June 23, 2008
It’s right and proper that we all share this planet’s resources equitably, but the bitter truth is that some of us – myself included – were simply born in the right place. Whilst others were not so fortunate. It’s a gift where we are born, an absolute stroke of luck – good or bad. Some of us are born with fresh water, good food reserves, safe shelter and in amiable climates. And some are born into political, social or racial strife, or in a land that yields resources less easily. Whilst we could be harsh and say that our parents choose where we are born, and thus put the blame somewhere, in fact choice doesn’t always enter into the lives of the poor, the uneducated, the neglected or the simply misfortunate. Indeed, misfortune can strike anywhere, even when you seem to have made the best choice possible. Even US citizens can suffer floods and fire, hurricanes and tornadoes.
It’s really a case of ‘do we see ourselves as part of a global community’ or do we simply take advantage of globalisation to ensure our own wealth? If you believe in Karma, even if solely as an ethical construct, you’d want to think carefully here. Increasingly the wealthy western nations are taking advantage of lower labour costs in developing nations to lower the cost of their own consumption. It should follow that this global convenience leads to a global conscience, but it seems not always to be the case. Unless the threat seems personal, or specifically detrimental to western assets or politics, it’s ignored. It may be discussed and shown nightly on the TV news, but largely allowed ‘to play out’ in a political sense. Thus Saddam’s Iraq is targeted for ‘enforced democratisation’ whilst similarly despotic rulers just go about their business until it gets too ugly to ignore. Or so it seems.
That may be the dark side of humanity in 2008. On the other hand by trading fairly with the developing nations we raise their economic opportunities and, perhaps indirectly, improve their lot. It’s a significant by-product of globalisation, as is the creation of increased industrial pollution, increased demand for raw materials and the consumption of farming land for urban development. What we in the west have done in 2 or 300 years the people of China and India will do in 20 or 30 years. And that’s great, up to a point. Wealth will transfer and some natural balances will occur. Population growth will decline, for example. But demand for food and power will grow, often because wealth changes taste and increases desire.
Which puts up the cost of everything in the west. How ironic that the flood of cheap manufactured goods from the developing world that has allowed our western nations to consume goods and services at almost unimaginable rates, whilst keeping inflation down, will now drive up inflation and dampen down demand in those same western countries. Perhaps there’s some Karma in it after all.