Have you heard about capitalist globalization? How does the Global Market in Brandon oppose and respond to this process?
For the purpose of this column let’s try a simple definition of capitalist globalization: It is the process of making things global for the sole purpose of profit. In terms of economy and geo politics, capitalist globalization is what has driven the world to where it is right now — a very profitable, modern and cyclical chaos.
I have no doubt that Canada experiences most of the good part of this chaos while other latitudes are not so lucky. One thing is frightening about the process of capitalist globalization is the effect it has on culture. The problem resides in that globalization does not only happen to products, things, information and technology. It also happens to people. It makes things and people uniform.
I think about that every time I travel hundreds or thousands of miles and I find the same supermarkets, the same restaurants, the same coffee shops and the same brands. It gives you the feeling that you have not traveled anywhere.
Globalization also teaches us to live a very predictable life whether that is a good thing or not. It makes us forget how to repair things because it is just easier and cheaper to buy new things shipped from the Maoist exploitation centre of the world. People do not have to talk and interact with each other anymore because most of human interaction (including sex) can happen in the virtual world. Nowadays, human flesh and bone society is in many instances replaced by social media. Now, when you come from an underdeveloped country to Canada, these things are very noticeable. Let’s see why.
Down there, just a small minority can afford smart phones, high speed Internet and many other commodities of our corporative modernity. For many things that you do with a click, or tapping your latest touchscreen device we still use human beings in the Third World. For example, you still need to say hi to someone, talk about the weather and give a tip if you want to read a newspaper in Central America.
You become friends with the newspaper vendor and that is human interaction. The same will happen in any other commercial exchange, whereas in the first world automatic tellers, automatic cashiers, and automatic robots are the answer to many CEO’s headaches because, unlike human beings, these robots do not require a salary, they are not emotional, and even better, they do not unionize. The dependency in unique and fallible human beings that exists in the Third World, is being slowly replaced in the first world by a blind faith in automatism and uniformity.
Another example: Now that I have started to like the popular brands of coffee in Canada, from cup to cup I remember the little eateries and street vendors so frequent in poor countries where every cup of coffee will taste as an inexpugnable and innovative adventure. It is never the same coffee. How can I have a favourite coffee shop when there are only repetitions of shops from the same few food chains? The bad news for me is that the Third World is just behind, but slowly following the same path of converting society into a uniform one.
Paradoxically, the more advanced in science and technology the world becomes the less human and unique we are. This combination of uniformity and lack of human interaction produces something called acculturation, namely, the slow and progressive loss of culture, customs and social institutions. Everything gets branded and distributed globally, and if the brand gets global it is also consumed globally. Handmade items are also increasingly harder to find and things are produced wherever it is cheaper to produce them. Local foods, drinks, arts, crafts and fruits surrender to globalized products and all of a sudden even tomatoes, oranges and bananas get a brand name.
Do we need to panic about all this? Well, it all started with the Industrial Revolution quite a bit ago and it is maybe too late to reverse. Judging by the popularity of Facebook, the iPhone, the Big Mac, bottled water and many other iconic symbols of our global era, the world population is not inclined to go back or to change the course.
However, there are some isles inside these waters of accelerated globalization. In Brandon, for example, I still enjoy going to farmers markets, cultural events and venues that remind me that we are still humans and that we can still produce unique things.
The new Global Market in Brandon is a good example of an effort to preserve our most basic humanity. There you will find street vendors, crafts, locally produced veggies and fruit and especially human beings willing to give you their warm version of old time social interaction.
That has no price at the Global Market.
» Jaime Chinchilla is part of Brandon’s Latin American community and a member of the popular Son Latino Band. His column appears monthly.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 15, 2012