Once again I find myself opening my mind to parts of the world I had never even begun to think about. Before engaging in this week’s blog I had never before thought so heavily on the downsides of Globalization.
This week as I watched a documentary in preparation for this blog, T-Shirt Travels, my attention was brought to Zambia and the trade of second hand clothes. This documentary shows the negative aspect of globalization, which us Americans usually only link to positive change, technology, improved healthcare, and overall opportunity for poor countries. In this case I learned globalization can have the opposite effect too. Globalization has a huge role in the destiny of emerging economies of newly independent African countries beginning back around the 70’s, in particularly, Zambia. The countries which were heavily affected by this negative outcome of globalization are mostly southern African countries. These countries had just begun invest in their infrastructure and trended upward; only to be derailed by the outside influence of global influence. Something as slight as the coincidental rise in oil prices and a lull in copper prices in the 70’s forced Zambia to borrow money at unfair high interest rates. Copper was the main bedrock on which the Zambian republic funded everything (it is worth noting here that the colonialism forced Zambia to rely so heavily on this export). This caused Zambia to fall into a trap of corrupt debt policies imposed by World and International banks when it could not repay its debts. The economic circumstances experienced by Zambia and many other countries are like the global efforts against African Genocides, there is a complete lack of international intervention and morality from countries in high leverage positions. The monetary international organizations that lent money to the emerging countries have behaved in the same way. The lenders do not work to ease the bleeding, but instead further the problems by imposing rules on the debt-ridden country which has little ability to negotiate or refuse the foreign policies. Thus, as these policies only aim to pay back the debt, the country is left with nothing to give to its citizens and infrastructure. The country slowly loses any progress made in infrastructure, manufacturing, industry, healthcare, and education, until finally the society is left impoverished once more by the hands of greed. Most often, as in Zambia’s case, the country is left even further in the negatives and worse off than it had begun. Now bringing all this economic policies full circle, one can see what the dark side of globalization can do to an emerging 3rd world country.
The article “Encountering Globalization” by Kevin Robins discusses the many upsides and downsides of our world becoming globalized. It has created so many wide and yet specific results upon every culture and nation. Robins did pontificate a certain idea which I found very insightful for us Limonoids, or in-betweeners, “Cultures are transformed by the incorporation they make from other cultures in the world. Salman Rushdie (1991: 394) has famously written of ‘the transformation that comes of new and unexpected combinations of human beings, cultures ideas, politics, movies, songs’ “(Robins, 243). After much study of classic novels of the 20th century in my years as a liberal arts student, I have studied the existential questions posed upon the humanity after the tragedies of the 19th and 20th centuries.thus I tend to get in an argumentative stance whenever the topic of culture is mentioned. I hold individual cultures very dearly and believe that each should be held sacred and maintained for their rich uniqueness. After all, I have learned of all the monstrosities that colonialism and imperialism of the western world took part in. The manifest destinies destroyed many cultures that were beautiful and advanced. But Rushdie’s this idea of a third blend from multiple cultures merging really spoke to me. It is talking about mending together one identity with another and having a new more creative identity. Sounds familiar right? This is absolutely what our experience as students abroad should encompass. We are Americans living in a new culture and we are constantly engaged in learning new ideas. When we return to the U.S. we will bring all this together at the end of our Rite of Passage. Along the same vein, I have been studying Daoism and meditation, and have recently immersed myself in the deep theories of the perception of meaning. (I will attach a thought provoking video on this subject at the end of the blog for anybody interested.) As I meditate, the guide speaks of staying in the middle, a balance per say, of the world going on around you. It is a training to focus in on one’s self reality while merging with the ever-changing environment of what is going on outside one’s self. Here the concept of Daoism comes into play. This meditation, which aims to achieve a liminal balance on the planes of the future the past and the present, aligns with the Daoist yin and yang representation of balance. Along with these concepts of balance, now think about humanity’s perceptions of the meaning of life. It can be said that the chaos and order (the yin and yang), that all humans experience, perceive, and justify in a meaningful way is the same as balance. Alas, there lies a third cog to the equation, which is a crucial concept of walking finely betwixt chaos and order. It is the third eye, looking ahead, while the world is occurring around one self. It is very similar to our idea of Liminality in the Rite of Passage theory. The third eye is like having one foot stepping forward constantly exploring and making sense of new things, while the other foot remains behind in the already known entities of chaos and order.
Now what does Liminality, mindfulness, and Daoism have to do with the globalizing world, you may ask? They all point towards the same method; that every culture could adapt and change just as I am in this Rite of Passage process. Therefore, it is crucial that the emerging nations are allowed to transform in a way which will not destroy their culture and themselves. My change to this transition was prepared for and I had proper mentors and communistas to help me along the way (although my journey is still not over). In the perspective of globalization, the majority of the people of these transforming countries have no opportunity to keep up with the changes because their government cannot help them. They are simply left behind. That is not how a process of change should occur. To make this a better globalized world it is imperative to allow the poor countries to prepare and as they go through change to give support. In this way they would globalize and assimilate into that third mixed culture, with a well balance of old and new. Unfortunately, our World is not too keen on helping others. Ironically the system of globalization is uniting and connecting people like never before. The connection we are making is not a true unification if we don’t help those struggling at the bottom. As my English 101 professor would say, “It is always necessary to go against the grain”, or think of the other side of the argument.
Robins, K., 2002. Encountering Globalization. In: C. Held & A. McGrew, eds. The Global Transformations Reader. Cambridge: Polity. Ch. 20.