Friday, October 20, 2006

The Shape of the Future?

(Due to the (mini) flurry of opinion re a recent post on Bad people and the gap I have written another post on that subject called shrinking the gap; hopefully it may also elicit some comment.)

John Tierney wrote a creative column in the Oct. 17 edition of the New York Times about
1) the Nobel prize winning Grameen Bank of Mohammed Unus,
2) Walmart and
3) globalization.

The bank has 'erased poverty' for millions of people, but Tierney theorizes that Sam Walton may have done more. (Walmart, as everyone knows, is in the absolute forefront of commercial globalization.)

"Most 'sweatshop jobs, even at $2/hr" lift workers out of the poverty level.

He compared the wage level of apparel workers in Honduras ($13/day) against the $2/day made by nearly half the population.

Most critics of Walmart feel that cheap prices are not worth the low income 'inflicted' on Walmart employees.

"But this argument makes moral sense only if" you're mainly concerned with protecting the American wage scale.

So which are you? a plain Christian or an "American Christian"-- in the old days they were called 'America Firsters'.

Everyone should be free to take a stand-- one way or the other.


david said...

Being a Canadian its hard for me to be an America Firster. And I'm inclined to see Wal-Mart as a form of cultural and economic imperialism. Drive small independent businesses into bankruptcy, reinforce the suburban wastelands with box stores on highway exit ramps rather than local places you can walk to. But the Wal-Mart isn't the only one doing all that -- just the symbol of all who do that -- and likely because they do it best.

And all of that is just post facto stuff. The real reason I hate Wal-Mart is I'm an introvert. I don't like crowds of people in such numbers that pausing to browse before purchasing constitutes anti-social behaviour. I like to browse and dawdle when I shop. And as a non-driver who has to make a special trip to get there and a non-crowd type who feels intimidated by the numbers its just not me -- or the community I want to live in.

Needing GPS locator to get from one end of the store to another ain't too positive either. Before they outlawed Pluto, there were planets smaller than my local Wal-Mart!

I_Wonder said...

Life is rarely black and white. There are benefits and liabilities to globalization. I'm on the fence but tend to see more of the liabilites than benefits. It has been my experience that neither poverty nor wealth bring happiness. Globalization will raise the standard of living for many people but at what expense. I value relationships more than wealth and globalization can disrupt families and established structures. It's not an easy issue.

Larry said...

David, here in North America "Wal-Mart as [is] a form of cultural and economic imperialism, but for the Hunduran fighting to stave off starvation it may be salvation. (Preaching prophetically) I have to ask you if you're a Canadian-firster or a plain Christian?

Paul, I'm on the fence re globalization, too, but it seems more and more like a force of nature. It may be like democracy: the worst form of govt (business) that you can imagine except for all the others.

I also agree about poverty and wealth (both may be bad), but the above Honduran is probably kind of subjective about that (and he's my brother!).

P.M.Barnett truly believes that the alternative to what he calls "connectivity" is most likely jingoistic nationalism and a 21st Century much like the first half of the 20th.

Re his theses: I'm on the fence about that, too, but find it more intriguing than the usual war info.

I_Wonder said...

"...(and he's my brother!)..." I like this phrase and all that it says. I'm distressed by the phrase "...jingoistic nationalism ..." and all that it can imply. I'm definitely in favor of a form of globalization that highlights our brotherhood but that's idealistic. I agree with you that globaliztion is a "force of nature" and we must accept it and respond in realistic ways.

One of the things that I find helpful is to ask and try to answer foundational questions -- what is justice, what is the role of government, what makes for a happy and content life, and others. It helps me to think critically about our changing world. Unfortunately, it can be an ivory tower exercise because the world will change due to massive forces and not according to logic, compassion and loving-kindness.

Larry said...

Oh my, you've provoked a debate, ole buddy. Two points:

"what makes for a happy and content life.."; you know the answer, Paul. You have it, and you spread it around pretty good.

But I have to take issue on your last sentence. I truly believe "compassion and loving-kindness" is the greatest force operating the world. I don't know when it will put an end to the opposite force; wish I did.

I_Wonder said...

Larry, I choose to try to live by logic, compassion and loving-kindness -- sometimes with more success than at other time. Even if I think it is hopeless in the face of overwhelming odds, I choose to live this way. Any other choice doomed to failure. Now, my question -- do you think compassion and loving-kindness "will put an end to the opposite force" by human effort and gradual change or do you believe in some apocalyptic event? I don't have an answer and only a weak opinion. What are your thoughts?

Larry said...

That's a big question, Paul. I can't answer it either; I can only say that I believe loving kindness will be here when the opposite has passed into the dust.

I guess what grabbed me about Barnett's arguments is that it shows a vision of a creative "human effort" that seems to have promise:

He seems sure that the violence that has plagued us internationally stems from what he calls "failed states": dictators, repression of the people who have no other recourse.

So his solution of course is to end the brutal dictators; he thinks that will allow "connectivity" (trade, free flow of communications and ideas, etc.) to flourish. He thinks the resulting nations will find it in their interest to respect the economic arrangements of the "civilized world".

It's a beautiful vision, but it's thin; basically it assumes that the "good people" doing this are really good people.

Our latest military adventures have demonstrated (to me at least) that it isn't quite true.

I fault tribalism more than 'failed states'. As long as Americans believe they are a race superior to these 'fuzzy-wuzzies' or whatever, that contempt for the rest of the human race is the very 'opposite force' that we're presumably fighting.

It will require a spiritual revolution, not just any kind of Pax America. How to get people to stop being tribalists, that's the problem I see. Barnett had several children; then he and his wife went to China and adoped one of their surplus babies. I think that's a step in the right direction.

I_Wonder said...

Thanks for the response, Larry. It's difficult to continue this discussion since I agree with you!

I have a reading backlog at the moment but it sounds like I need read Barnett's book.