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The thousand and one nights of stolen words

In which Scheherazade tells the Xenomorph the mystery of stolen words on Earth.

And Scheherezade said:

Sultan_Pardons_Scheherazade (source Wikipedia)I have come to know — fortunate alien! — that there once occurred a thing called “globalization,” which very bad reputation, and in part, rightly so, for what the people really lived through was a half globalization, a truncated process. What Earthlings experienced should not be called that. Being very generous, it would be a semi-globalization, and even being called this way, it would resemble the unattained objective so little that it would continue to be a misleading name. The supposed globalization they experienced was really an abortion.

True globalization would have involved three inalienable principles: freedom of people, freedom of goods, and freedom of financial movement. The funny thing is that that the three freedoms were global, and functioned in all directions — that’s why they called it globalization. Well, that didn’t happen. For example, the kingdoms of the European Union enjoyed considerable freedom of movement of goods among each other and spent a fortune in gold coins on subsidies to the PAC [Common Agricultural Policy]. However, they put restrictions on the entry of the Moroccan tomato (among many other products and many other distant countries), which meant that many Moroccan farmers had to emigrate a Spain to cultivate tomatoes in greenhouses in Almería in precarious conditions… conditions partly caused and aggravated by the fact that they couldn’t enter Spain freely. Border guards did not let anyone pass who did not carry a safe-conduct that very hard to get.

What was most noticeable about “globalization” was the processes of de-localization, or transfer of factories from the developed nations to the underdeveloped nations, or nations in development. Costs were pushed down because the land and workforce were cheap, and the problem of industrial exploitation of the Third World for the mass production of consumption goods emerged.

China_grwothLabor exploitation, of children or adults, was bad and should have been eliminated, but in many cases of de-localization, as much as the working conditions of the workers were not those of a unionized European paradise, they were minimally decent, improved, and above all, they got something authentically revolutionary: millions of people escaped poverty.

Those people did not live like us, their houses were not pretty like ours, nor were they as well equipped, their countries continued to be authoritarian political regimes, and sometimes unstable, and still they had union victories left to win. But they ate every day, their children had shoes, and even were able to move to houses of better quality. Sometimes it was neccesary to be careful how quickly the impact of relocation was criticized. Of course there were unscrupulous businesses that took advantage of the situation of the countries where they put their factories. In other cases, the alternative to working in those factories was simply to keep watching their children die of hunger.

Standalone_1175X1290A country was rich when it had what was called “First-World problems,” and the richer the country, most existential those problems became. Occupational therapy for senior citizens, sensory stimulation programs for day-cares, psychoanalysis, dental aesthetics services… I am talking about rights provided by the State, not bourgeois consumption. The possibility of turning these demands into rights emerged long after guaranteeing minimal levels of nutrition and hygiene for the whole population.

We wanted all those things, everyone wanted them. But some of us wanted to be able pay for them with our money, not have the State guarantee them. While it may not seem like it, it had many advantages, like to be able to choose the provider, and not bankrupt the State with all the demands that could well become rights. Surprisingly, we weren’t the only ones. The Chinese, Senegalese, Filipinos… they also wanted it!!! What a surprising coincidence! They didn’t just want to eat, they also wanted have a dishwasher in their apartment, fix their teeth, and take their children to a day-care where they would come out smarter. Although, of course, we were talking about many millions of people, and more than one sensitive soul in the First World wondered if it wouldn’t endanger their own dishwasher.

childcare_kinder There were sensitive people who even thought that Africans being Africans, Chinese being Chinese, Indians being Indians, etc., meant they had an existential peculiarity that made them need different things, have different attitudes, different desires, different impulses… others thought that they had some kind of handicap, when they were simply poor. That’s why cultures of aid to the poor have never worked, because what they needed beyond tools and knowledge was to be able sell things to the world, sometimes beginning by working in someone else’s factory. What they didn’t need was to be given subsidies to spend on low-quality products, without leaving your degraded neighborhoods, where they didn’t have anything to occupy the time.

They needed to grow, progress, change neighborhoods, buy a car, a new TV, orthodontics, and a shirt for each day of the week. What ended up messing up the picture is that it wasn’t just the fault of politicians in the countries where those strange characters, the poor, lived. It was also the fault of politicians in all those countries that spent so much on cooperation and development, but didn’t let goods from other countries enter freely, countries that often only had one, two, or three things to export.

MDG : Agriculture in Africa : Ghana men cultivating soybean beansImagine Telefónica being told it could only sell 5,000 phone contracts a year. It would reach its limit in 3 days, and have to spend the other 362 days of the year doing nothing. It would have had to pay its workers for the whole year with what it made on 5,000 customers, and sell at very high prices to be viable, but then no one would buy. Something like that happened with many agricultural economies, which were not viable because the market was restricted for them, and they ended up having to swallow the terms of any buyer good enough to help them out.

And then the Xenomorph…

He asked in wonder what it was that that restricting them, and Scheherezade told him that “market” was another stolen word. At this moment in the narration Scheherazade saw the morning appear, and discreetly fell silent.

Translation by Steve Herrick.

«The thousand and one nights of stolen words» recibió 1 desde que se publicó el martes 18 de marzo de 2014 . Si te ha gustado este post quizá te gusten otros posts escritos por María Rodríguez.

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