On Native Ground
THE BATTLE BETWEEN 'JIHAD' AND 'McWORLD'
by Randolph T. Holhut
American Reporter Correspondent
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- There are many subtexts to our current "war onterrori= sm." But many of them lead back to the one thing that I have longmaintained=
would be the defining struggle of our new century -- how tocounter the eve= r-increasing corporate control of our planet.
The boosters of globalization have wasted no time in tying its foeswho t= ook to the streets in Seattle, Quebec, Stockholm, Prague and Genoa tothe fo= rces that carried out the Sept. 11 attacks. U.S. Trade RepresentativeRobert= Zoellick, in yet another example of the"with-us-or-with-the-terrorists" lo= gic of the Bush administration, calledfree trade an "antidote" to the "viol= ent rejectionism" of terrorism andmaintained that the 142 nations in the Wo= rld Trade Organization "cancounter the revulsive destructionism of terroris= m" by moving forward withthe WTO's mission of completely unfettered capital= ism.
Terrorism can be defeated through globalization? One can make astron= g case that globalization helps to create the climate that breedsterrorism.=
Benjamin Barber calls this "Jihad vs. McWorld." In his like-titledbook, = the University of Maryland professor states that we're in the midstof a cla= sh between two forces. On one side is "Jihad," which he defines as"degenera= tive tribalism and "reactionary fundamentalism." On the other is"McWorld," = which he says represents "integrative modernization andaggressive economic = and cultural globalization."
Democracy is caught in the crossfire of thes= e two forces, sinceboth Jihad and McWorld are indifferent to freedom. But B= arber maintainsthat democracy is the only force that can respond effectivel= y to Jihad andMcWorld -- both the "resentments and spiritual unease of thos= e for whom thetrivializing and homogenizing of values is an affront to cult= ural diversityand spiritual and moral seriousness" and the "complaints of t= hose mired inpoverty and despair as a result of unregulated global markets = and ofcapitalism uprooted from the humanizing constraints of the democratic= nation-state."
Half of this planet's inhabitants live on less than $2 a d= ay,according to the United Nations. At the same time, the wealthiest 20perc= ent of the planet consumes more than 80 percent of its resources. Tothose o= utside of the U.S., Europe and Japan, globalization equalsexploitation and = oppression.
Here at home, things aren't much better. The top 1 percent of= theU.S. population has nearly as much wealth as the bottom 95 percentcombi= ned. Consumer debt is at a record high of $6.5 trillion. More than 1.5milli= on people have lost jobs in the past year, but only 40 percent of themeven = qualify for unemployment insurance (a national average of $230 a weekfor a = maximum of 26 weeks). More than 40 million people have no healthinsurance a= nd one-fifth of this nation's children live in poverty.
Economic conditio= ns like these do not make for a peaceful world.They make a world that is fi= lled with fear, hatred and violence. These arethe conditions that breed ter= rorism.
To its backers, globalization is nothing less than the free marke= tin its purest, most righteous form. The market is always right and alwaysa= cts in the best interests of all, as opposed to governments, which arealway= s wrong and never act in the best interests of all. The hegemony ofthe mark= et cannot be questioned and cannot be stopped. As former Britishprime minis= ter Margaret Thatcher so famously taught: "There is noalternative."
We're= supposed to accept a world where corporations and capitalhave no loyalty t= o any entity but its shareholders; where jobs hopscotchthe globe in search = of places where the wages are lowest and health, safetyand environmental sa= feguards are non-existent; where, as Barber puts it, wesee "the privatizati= on of all things public and the commercialization ofall things private."
= In other words, welcome to the New World Disorder.
We are in the midst of= a global crisis where decades of socialprogress are being swept away. It d= oesn't have to be like this, andcontrary to Lady Thatcher's grand pronounce= ment, there must be analternative to a rapacious free market that puts prof= its ahead of humanneeds.
Here in our nation, it means an electoral system= that's notcontrolled by corporate dollars. It means a press that lives up = to itsresponsibility to challenge the status quo. It means a government tha= texists to promote the general welfare, and not merely help the rich growri= cher. It means developing a sustainable economy that doesn't plunder theear= th. It means investing in public infrastructure, health and safety tocreate= more jobs, affordable housing, better schools and a health caresystem that= all Americans can have access to.
Globally, it means insisting on real a= nd tangible standards for theprotection of human rights and the environment= . It means development,rather than exploitation. It also means that our g= overnment might try beinga little more humble and a little more cooperative= with the rest of theworld.
Despite the grand show that the Bush administ= ration is putting onin trying to build an international coalition against t= errorism, thereality is that President Bush continues to pursue a unilatera= l foreignpolicy where the U.S. does what it pleases and the rest of the wor= ld has nochoice in the matter.
The latest example of this happened recent= ly in Ottawa at a meetingof members of the World Bank. The topic for discus= sion was increasingannual aid to developing countries by $50 billion. Of th= e 183 nationsrepresented at this meeting, guess which nation was the only o= ne whoopposed the idea?
Here's a hint: It is the same nation that gives a= bout 0.1 percentof its gross domestic product in international aid, the sti= ngiest of allthe Group of Seven industrial nations. The second hint, it's a= lso thenation that's the world's largest arms dealer and also dispenses the= bulkof its foreign aid in the form of military assistance.
Yep, it's the= good old U.S. of A.
And if $50 billion sounds like a lot of money, it's = about equal towhat the U.S. and its allies came up with in a matter of week= s to attackAfghanistan.
A secure world starts with citizens that are heal= thy, well-fed,educated and allowed to participate fully in economic and pol= itical life.And the cost for helping to achieve this goal is ultimately muc= h cheaperthan fighting wars to deal with the consequences of economic and p= oliticaldecisions designed to benefit the few at the expense of the many.=
As the driving force behind McWorld, the U.S. must recognize thatit cann= ot culturally and economically steamroller the world without a cost.That co= st is the demise of democracy and the ascension of global anarchy,and that = is a cost too high for the world to bear.
Randolph T. Holhut has been = a journalist in New England for morethan 20 years. He edited "The George Se= ldes Reader" (Barricade Books).