What do McCreevy, Arnie and a load of robots have in common?
Arnold Schwarzenegger, fresh from machine-gunning his way across the worlds’ cinema screens, wants to be governor of California. Charlie McCreevy is the Irish Minister for Finance. The Matrix is a great movie with a dodgy sequel. What do they all have in common? The answer: globalisation.
But what is it? Exactly what is it that we are all talking about? Exactly what is it that we are all protesting about? Is it about economics? Is it about cultural hegemony? Is this about arms and warfare? Or very simply, is it all about the oil?
Now then, now then, rattle, rattle, jewellery, jewellery, my marbles have you seen them? The truth of the matter is that defining precisely what Globalisation is, is almost as difficult as trying to define what the so-called anti-globalisation movement wants. And I’m not getting into that just yet. Another days work indeed…
A cursory surfing of de owl Internet throws up some definitions of globalisation. The boys over at globalization.com say that “At a top political and economic level, globalization is the process of denationalization of markets, politics and legal systems, i.e., the rise of the so-called global economy.”
Meanwhile, the chaps at the Globalisation Guide give us a myriad of possible definitions. The sociologist, Anthony Giddens, for example, defines globalisation as ‘a decoupling of space and time, emphasising that with instantaneous communications, knowledge and culture can be shared around the world simultaneously’. Waheaaay.
A Dutch academic who maintains a good website on globalisation, Ruud Lubbers, defines it as a process in which ‘geographic distance becomes a factor of diminishing importance in the establishment and maintenance of cross border economic, political and socio-cultural relations’
Confused yet? Bored? Well, I am. For me globalisation is something much more fundamental. Something which is considerably easier to understand. For me, it has always been about the acquisition of power by the few, from the many. This is power in the form of control over resources, weapons, ideas, information and land. It is a process that it inherently driven by the needs of capitalism: where the machines (corporations, stockholder security and the military industrial complex) have become more powerful than the folks who created them and those who they were meant to serve.
I’ll give you a simple and local example. A few years ago, Charlie McCreevy introduced ‘Individualisation of tax bands’. This was a measure designed to seduce more people back into the workforce. In reality, it meant punishing women who chose to stay at home and raise children through tax breaks – or the lack of them.
What we had here was a classic example of globalisation at work – at a local level. Due to pressures from the international markets, McCreevy was forced to look for cheap labour. He needed to feed the machine. In doing so, those whom the machine was meant to serve actually end up serving the machine itself. The machine has become self-perpetuating. Self-aware. Cart before horse. Point totally missed. The economy (this particular machine) has now assumed greater importance than the human beings who live within it and whom it was meant to benefit.
Once again, I am reminded of that great scene from the Matrix where Morpheus explains to Neo the truth about the human condition:
“Throughout human history, we have been dependent on machines to survive. Fate, it seems, is not without a sense of irony. The human body generates more bio-electricity than a 120-volt battery and over 25,000 BTUs of body heat. Combined with a form of fusion, the machines have found all the energy they would ever need. There are fields, endless fields, where human beings are no longer born. We are grown. For the longest time I wouldn’t believe it, and then I saw the fields with my own eyes. Watch them liquefy the dead so they could be fed intravenously to the living. And standing there, facing the pure horrifying precision, I came to realize the obviousness of the truth. What is the Matrix? Control. The Matrix is a computer generated dream world built to keep us under control in order to change a human being into this. (Morpheus holds up a Duracell battery).”