Fata Morgana (chimerically) wrote,
Fata Morgana
chimerically

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Lula and the global south

In class yesterday we talked about an article about Brazil's president Lula, found in the Dec. 1 issue of The Nation, that paints a hopeful picture of globalism in a sea of pessimistic literature. It's a good read.


If solutions to hunger, disease, environmental degradation, illiteracy, and poverty in the global south come out of the global north, they necessarily benefit the global north. Why else would the global north bother? It will be global north companies that invest in the so-called "solutions," and these companies are naturally interested in making a profit (in fact, I've heard that executives can be ousted by their shareholders if they fail to make as much profit as they could). From what I've seen I don't think making a profit for the global north while really benefiting the global south is likely or even possible. Companies and governments in the global north are invested in the current power distribution for cheap raw materials, cheap labor, and low export tariffs (often imposed by the IMF or WTO, or directly by trade agreements with global north countries), and will recognize efforts that have the potential to actually change that as harmful to their profits/economies and resist them. (The U.S., Japan, European countries, and other first-world countries were so threatened by the G22 alliance at the World Bank negotiations in Cancun in October because the cost of labor is so high in their countries that they depend on being able to import cheaply from these places, and to dump agricultural surpluses there.

The rhetoric filling the ICT4B class is "defining and developing a market" in the poor in India and elsewhere, and while many of our speakers (especially the businesspeople) littered their speeches with claims of "promoting women's education" and "eliminating poverty" and such things, their talk, as author Arundhati Roy points out in Power Politics, only obfuscates their lack of understanding of the issues and their real goal of profit.

Moreover, the companies will follow the model of capitalism used in the global north, which is perfectly fine with, for example, selling products that have been shown to be harmful to one's health (such as skin-lightening creams, many cosmetics, high-sugar candy and sodas, high-fat snacks, hormone-laced meat, and many more). For capitalism in the global north, it's often just important to just sell as many products as possible, regardless of potential harms, and it's up to the individual to decide to be socially-responsible (which often reduces profit, and is thus undesirable). (Based on this tendency, scholars have somewhat cynically suggested that such environmental disasters as oil spills and thinning ozone are actually GOOD, because they provide so many opportunities for spending on environmental cleanup and health-care and much more, thus stimulating the economy! It's no secret that wars stimulate the economy through manufacture of defense materials ... and even without wars, the U.S. economy is very invested in continually selling arms overseas. But that's a topic for another rant ...)

If solutions are to truly benefit the global south, they may have to change the current balance of power, and thus be at the expense of the global north. Thus, solutions must necessarily come from the global south - from their engineers, and concerned citizens and their representatives. They know the situation better than any businesspeople from the global north, better than any global north governments, and they will be able to consider solutions that may not benefit the global north.
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