Globalisation feeding on the monster called greed

By HH Mohrmen

When we were kids, during summer when it rained cats and dogs, we spent most of our time indoors around the fire place and one of the common games that we used to play was riddle. Unlike kids today who have video games, social media and what have you to indulge with we had nothing much. One of the few difficult riddles that I can still remember was, ‘What is that which the more it eats, the thinner it becomes and only when it is not eating it becomes bigger.’  (kaei kata kaba katba nang bam, ka nangraikhoh, bad haba kam bam pat, ka sngaid) My answer then was “U Thlen” which of course was the wrong answer; the right answer is ‘ka khnap or ‘nap khap-rnga’ ( pincers for pulling out charcoal).

Globalisation no doubt helps spark innovation and helps boost development and make life easier for everybody. No doubt large sections of the population are better off and the percentage of people living under the poverty line is decreasing. That is because parents now can afford to and prefer sending their kids to schools, than making them work or look after the animals in the villages.

Globalisation and its major arm like different media platforms also help accelerate cultural changes in society. Influences of popular cultures put our own indigenous cultures at stake and the world is gradually being dominated by one culture or rather the whole world is adopting one culture. It has now become more fashionable to ape the others’ way of doing things in spite of the fact that our way of life is much better than that which we imitate. Although we would not like to admit it but culturally we are now slowly moving on to becoming a single global culture or a monoculture.

  We will be surprised that the farmers, who are supposed to be the last vanguards of culture and tradition, have themselves been affected by globalisation. We are working with NESFAS (North East Slow food and Agrobiodiversity Society) in a project which has to do with IFS (indigenous Food Systems) and during our visit to few villages in West Jañtia hills District particularly those which are engaged in vegetable farming in a big way, we were shocked to know that now, they all have to depend on genetically modified seeds for their cultivation. When asked what happened to their traditional seeds, the answer was, “We don’t have them anymore”.  They have lost all their traditional seeds.

Even the food we have every day on our plates is not very different from the food that people in the other parts of our country or for that matter the other parts of the world consume. Food items in our plates are all the same no matter where we live. It includes rice, carrots, cabbages, potatoes, tomatoes, lentil, egg, meats and fish. The question is what happened to our IFS, how many people still eat Tynkhieh or Khliang syiar, jangaw, jathang and hundreds of other indigenous food? IFS is gradually making a disappearing act from our dining tables now. We have replaced our diverse IFS with the common food and vegetables like lentils, cabbages, potatoes, tomatoes which in fact can be found anywhere in the world. Along with this we are also losing our indigenous dishes which go on to make our own unique ethnic cuisines.

The Global economy is powered by mass production of commodities and this in turn requires mass market and the economy is like an ever inflated balloon. To sell the products that are produced in large quantities, the market tempts consumers into buying goods even if one does not need them in the first place. Now almost all shops have a separate section for discounted goods or BOGOF. I will explain its meaning with the following story. As always I either seek my mother or my wife’s advice if I have to buy any clothes for myself; women are good at bargaining and one gets a good price for the products.  One day my wife insisted that I buy from the section where the shop is giving a special offer, and told me, “It’s is a good deal. You are getting two for the price of one.” I told her I know that but that I only needed one shirt. Mass production forces companies to tempt people to go for BOGOF or buy one, get one free, even if one only needs one shirt.

Branded clothes or branded wear is another charm of globalisation. Young people crave to have the new branded products available in the market and the price is always exorbitant. But these same products will be sold at a discounted rates after some time or during off season. So you want to know the trick how can I afford to buy branded wear for my children? I wait for the right time and the right time to buy them is after Durga Puja, Christmas, and New Year. These are major festivals which influence markets in our state. The question is what is the real cost of production of the stuff we buy, if in few weeks time its price can be discounted by 30% or even 50%?

We have not only been duped to having to pay extra money for the product which costs less than the amount it was sold to us, but we are also made to believe that we need be actively involved in the economic process. I learned this lesson from my youngest daughter. My daughter who was then studying in one of the colleges in Shillong came home one day with a T-shirt which has fancy caption which said, ‘I am not shopaholic, I am just helping the economy.’  I asked my myself if this is for real. Yes, that is what they want us to believe that by engaging in the process of buying commodities we are also helping the economy.

Of course, this not only stimulates production but it also inspires the market to bring new innovative products. When new products are launched in the market, they are introduced in such a way that it is ‘a must have item’ and if we don’t have it, then we are missing something very important. It is advertised in such a way that there will be a hollow place in our lives if we don’t own the products. Globalisation has turned us into greedy monsters hungry for every new product that is launched in the market.

When we buy more we also generate more garbage and these two issues are intricately link, therefore the blame for the waste problem that we have the world over should be squarely placed in the kind of economy that we have now. Waste has now become a global issue and this is the by-product of the kind of economy that we have now.

But the most dangerous consequence of globalisation is the concentration of wealth in few hands which also makes these few people very powerful. This trend is common and it is happening everywhere in the world. Corporations are new omnipotents in the world today. They not only control what we consume, but from the very recent example, we see that they even control the politics of the country by controlling the elections. So corporations have their hands in everything that is associated with human life in order to control humans.

Whatever we do now, we are trapped in this vicious cycle that one is modern or updated only when one is in pocession of the products that the market has is pushing. Even religious organisations which are supposed to be beyond greed are trapped in this cycle. We need a church, a temple, gurudwara or a mosque which is modern and up-to-date which will cost from few crores to hundred crores. The priests also need to travel in style, so the religious organisation needs to provide them with decent vehicles and there is no end to one’s needs.

The story of a pilgrim, who wished to spend time meditating alone and hence went to stay far for from the crowd in the Himalayas but he was disturbed by a rat reverberating again and again. To drive away the mouse he bought and cat and a cat needed milk, and then he needed a milkman with a cow to feed the cat. Then the milkman brought his wife and then children and ultimately, it became a village.

We are now all trapped in this false illusion which only helps feed the greed which is a monster that we will never be able to satisfy. The entire problem that we have in the world today is because of greed, we can solve the problem if we can only tame this one beast called greed.

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