'Boycotts and Consumerism in the Age of Globalization' - Live Dialogue

Empowering Weak & Oppressed

Yusuf Progler

Jumada' al-Akhirah 05, 1423 2002-08-14

by Yusuf Progler

Guest Name

Dr. Yusuf Progler

Profession

Professor

Subject

Boycotts and Consumerism in the Age of Globalization.

Date

Wednesday,Aug 14 ,2002

Time

Makkah
From... 18:30...To... 20:00

GMT
From... 15:30...To...17:00

Name

Host. -

Profession

Question

Submit your questions.

Answer

.

Name

ahmad - Kenya

Profession

abussiness man

Question

congratulation sheikh yussuf am happy with your job

Answer

Salam, thanks very much. So what kind of impact is globalization having in Kenya? Any consumer boycotts?

Name

omer -

Profession

Question

Asslamu alikum.

In referance to to the so called anti -globalization protesters, the BBC interview a lawyer acting on behave of corporate interests. What was memorable about his whole interview was his last comment describing the anti-Globalists. He mentioned that despite the fact that these anti-globlizers took out to the streets to demonstrate, at the end of the demonstrations there could be nothing better then going to McDonald's and having a hamburger.

What he was trying to say, I believe, that the anti-globalists are in fact not seroious enough and do not have the genuine belief in their cause nor do they have the appropriate discipline to combat globaliztion.

There may be some relavnce in his argument in the fact that globalization needs a wholistic approach to combat its evils. Something to the effect of a religion such as Islam that diciplines their followers in every aspect of life in order to counter the insideous grip of globalization(consumerism and cultural homogonization)on every facet of our lives(cultural, economic, political, and etc).

What are some of your thoughts on this issue.

Answer

I think a corporate media outlet like BBC and CNN would never give the anti-globalization movement a fair hearing. We'd need to look elsewhere to find their views. There are numerous websites that indicate a broad-based, well-organized network of citizen groups, NGOs and academics with a fairly clear list of grievances and some fairly innovative suggestions. The corporate lawyer quoted by the BBC is in denial. Street protests have shut down several meetings of the global business elite, and the corporate media can do nothing but report on the "violence," as if that is the goal. The fact is that corporate globalization poses a real threat to national sovereignty on a global scale, with the WTO and many similar business organizations laying the groundwork for the corporate control of the world. All this is done behind closed doors, with only token representation of most the nations of the world. That, by the way, is one of the grievances of the movement, that the WTO is railroading its interests in virtual secrecy, and they made that point so well that even the corporates are starting to listen, though the only response has been tokenism and condescension. As far as I can see from the non-corporate media, the movement is quiet serious, and several protestors have laid down their lives or put their lives in peril in the name of the cause. The issue of discipline is a good point of departure, by the way. The corporates are promoting discipline, which they interpret as the rule of law and police enforcement. But what the citizens movement has figured out is that the rule of law is being stacked in favor of the corporates, and that sometimes laws have to be broken. It used to be the law to keep black and white people separate in America and South Africa, but people saw that law as evil and protested it. Regarding the need for a spiritual dimension to the anti-globalization movement, I think there is certainly room for that. But the point is that this is an "anti" movement, with very clear goals of shutting down the global economic juggernaut, not to build something else monolithic in its place, but leave room for multiple expressions of national, personal, cultural and political sovereignty.

Name

Reema -

Profession

Question

Can someone tell me what this globalization is about. I here that "buzz" word a lot, but don't have a clear idea of what its about.

Answer

Globalization means "going global," taking something and giving it a global dimension. It was coined by business interests in the 1980s to mean extending the reach of corporations beyond national borders, to "go global" with a particular product, to open new markets for those products outside the borders of the state in which they are manufactured. But since then, globalization has taken on multiple meanings. Besides economic globalization, we can discuss, for example, cultural globalization, which means extending cultural ideas and practices on a global scale. So, in this way, we can talk about the globalization of American movies, which have mass appeal outside of America and which are insinuating American cultural beliefs into other cultures where they did not originate. There is the idea of environmental globalization, that what happens in the Brazilian rainforests or the Polar icecaps has global repercussions. In other words, there are multiple forms of globalization, all sharing the process of going global, whether it be a product, ideology or phenomenon. Most commonly, it refers to the business definition, so when you here of anti-globalization protests, they are protesting the globalization of business, the creating of powerful business alliances and rules of law, like the WTO, which threaten national sovereignty. But, in a sense, the protestors are taking advantage of the same idea: going global with a protest. The other factor in globalization, which sets it apart in a sense from earlier manifestations in the pre-modern age, is the role of technology in making globalization easy. Information technologies -- like we are using now -- make it easy to have global reach for ideas. Computer transactions transfer money around the planet at lightening speed. Transportation makes it easy for people to go global by traveling quickly to different places around the planet. Globalization, then, begins as a technological opportunity for business to extend its reach but ends up as a broad based phenomenon that impacts everybody, with some benefits and some drawbacks. It is a process.

Name

Zaydi - Malaysia

Profession

Question

What pragmatic steps can individuals and communities take to repell the negative trends of globalization. Is it too late.

Answer

Good question. According to the definition of globalization I laid out in the last answer, it is important to recognize the possibilities of globalization as well as the challenges. As a business venture, it does not bode well for most of humanity, if the WTO and other trade agreements are any indication. One way to combat this is to "go global" with a resistance movement, that is create or link up with movements that are already identifying the problems of economic globalization and join their efforts. The corporate media, like CNN and BBC and their clones are useless in this, since they uniformly support the ideology of globalization as a business venture. But if you look beyond the corporate media, a whole new world opens up. The Third World Network, based in Malaysia by the way, is a good place to start looking for this alternative perspective. As an individual, the power of the boycott takes on new significance in the age of globalization. As an economic force, globalization relies on consumers to purchase products manufactured far from where they are being sold. To do this, the corporations first have to make local products seem less appealing. In other words, there is a cultural shift going with economic globalization, so one way to resist this is seek out and use locally produced goods, including food, entertainment, and whatever else is possible. And use the boycott as a sort of ballot box. Think about it. No one can force you to be a consumer. Imagine how it would be to march people to a junk food restaurant at the point of a gun. Takes all the fun out of it! People can vote with the purchasing power by with holding money from irresponsible corporations or those business that have poor environmental records, that abuse workers or bust unions, that exploit local cultures. Governments for the most part cannot do this, they are beholding to the corporate interests, but boycotting is a form of direct democracy, that you can "vote" for or against something by purchasing or not purchasing it. Some have said that boycotts, in the age of globalization, are the political action of world without politics. What this means is that, as national politics become more subservient to the interests of global corporations, governments role will be reduced to policing local populations on behalf of global investors. Traditional methods of expressing political will decrease, as they already are even in the so-called democracies. Instead, people can directly express their political will by taking advantage of the weak link in the corporate chain of global trade that they don't have to spend their money where they don't want to. This is most effect on the individual and community level, but loses effectiveness, at least in the current climate, on the state level, since most states are beholden to the global corporations. So, to make along answer short, explore alternative sources of information and utilized the power of the boycott.

Name

omer -

Profession

Question

once again, the ideas I was trying to emphasize in my first questions, is the practical every day teachings that are propagated by religions especially Islam that automatically discipline their followers to lead a life free of consumerism and gives humanity more lofty goals to pursue then just chasing after hedonistic gratifications.

To the contrary to the implication you made in your answer, Islamic Civilization is quite uniqu in the history of humanity in the sense that during its hay day, it did not set up some sort of hegemonic enterprize that homoginized differnt cultures into one. In fact it created a sesnse of cultural and religious diversity under its banner, unmatched by any cvilization even today. This is underlined in the fact that this civilzation safetly housed every prominent religion(hinduism, zorastrianism, christanity, budahism, jewdiasm and etc)and race(black africans, White Europeans, Asians, Arabs, Turks and the list goes on) in its abode.

Answer

Sure, most of the world religions teach a pious, frugal lifestyle, although their followers often fall short, and I think if you really look you will find that at their high points, many civilizations were cosmopolitan and tolerant. Certainly Islam did this well in its day, but we are talking about the present. It is one thing to look back on the glorious past, but it is more important to work on constructing a glorious future. The terms of the game have changed with globalization, and while Islam has the ethos of a global community of believers, the facts on the ground contradict that ethos, at present. I think Muslims should seek allies in all walks of life to combat something like globalization, and they need to get involved in multi-cultural organizations, if not to lead them, then at least to participate side by side with others. The key is have a common goal, besides da'wah. Fighting the global corporate control of our nations is a good place to start, at least in the political or economic sphere. I'll give you a good example of where we fell short for not getting involved. There was this thing called Jubilee 2000 that linked up with the anti-corporate movement, and it was basically about forgiving the debt of some of the poorest third world nations, whose entire national economy was directed toward servicing debts that came about by ill advising on the part of banks and global corporations. Now, this Jubilee 2000 goal, of relieving the suffering of millions of impoverished people in the Third World, especially in Africa, is a noble goal that no one can deny. However, the movement was taken over by the Catholic Church -- even the name Jubilee is biblical -- and they even blamed the global debt crisis on the Muslims! So they got two bangs for their buck, gets some points for helping the poor and knock Islam in the process. How did they knock Islam? They played up the idea of Arab oil money from the Gulf states being invested in Western banks which in turn loaned that money to Third World nations, with unfair terms or untenable schemes. Logically, that can be refuted, but emotionally it took hold. With the strong ethos of helping the poor at its core, Islam should be at the forefront of this kind of movement. Instead, it became the villain. Now, to get to where I think you are going with this, it is possible to say that Islam provides the only true alternative to corporate gray out being fostered by globalization, but this is dangerously close to vindicating Huntington, in an ironic sort of way. In fact, maybe he was right, for the wrong reasons, that Islam, and maybe Confucianism, are at odds with the West precisely because they have an open, global ideology with vast numbers of people attached to them, one way or another. Of course, Huntington's answer in the only way the West can reply: with war. But, as Muslims have proved in the past, and as you point out, there are other alternatives. In this sense, we can see the wisdom of President Khatami of Iran, who declared a dialogue of civilizations at the UN when the US was crying "clash." Muslims can enter the dialogue, but the issue is with who? Are we with the Third World, the Islamic world, the non-Western world, the disaffected of the West, or are we with those who support the corporate take over of the world?

Courtesy: www.islamonline.net

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