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Capitalisms Suicide Bombers
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by Muhammad Asadi

According to Thomas Friedman, the “world is flat” or fast becoming flat as information technology transforms world capitalism, giving everyone a chance to share in the enormous global pie. Together with this hopeful world scene, Friedman’s new book, The World is Flat (2005), voices the typical alarmism that defines the mindset of modern capitalists (as they proclaim a “war on terrorism” or counter an imagined “war on Christmas”) that “Our kids will be increasingly competing head-to-head with Chinese, Indian and Asian kids” (page, 305). Friedman does not specify what he means by “our kids”: are these the kids of the corporate elite that go to exclusive private schools or the kids of the rapidly vanishing middle class in America that go to under-funded public schools, or the kids of the very poor who go to schools modeled more after prisons than educational institutions? This is an important observation, because together with the myth of a world going flat, another myth that is widely propagated by the captains of capitalism is the role of education as “the great equalizer”. Jonathan Kozol, I’m sure, will have much to say about schooling and the resulting access to equal opportunity in America, if Mr. Friedman needs a new source for future revisions. Both of these myths have no basis in reality but serve as legitimating tools for a social system that is nurtured upon inequality.

 

Friedman, as an apologist for monopoly capitalism, in his book, makes status-quo enhancing recommendations that are deceptively ignorant of the state of the world's poor- including the poor within the developed world. There is no leveling or flattening going on in America or the world. The new class structure in the US, with a gini coefficient of wealth inequality (calculated by economist Edward Wolff of New York University) of 0.84 (0 signifies perfect equality, 1 perfect inequality), reveals almost near total inequality, and intergenerational permanence (given historical analysis of the gini income inequality coefficient over the past generation- if anything, inequality is getting worse; the ‘intergenerational permanence’ is also explored in depth by sociologists Perucci and Wysong in their book , The New Class Society). Rather than a “flat” structure, the class structure within the US itself has become as rigid and resistant to change as the Hindu caste system. Around the world, the situation is markedly worse with over 50% living on less than $2 a day (UN statistics), which adjusting for Purchasing Power Parity translates into extreme poverty, and an average consumption of much less than $2 given 1985 prices. According to the UN’s Least Developed Countries Report (LDC), 2002 & 2004, from 1965 to 1969, 48 percent of the people in the LDCs were living on less than $1 a day, now it is almost 50 percent. Taking into account the population increase from the 1960s, that comes to more than twice the number of people living on less than $1 a day now than did back then (138 million then, 307 million now). The average per capita income of the LDCs, in the late 1990s measured in terms of current prices and exchange rates comes to $0.72 a day (72 cents). Contrary to any leveling or flattening, the vast majority in the world are getting worse-off and fast approaching levels of absolute deprivation.

Technology (as well as formal education), as C. Wright Mills correctly suggested in the 1950s, merely becomes another tool in the arsenal of the ‘power elite’ to further their privilege and not much else. It has not and will not fix inequality (as intra-country analysis of the gini index of the world’s most technologically advanced country, i.e. the US, reveals). Further, there isn’t any equal technological transfer taking place within the world: the manufacturing that is done in developing countries uses very little local input, and the outsourcing is merely to take advantage of cheap labor rather than any sharing of technology; the developing countries are used as mere assembly points for extraction of maximum surplus. The problem the globe confronts is greed-generated ‘distributional deprivation’, in an otherwise world of plenty. The solution to this mess cannot be found within the same system that produced this mess in the first place. However, Friedman suggests further integration into this system as he boasts about India and China. Contrary to what Friedman suggests, the solution is to consciously reject the system and then try to get rid of the control mechanisms generated by it, of which, the nation-state system is the most obvious. The nation-state system is merely a bureaucratized version of the age-old colonial practice of “divide and rule”. Its formalized control mechanisms work only to keep developing countries and their populations apart, and in wasteful competition and conflict over what amounts to be mere “crumbs from the master’s table”. Where it concerns the multinationals or the US ‘power elite’, the bureaucracy of the nation-state system ceases to exist; they neither respect national boundaries nor national sovereignty. The whole world is their playing field (or more aptly put, their “killing” field, as people of Bhopal, India experienced first hand, and people of Iraq are experiencing today). The best way to proceed for the developing world is first to get rid of this bureaucratic nonsense defined as the “nation state”, then to form alliances, trade blocks and defense pacts with the rest of the rejecting states and move forward from there.

The forces of tyranny will put hurdles and blocks in the way of all such attempts towards emancipation (like their knee-jerk reactions to Venezuela’s Chavez). However, once the united “emancipated” nations become a large enough block, such manipulation by the hegemonic power elite, can be resisted. Under the current system, regardless of how countries try to fit it, they will suffer; some more than others, some sooner than later but eventually all will suffer, that is the great flattening of the world: total immiseration for all except the tiny elite that dominates the vantage points of this system. The world does not work in vacuum-like conditions where each can operate and succeed on their own, based upon goodwill and a fair playing field. That is not possible in a ‘globalized’ world, a world globalized not by equal players but by an elite that have monopolized it to their advantage, even as they play one nation-state against another. In this ‘monopolized globalization’, we have a world that is controlled implicitly by a tiny elite, 1) through domination of finance (the IMF and World Bank) and trade (the WTO), and 2) explicitly through imperial wars (as in the case of Iraq).

Fitting into the current world system, as history reveals, produces predictable winners, those winners are the US elite and their partners (the previous colonial masters), the European elite. Success is allowed only to those that fit into the grand strategy of the American elite. There are no exceptions to this, except for countries that are being used as an extension base of the US (e.g. Japan, in order to keep China in check, or Israel to guard the Middle East region etc) or those that rejected such neo-liberal integration: the only countries that escaped declining growth rates in the 1980s were the ones that rejected the so called “free market” reforms, countries like China and India (Neo-liberalism is based in large part on total hypocrisy of the developed nations, that place four times the number of trade barriers for the developing world compared to what they themselves confront; see Oxfam’s trade report, http://www.maketradefair.org),

Like it or not, there is apartheid in the US dominated world system, and no amount of fitting in will improve the condition of the majority world- the experience of the African Americans as a microcosm of this world-system scene is well documented- not only are life chances unequal, but the very access to life, to be alive, measured by life-expectancy is unequal. Both China and India, by trying to fit into the same system- that has predictable winners and losers- are merely hastening their long-term destruction even as they achieve some short-term gains. Friedman is unimpressed with Pakistan and the Islamic world even as he conveniently forgets that their present state is the result of decades of ‘neo-liberalization’ (and US inspired proxy-wars), a major reason why their infant industries were prematurely aborted, and their status reduced to debt dependency or primary product provider. Therefore, the end result that will eventually emerge as India and China complete their journey in the same direction, would not be much different to what Pakistan’s condition is today. The world, in its current state of exploitation, is headed fast towards destruction, both environmentally and economically.

Take Iraq as another microcosm of this world: it was well developed (in the 1970s), it was resource rich but then we had a corporate sponsored “liberation” war, which has produced misery for the Iraqis and destruction, almost near total destruction of a well-developed country. It has produced a few winners as well: the corporations that have profited by huge contracts and the Iraqi politicians that are helping the American elite extract this profit (one of the famous ones, Chalaby, is a seasoned bank ‘robber’, wanted by the Jordanian government). This in short is what the power-elite are doing around the globe; when they are done, the world will resemble Iraq or Afghanistan- flattened parking lots, a global ghetto, even as these few, the tiny elite live in their gated communities of what is left of this earth (toxic dumping in developing nations and poor neighborhoods within the developed world reveals a similar trend).

 

Eventually, since these elite are short sighted, as their destruction of the environment reveals, they will end up destroying themselves as well; it is for this reason that C. Wright Mills termed their perception of reality as ‘crackpot realism’.  In fact, even though in totally different social context, this elite possesses a similar mentality as suicide bombers. Capitalism’s suicide bombers worship profits and are willing to kill and be killed for them; they are the “higher terrorists” that operate on much larger scales than the bogeymen, the petty terrorists they claim to fight. In trying to kill the world for short-term profits, they eventually end up killing themselves and the earth. For the sake of humanity, they must be stopped and their policies challenged on every forum and upon every occasions. Fitting in, like India and China are doing, into a system generated by their crackpot versions of reality, helps no one but harms all. We must reject their system and reject it in totality.

 

Perhaps this one quote from C. Wright Mills sums up the Friedman book and its position within the US intellectual scene:

 

“In the United States today, intellectuals, artists, ministers, scholars, and scientists…echo and elaborate the confusions of officialdoms. They neither raise demands on the powerful for alternative policies, nor set forth such alternatives before publics. They do not try to put responsible content into the politics of the United States; they help to empty politics and keep it empty…The journalistic lie, become routine, is part of this (as well)….” (Mills, The Sociological Imagination 1959:183-184)

http://www.selvesandothers.org/article12809.html