Globalisation poses no threat to human dignity
Stabroek News
March 8, 2002

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Dear Editor,

Globalisation, some say, is a form of imperialism. Chief amongst the local anti globalisation purveyors will be Dr. Clive Thomas and Dr. Ian McDonald. Along with the supposed invasiveness of American culture via Hollywood movies, McDonald hamburgers, and Coca Cola products globalisation is seen by some as the equivalent of some form of international aggression.

A similar charge was made some years ago at a United Nations conference in Vienna; representatives of some undemocratic nations complained that the idea of human rights was intrusive and imperialistic and thus threatened the sovereignty of their countries. Some serious political thinkers still object to the very notion of universal ethical and political principles, as if human beings as such did not share some basic attributes that imply certain guidelines for how they should live. In the case of Zimbabwe, we have just seen how brutal the Mugabe regime has become given the horrific thrashings meted out to innocent and unarmed followers of the opposition leader Morgan Tsangvirai.

Notwithstanding the stark images on the BBC, the misguided foreign minister, Billie Miller of Barbados then finds it most appropriate to attack British PM, Tony Blair and Foreign Secretary Jack Straw by seeking to label them and the EU as neo colonialists. Sadly, the only crimes committed here by Tony Blair and the rest of the EU is pressing for full respect of human rights and the democratic process in the run up to Zimbabwe's Presidential Elections.

To charge that globalisation is imperialistic is like claiming that liberating slaves imposes a particular lifestyle upon the former slaves. Globalisation, in its principled application, frees trade. Barriers are removed and restraint on trade is abolished, both the opposite of any kind of imposed imperialism. The idea that economic principles are culturally relative seeks to confuse highly variable human practices with ones that are uniform across all borders. The production and exchange of goods and services are universal. The political contingencies of various societies, born often of power, not reason, distort such universality by imposing arbitrary impediments. Slavery, the subjugation of women (as in the case of numerous Islamic societies), and the prohibition of wealth transfer from parents to offspring (as in communist Cuba) are examples of conditions not natural to human life rather they are artifacts of ideologies. Most intellectuals often fail to appreciate the universal goal of establishing a political ideal for human beings in general, not for blacks, whites, women, Catholics, or Muslims. This ideal when exported is the farthest thing from imperialism. It is, in fact, the closest we have ever come to bona fide human liberation (a term inappropriately adopted by Marxists who mean to impose a one size fits all regime).

Globalisation, has thus not been effectively linked with what is at its heart, namely human liberation. Because some schemes have been mislabeled as cases of "globalisation, " the genuine article has tended to acquire a bad reputation. But those are exceptions. To globalise has been to spread freedom, particularly in commerce but also in politics and civil life. Genuine globalisation should be supported not only because it is economically prudent but also because it is consistent with the basic human aspiration to be free. There is no threat to cultural diversity, religious pluralism, or the great variety of benign human differences with which globalisation can happily coexist. Only those who wish to impose their particular lifestyle on the rest of us would fear globalisation and the spread of human freedom.

Yours faithfully,

Mike Singh