October 5, 2002

Capitalism and War

Indian writer Arundhati Roy wrote one of the most lucid analyses of what is driving this campaign for war yet to emerge from this mad moment in history. "Not Again" in The Guardian is a very worthwhile piece of reading.

It is the needs of global capitalism that is creating the need for this war. Roy quotes Tom Friedman in his book on globalisation, The Lexus and the Olive Tree, saying, "The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist. McDonald's cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas," and calls it "the most accurate description of the project of corporate globalisation that I have read."

Roy presents these devastating statistics: "In the past 10 years, the world's total income has increased by an average of 2.5% a year. And yet the numbers of the poor in the world has increased by 100 million. Of the top 100 biggest economies, 51 are corporations, not countries. The top 1% of the world has the same combined income as the bottom 57%, and the disparity is growing. Now, under the spreading canopy of the war against terror, this process is being hustled along. The men in suits are in an unseemly hurry. While bombs rain down, contracts are being signed, patents registered, oil pipelines laid, natural resources plundered, water privatised and democracies undermined.

"But as the disparity between the rich and poor grows, the hidden fist of the free market has its work cut out. Multinational corporations on the prowl for 'sweetheart deals' that yield enormous profits cannot push them through in developing countries without the active connivance of state machinery - the police, the courts, sometimes even the army.'

Stating what is really obvious, but would still come as a shock to most Americans if they were to take it seriously, Roy says, "the American way of life is simply not sustainable. Because it doesn't acknowledge that there is a world beyond America."

Finally -- and there is always a "finally" -- empires fall. "Fortunately, power has a shelf life," says Roy. "When the time comes, maybe this mighty empire will, like others before it, overreach itself and implode from within. It looks as though structural cracks have already appeared."

What we on the fringes of this great adventure must concern ourselves with is taking collective action to slow this mad trajectory as much as we can to contain the damage as much as possible. After Humpty Dumpty is in pieces on the ground, someone will hopefully survive to pick up and start again.

-- By David Cogswell

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