One Can't Help But Gloat 3
For me, a non-academic imbued with what I hope is common sense rather than an -ism, I discover that what I want to say, that rant which is boiling over, is said better by others.Polly ToynbeeIt is the extremes of inequality in the west's most unequal countries that set off this nuclear explosion. Gargantuan bonuses in Wall Street and the City (in London) were earned from creating fairy money, imagined to be owned by people too poor to pay anything at all. If the poor had more money, it wouldn't have happened. If mega-bonuses had not inflated share prices and borrowing beyond reason, fantasy capitalism would have been avoided.
But this is a crisis that's been building for some time. As I've already said
, I blame grocer's daughter Margaret Thatcher for adopting the 'neo-liberalism' of a free market. Except, of course, it wasn't free for those who couldn't participate; they could only be exploited.Madeline BuntingWe are now learning what countries across the developing world have experienced over three decades: unstable and inequitable neoliberal economics leads to unacceptable levels of social disruption and hardship that can only be contained by brutal repression. vide
Suharto's Indonesia?Add that to the two other central charges against deregulated capitalism: first, it may create wealth but it does not distribute it effectively; and second, that it takes no account of what it cannot commodify - neither the social relationships of family and community nor the environment, which are vital to human wellbeing, and indeed to the functioning of the market itself. Ultimately, neoliberal capitalism is self-destructive.
Corruption, burgeoning consumerism, deforestation, climate change are all "self-destructive".
International politician Chris Patten says1
that what created mayhem in the financial markets was not the inherent weakness of globalisation but the greedy incompetence
of the banks and other credit institutions, whose precise level of exposure to bad debts seemed sometimes to be obfuscated by the technology they employed.
“Technology’? I think he means ‘terminology’.I remember a banker once trying to explain to me how the mortgage of, say, an unemployed single parent in St Louis could be morphed into a triple-A rated financial investment in London, New York or Paris. Magically, impoverishment became a "special investment vehicle". Try as hard as the banker did to get me to comprehend the beautiful simplicities of the whole process, I remained baffled. It was, I suppose, some sort of relief later on to discover that it was not me who was stupid.
Now that blame has been neatly apportioned, there lies the fundamental question of what needs to be done. Unfortunately, Chris Patten does not believe that there's an "inherent weakness of globalisation".
But I do.
Inevitably, those of us raised in the (UK) post war years of penury, darkness and cold, when things that had never been in short supply before - bread, unswerving respect for those in authority - were suddenly on the ration as we struggled to feed a starving Europe retain much of the 'make do and mend' mentality of those years2.
I don't have much nostalgia for the circumstances of my early years, but I do think that approach is more desirable than the grasping consumerist attitude that has replaced it in countries which aim for economic growth..
Local choices condition us. No more do we play on waste ground because that has been built upon and our local mom and pop general store is now a franchise of Indomaret, albeit with local lads and lasses working for a salary and in better conditions. But we remain on familiar terms with Pak Haji who sells electrical goods and the street’s ojek
drivers. We have little need for globalised products or services.
Or do we?
‘Er Indoors goes to the Carrefour hypermarket at least once a month. A quick rummage though cupboards in Jakartass Towers produces a range of products from Unilever3
and Proctor & Gamble, Johnson “home hygiene products“, milk from Nestlé, sambal
from Heinz, who now number ABC products among their 57 varieties, water from Danone and cigarettes from Philip Morris. Outside, I can see a Toyota and a couple of Hondas, but they're not ours.
That all these products are produced or assembled here is for the good, but I do wonder if it’s really necessary for Indonesia to be so beholden to foreign conglomerates. Is this truly what globalization has been about - the amassing of profit centres around the globe?
Indonesia is the repository of more 'natural resources' than most countries. As an independent and supposedly democratic country, Indonesia should act responsibly in safeguarding these resources for future generations rather than allowing foreign companies
and local oligarchs
to exploit them for short-term profits.
But what can Indonesia do about it?
That's something I'll be mulling over this week.
.....................................................1 Extracted from an extract of What Next?: Surviving the Twenty-first Century by Chris Patten, pub. Allen Lane on 2nd October
2 From a review of Austerity Britain: 1945-1951 by David Kynaston, pub. Bloomsbury, London
3 Unilever is backing moves to scrap mandatory biofuel targets and subsidies because it is concerned that subsidies for biofuels are driving up food prices and the cost of its products.
Nothing to do with the destruction of rainforests and their replacement with plantations, and the displacement of people in favour of 'bonded labour' then.