Globalization, NOT Something New — Part II

By Kollengode S Venkataraman

As presented in the first part of this article in the last issue, the industrialized West, after the Industrial Revolution, had unbridled advan­tages for over 250 years with their superior grasp of S&T (science and technology) and industrial and  military power. They fully exploited these advantages through colonization. But this wave has run its course. S&T is now accessible to any society will­ing to invest and work at it. China has already emerged as a global economic and military power. China has recaptured its glorious past with vengeance. In­dia is still emerging, and may take another 20 to 30 years to regain its foothold.

Having lost the unrestrained advantages they had, England, the US, and other European nation-states find it difficult to adjust to the new reali­ties. The US sees globalization as a contagious dis­ease it needs to inoculate itself against.

The industrialized societies first created an uneven playing field slanted in their favor and exploited global human and natu­ral resources for over two centuries. Now they are pleading for a level playing field, when the play­ing field is slanted against them for reasons that are of their own making. Savor these ironies here:

  •  In June 1987, President Ronald Reagan stood in front of the ninety-mile long Berlin Wall and addressed the crowd, calling the Soviet Union’s President Mikhail Gorbachev to “Tear down this wall!” After thirty years, US President Donald Trump now declares, “We WILL build this wall” along the 1700-mile long US-Mexico border.
  •  Britain, starting as traders, colonized the Indian subcontinent, parts of Asia and many parts of Africa in bits and pieces and declared, “The sun never sets on the Empire.” The empire imploded after WW II, even after winning the war. Today, Britain, only a hundred years ago such an overweening and arrogant empire, is reduced to a state in which she is even afraid of foreigners, not from her erstwhile colonies, but from Europe  — from Poland, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania – who come to work and live in the UK. So, it left the EU and shrank to the island nation-state that it was centuries ago. Now, the sun barely shines over London’s cloudy skies.

This is the new reality. Individuals are always motivated by their insecurities (real or imagined), the need for power/control, greed and profit. Nation-states in times of war unleash a potent amalgam of these motivating ingredients on citizens, coalescing them around the idea of patriotism and nationhood. They also add a good dose of xenophobia, prompting citizens to respond to their diktat, often with disastrous consequences. Just look at these bone-chilling casualty numbers of WW II:

World Population in the 1940s: 2,300 million (today, it is over 7,000 million).

Deaths in WW II:

Military deaths: 23 million.

Civilian deaths: 30 million.

Civilian deaths (famine/disease): 25 million

Total: 78 million, or

A whopping 3.4% of the world population then

Total Deaths (military personnel, civilians, and war-created famine) in different countries:

USSR: 26 million;             China: 18 million

Germany: 7 million;          Poland: 6 million

S.E. Asia: 3.5 million;        India, 2 million  (India as a colony, and South East Asia had no direct stake in the war)

UK: only 0.45 million;        USA: only 0.42 million

Source: WikiPedia

In the infamous Bengal Famine 1943 during Churchill’s regime 2.5 million Indians died out of malnutrition, and malaria famine, total neglect of sanitation, and also on account of war time agrarian policies of the British colonial occupiers in India.  Millions of Indians died in the several famines during the British colonial rule of ~150 years.  These are well-documented.

Trying to find military solutions, as has been the practice in the last 200 years, would be disastrous today. Now, 50% of the world’s population lives in crowded urban areas, compared to 19% in 1900 and 30% in 1950.  In North America and Western Europe, 70% of their populations lives in urbanized areas.

Today we live in a world  interconnected by communications, trade, and manufacture. Multinational companies operate all over the globe through their supply chains for raw materials and components, not just for computers and consumer electronics and appliances, but also for important medicines, and critical chemical intermediates that go into manufacture of those pharmaceuticals. This fact alone is a soft but effective deterrent, better than military alliances, against large-scale wars. Consider these:

  • Instantaneous, inexpensive communication with an active social media offsets the stranglehold of governments’ propaganda machines and global media houses to sway public opinion.
  • Businesses operate in plants in every region taking advantage of low labor costs, tax regimes, even lax environment laws. The self-interest of businesses against uncertainties in war can prevent military conflicts.
  • Population migration is the norm of our time, globally, regionally, or even within the large nation-state like China, India or Russia.
  • Ethnic groups in every region and in every country realize that they depend on other ethnic groups for their survival and self-preservation, both locally and globally. In the US, as in India, different ethnic/migrant groups in different regions control whole trades. New York City would collapse without its large swath of immigrant population. Farming and slaughterhouse businesses for meat and poultry in North America is simply not possible without low-paid migrant Latino workers from “South of the Border.”

The converging self-interest of these diverse groups locally, regionally, and globally, offers a counterbalancing force for managing global conflicts without the need for large-scale wars.  ♣


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