Remarks on Globalization at Gay Shame 2001

by dean spade

They asked me to talk about globalization, and that’s a really general word, so I think that we should start by talking about what that means.

When we talk about globalization, what do we mean? When I talk about it, I am thinking of economic/ethnic warfare--western/rich/white countries making war on poor/former-colony/non-white countries. The word globalizatoin stands for a set of economc policies that operate to siphone resources out of poor countries, and concentrate wealth in the hands of an increasingly small # of western capitalists. this warfare has already killed over 11 billion people, by conservative estimates. its mechanisms are somewhat different from the images that come to mind when americans think of war--bombs, guns, tanks--(although all of those are also still used) --but it also includes free trade agreements, international banking institutions, and new governing bodies that supercede soverign nations (like the WTO). these economic policies that may appear on the surface to be less violent that traditional warfare, have in fact proven more deadly. One example that I heard at a Third World Within panel yesterday of this is that more people have been killed in Viet Nam because of economic sanctions between 1975 and 1995, than were killed in the wars with France and the US between 1945 and 1975.

structural adjustment progreams are another clear example of deadly economic policies encompassed in “globalization”. these programs “SAPS” are imposed on countries with high levels of debt to the IMF. they force indebted countries to adopt economic policies that benefit western imperialists in exchange for desperately needed aid. SAPS:

--force severe reductions of government spending--resulting in huge layoffs and increased unemployment, which provides a huge pool of desperate laborers who western corporations can more easily exploit

--eliminate education and healthcare programs

--reduce govenrment--which means less regulation of workplace safety and environmental hazards. again, paving the way for corporations to more easily make big profits without having to worry about any regulations.

--force countries to focus on export agricutlur, create an “open market” economy, and privatize government property. in kenya, having to change the agricuture to cash crops has resulted in sever famine. could feed country, but must instead sell crops to send money to western creditors.

through SAPs, banks like IMF (profit-making institutions) force poor countries to subject citizens to futher preventable illness, starvation, and deadly employment conditions, in order to more efficiently export all their wealth to the first world.

SAPs are only one global economic arrangement in the arsenal, but are indicative of what the trend of globalization means. Its the same idea as colonialsm, western coutnries and capitalists getting richer and richer by stealing resources from poor/non-white countries, and disable the infrastructures of those countries to create further dependence and crush possibilities of self-determination.

So if this is the situation, what should our goals be? I can think of a few to start: self determination for all colonized and exploited people, radical redistribution of wealth, end to poverty (which also encompasses an end to the kind of accumulated wealth we see happening now).

So what is our role and responsibility as people in the US in this? As benefcaries of these policies, as the people in whose name this violence is being excecuted, what special obligations do we have to resists it and how can we do that? I think the first step is realizing that every choice in our lives is integrally connected to these global economic trends. Deciding whether or not to get involved in this “globalization thing” doesn’t happen when you decide to go to Quebec City or Seattle or not. We are all already involved, already making choices about how wealth will be distributed, already deciding the fates of poor people in the US and abroad. When we decide to use our critical abilities, and look at our implication in these trends, we can begin to make a path of resistance.

Globalization is not just happening to people in Kenya, its happening in Harlem and Bedstuy and the South Bronx. The choice of the government of this city to invest millions of dollars in the new old navy/majic johnson theatres complex on 125th street rather than in affordable housing for people in the same area is a result of these same forces that make governments accountable to corporate interests instead of peoples’ well-being. When we choose to buy our house supplies from Kmart instead of our local hardware store, we are making choices about how wealth is distributed. When we choose to spend $40 a month on cable TV or a cell phone instead of redistributing that money to one of the people in our own communities who is bearing the brunt of the economic policies that put millions of americans in poverty, we are deciding how wealth will be distributed.

I don’t want the idea to be coming across as being about how we can change the world with our buying power. Its going to take a lot more than strategic spending to defeat capitalism. but what I do mean to suggest is that we need to realize that the conditions we’re living under are artificial. The differences between our living standards, the things we have, and the living standards and poverty of people in the third world and colonized people in the US is an artificial condition imposed by bad economic policies and its the responsibility of every one of us to figure out how to resist those forces in every possible instance.


dean spade wishes you'd stop telling people about your "free weekend minutes."




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