Understanding a text
Read the text below and then do the activities that follow.
The Dictatorship of the Market
by Lars Gaupset
Not too many centuries ago, the Western world colonized the third world, exploiting their natural resources, making the local people slaves and destroying their diversity of cultures. Their only excuse for doing this was the "superiority of our civilization". They labelled other quite sustainable ways of living as "barbaric" and "uncivilized".
Today, in the 21st century, this imperialism is being reborn through the spread of global capitalism and the free market into the third world, only now it is disguised by the fancy slogan "globalization". The Western world, led by the Americans, is using international financial bodies such as the World Bank, the WTO and the IMF, as tools to force the poor countries to accept a destructive and discriminating economic system which only serves the economic interests of the wealthy and powerful, increasing the gap between the rich and the poor.
I'm talking about neo-liberalism, the free, non-regulated capitalism which gives a handful of giant multinational corporations complete control of the economy. Of the world's 100 largest economies, 51 of them are multinationals. They are not responsible to any government or international body, only to their shareholders. They increase their profit through the misery, suffering and poverty of people in the developing countries.
With such extreme power, the multinational companies manipulate western "democracies" and the financial bodies to gain access to the rich natural resources in the third world. They are the new colonizers, and they rule by one law only: the law of profit. They show no regard for people or the environment. They exploit cheap labour in poor countries, and millions of people have to work under slave-like conditions without any labour rights at all, producing products for western consumers. The big and mighty corporations also destroy the renewable eco-systems on which local people and aborigines depend, replacing them with plantations and monocultures devastating the soil with pesticides and toxins to increase production, making it impossible for the locals to survive due to contamination of the water supply, the destruction of forests and the extinction of fish species. With nothing left to live off in the countryside, people are forced to move to the cities where they end up in the slums.
As the sustainable eco-systems disappear, the diverse ways of living and thinking disappear with them, leaving us with a world with the horrible logic of the market.
Just as the old colonizers defended their crimes by discrediting other cultures as "inferior", the modern imperialists who defend capitalism and neo-liberalism claim that all other ways of thinking are "inefficient" or "old-fashioned". As the Indian activist Vandana Shiva has stated, market ideology does not only produce destructive monocultures in the developing world, it also creates "monocultures of the mind", where ecological balance and fellowship are lost among the dollar signs.
The WTO has an agreement called GATS (General Agreement on Trade and Services), which is pushing countries to privatize their public services, such as health and education. This means that people in the developing countries have to pay for expensive medicines themselves, which they of course can't afford. Every year 10 million people die of diseases easy to cure, such as diarrhoea and influenza! Poor people are also refused medicines which can help them fight the AIDS virus. Fifty million people around the globe are suffering from this terrible disease. The logic seems to be: if you're poor and don't have any money, you simply die.
Even worse is the WTO's attempt to privatize our water resources; multinational companies are supposed to profit on the vital rivers and lakes which local people all over the world have been using for hundreds of years. At the same time, one billion people lack access to clean water. This is robbery!
How can we combat the mighty and the rich to stop them from colonizing the rest of the world with their self-serving fundamentalist market ideology? In response to this betrayal of humanity and to every living thing with whom we share this planet, a strong social movement of environmentalists, activists, socialists, labourers, aborigines etc. has gathered to demonstrate against the dictatorship of the market and to set a new global agenda: to create a real democratic alternative, where every human being is allowed to participate in the development of the world, not leaving it to the wealthy and their giant corporations to decide the future of our children. We are fighting for a world where the size of your wallet doesn't decide if you're a human being or not, and where all living creatures live together in an ecological and humanitarian fellowship.
Only a naive dream, you say? Have you ever heard the quote: "Nobody was more mistaken than the guy who didn't do anything because he could only do a little"? We have a moral responsibility to act, and it's right now we have to start fighting for a better world!
Working with the text
1. Find Lars Gaupset's views that counter Frank Jensen's views (p. 207 in your textbook).
2. Lars’s letter was published in the American political magazine Jagged Pill, and of course there was quite a response from readers. Here are excerpts from some of the responses from American students:
a) When I read the rants of left-wing fanatics ready to blame the USA for everything I am often offended at how these Europeans claim that America is a colonizer! Europe was the colonizer! England, Germany, France Spain, Portugal… The USA was itself a colony. Lars, know thy history!
b) Here we go again with Yankee-bashing time. Just stop it will you? The world is and always has been in a constant state of change. We must adapt or die, just like any other species. Romanticizing about outmoded farming techniques and ancient traditions, that's what's naïve, Mr. Gaupset. We need to feed the world's population, not coddle them.
c) This is to that Lars dude from Norway. Get with it man. Last summer I visited Norway and I don't think they were living any differently there than we do in the States. They had good homes and I only saw new cars everywhere! In the states just about every second car is a real clunker, but it seemed like every Norwegian, young and old, was driving a brand new car. It looked to me like there was lots of wealth and some major consumption going on over there. You know the old saying: ‘People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.’
d) I really appreciated the article by the Norwegian student that I read in Jagged Pill last week. Globalization is a disaster and is a new form of cultural and economic colonization, no question about it. Keep on leading the cause Lars!
Write a letter to the editor where you state your views on the issue while reacting to the article by Lars Gaupset and some of the letters the magazine has printed.
(Remember: if you want your letter to the editor published it must be brief and to the point or it won't be considered, or will be drastically edited. You must use a clear and succinct style with persuasive language if you want to get your point across. The typical letter to the editor will only be a few paragraphs long.)