Thoughts : International Development : Reflections on the “Anti-Globalization” Movement

I wish to respond to Mr. Gresser’s article, “Anti-globalization movement grinds to a halt.” (Jan. 18, 2002).

Mr. Gresser pointed out three points about this broad movement. In his third point, he says the movement advocated “a vision of a less materialistic, more ascetic future” and that their activists “stood for renunciation of wealth and ambition.” As far as I am familiar with the anti-globalization movement, it would not be accurate to say that it is all about putting down materialism and promoting a more ascetic lifestyle. Nor is it about renunciation of wealth or ambition.

I am attracted to the movement simply because I see these activists desiring to help the poor and stand up for them. They do this by protesting unfair policies that trade organizations make. Their goal is to stop the economic oppression of third-world countries by the Western world.

These people do not look down upon wealth, as though “money is the root of all evil.” It is well known that it is rather “the love of money” which is bad, not money per se. Loving money and loving wealth to the extent that one takes advantage of the poor for ones own benefit – that is what they are trying to eradicate from the world.

Mr. Gresser continued and related the mission of the movement interestingly to “government and human nature.” Agreeing with Sima Qian (“From ancient times to the present…hearts swelled with pride at the glory of power and ability” and “The best government accepts that this is the nature of the people…Only the worst compels them to act against their nature.”), Mr. Gresser’s conclusion is that because the anti-globalization movement has pursued a vision of ‘government’ contrary to how human nature functions, it is therefore a relief to see the movement fade.

Methinks Mr. Gresser is being too pessimistic here. He needs a dose of idealism in him. Just because humans are selfish by nature doesn’t mean we do not impose controls upon them and hope for a change in them. If we leave the selfish nature on its own, there will be no restraint and our inner selfishness will rule.

Yes, human beings are selfish and evil to a certain extent, but it is precisely through getting to know about the anti-globalization movement and their vision to help the poor and correct injustice that I have come to hope for better things in this world. Whenever I hear of these people and the sacrifices they make to help those less fortunate than them, faith is rekindled in me. That is, faith in the fact that there is still some goodness in humans, that there is still yet some altruism in us.

The way I see it, we need the anti-globalization movement to challenge the policies of trade organizations and governments. The pressure these activists place on big companies and trade organizations to be accountable to society at large provide the checks that are needed to keep a hold on human selfishness. If the movement fades, the world at large suffers – especially the poor, for whom they fight regularly.

Lastly, Mr. Gresser’s quote of Sima Qian to describe the anti-globalization movement – “Though states exist side by side…” – is very misleading. The quote describes a situation whereby a state has no contact with other states. That is certainly not what anti-globalization advocates believe in or envision the future to be like.

The term “anti-globalization” to describe the movement is unfortunate because its proponents aren’t trying to stop globalization. That is impossible, as anyone would know. what they are however trying to stop is economic oppression and exploitation of the poor by rich countries. They are not against trade between nations, nor against appreciation of another’s custom or culture, nor against travelling from state to state – as the quote suggests. They are merely against the way economic globalization has tended to take place in this world.

I do not believe the anti-globalization movement has faded or will fade. As long as unfair trade rules continue to be promoted by trade organizations that result in the economic oppression of the poor, I believe groups of compassionate and altruistic people will continue to rear their heads and seek to make a difference in this world – for the poor’s sake, for justice’s sake.

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