fear is the tool of choice in the tool-box of the power elite & it is used to hammer us into submission so they can maintain & expand their insatiable lust for power. George Orwell in his classic book 1984 showed us how dictators waged war against their own citizens with the constant manipulation of the people via various techniques of instilling fear into people. Too far out? Well consider what the Bush/Cheney cabal have accomplished by manipulating the American public after the tragic events of September 11th. In a nutshell, this junta of jackals & jackasses i.e. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfield, Rice, Wolfowitz, Perle, et al, have capitalized on this national disaster to unleash their absurd �War on Terror' which suits their hidden agenda like a glove. What do I mean by this? The �War on Terror' is the perfect excuse for the greedy warmongers to wage a permanent war on the world's poor. The poor & the disenfranchised are the main targets of the super-rich because it is primarily they who tire of being exploited, of working for $2 per day, of watching their children go hungry, of watching their loved ones suffer from diseases because they have no money or doctors or hospitals, of being forced to live like animals & beg like dogs for scr aps from the fat & corrupt landowners. And yes, some of the world's �terrorists' do indeed come from the poor and the dispossessed but a good number of so-called �terrorists,' also come from middle class and even from the upper classes e.g. Osama bin Laden. Please don't misunderstand me, I am in no way defending bin Laden nor many of the terrorists who blow up innocent people. But, I don't accept the government's definition of the terrorists are. Terrorism is usually the result of utter desperation. And the world's most powerful nations are guilty of state sponsored terrorism as Chomsky has brilliantly detailed. But, once again, because a mere handful of giant corporations own the media, they define what terrorism is & because of their framing of the issue & its ad nauseam repetition on television, radio, newspapers, & magazines, the majority of Americans never question or think about the far greater terrorism that our government, military, & industrial c omplex has caused around the globe. The most glaring example is the fact that the U.S. is the only nation to ever use a nuclear weapon on another country i.e. Hiroshima & Nagasaki. Talk about terrorism! The Japanese know just how ruthless our �leaders' can be and they have experienced terror on a larger scale than any other nation.