Sodium Haze: How globalisation bypasses community

Sunday, 29 May 2011

How globalisation bypasses community

This heartrending article in the Guardian is a clear example of how important our notions of community are.

Here a global mult-national company is given permission by a national government to override the rights of individuals and the rights of the local community.

The multinational energy company Shell are an organisation without national affiliation, laws or any moral principles beyond the drive to make profits.

Shell can move from country to country flouting national and international law - because as a collective species we live in a state near anarchy.

We need not look far for other examples of energy companies behaving with no regard for community of any kind.

Without even thinking I can link to Shell's activities in Nigeria

Or Chevron in Ecuador

The important lesson here is this:

In the past our notions of community and protection from threat were defined by the boundaries of our clan and family. We had a more direct control over our lives as a community. We grew our own food, sourced our own water and made our own houses and goods. But we don't do any of this for ourselves anymore - our needs are met by supply chains that have national and international connections - our work is no longer for ourselves or our local community - our work forms part of a global economic system that we cannot seperate ourselves from.

At this point I must defer to a book written in 1907 called 'Sin & Society" by Edward Alsworth Ross.

From the preface:
THIS book deals with sin, , but it does not entreat the sinner to mend his ways. It seeks to influence no one in his conduct. . It does seek to influence men in their attitude toward the conduct of others. Its exhortation is not be good. but be rational.
To modify conduct one touches the heart. To modify judgments on conduct one speaks to the intellect. The latter is the method of this book.

Its aim is to enlighten rather than to move..
In praising or blaming each of us exerts a power over his fellows. When the praises or blames of many men run together, , they become a torrent no one can withstand. Why let this moral power run to waste ? Why not use this public opinion to protect our dearest possessions ??
and critically

It never occurs to the public that sin evolves along wth society, and that  the perspective in which it is necessary to view misconduct changes from age to age. Hence, in to-days warfare on sin, the reactions of the public are about as serviceable as gongs and stink-pots in a modern battle.

Rationalize public opinion  modernize it and bring it abreast of latter-day sin - make the blame of the many into a flaming sword guarding the sacred interests of society such is the lesson this little book seeks to impress.
No less a man than Theodore Roosevelt said this in a letter at the front of the book:

You define sin as conduct that harms another in contradistinction to vice by which we mean practices that harmby which we mean practices that harm one's self; and you attack as they should be attacked the men who at the present day do more harm to the body politic by their sinning than all others.

As you well say:  If a ring is to be put in the snout of the greedy strong, only organized society can do it
 More relevant today than it ever was in 1907.

The masked security operatives of Shell operate as hired assasins and thugs around the world and yet Shell hides behind a veneer of respectablity it does not deserve.

and don't even get me started on banks!
We have no concept of community to restrain those who sin against all humanity. Dis-empowered as we all are by global productions, economics and finance - we are all potential victims or hapless colluders in wrong-doing.

How can we update our consciousness of community to have any efficacy and meaning in the face of globalisation?
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