sábado, 16 de mayo de 2015

Malinowski: reflections

       "Every human culture gives its members a definite vision of the world, a definite zest of life," writes Bronislaw Malinowski, an Anglo-Polish anthropologist in "Argonauts of the Western Pacific," a monumental study of native people in New Guinea. He adds; "Some people are unable to grasp the inner meaning and the psychological reality of all that is outwardly strange, at first sight incomprehensible, in a different culture." That is, instead of attempting to understand the intrinsic operating principles in a society, an ethnic group, a religion or a socio-economic structure which differs from what is considered "civilized" "normal" or "advanced," the outsider frequently considers them inferior, exotic, strange, backward or even "subversive."
        His views merit considerations concerning how the process of industrialization and technological innovation set off in Europe have imposed their economic, social, cultural and religious notions on the so-called backward or underdeveloped societies. 
        * Consider for a moment the attitude the colonial powers had towards the indigenous inhabitants of America and Africa. Slaves were taken as merchandise and considered inferior beings; their habits, traditions and spiritual practices were the object of jest. The raw materials and minerals of both Africa and America were used to feed factories in Europe and the U.S. Missionaries spread out over Africa to convert them to the Cristian religion and inculcate them in "Western values."
          * Consider the predominant notion in the West that the "Market" is the measure for the development of a society. However, Wall Street and the "industrialized" world promote a concept of the market that implies the destruction of other local forms of economic transaction. Giant corporations talk about "penetration" third world markets. The result is the centralization of economic decision making in the hands of the world's economic elite.
        * Consider the ethical, moral, philosophical and political implications of the so-call "consumer society." Multimillion dollar advertising puts gadgets at the forefront of existence and ties economic growth or prosperity to the unending development of products--many of which are completely unnecessary. Planned obsolescence is integrated into the production cycle to ensure that buyers purchase the latest innovations and thus keep the economy spinning. Car manufacturers change the size or position of head lights every year; products such as Coca-Cola--containing enormous quantities of sugar and potentially noxious ingredients--invade and impoverish the diet in developed as well as underdeveloped societies.
       *Consider the prevailing notion of private property as the essential ingredient of a "developed and democratic" society. The indigenous peoples of America, north and south, were subject to one of the biggest genocides in history so that invading colonizers could take possession of lands which most of the indigenous groups considered as collective property. Even today indigenous people in diverse parts of the Americas are dispossessed of their land with the argument that they have no "contracts" specifying them as owners. Multinational mining interests pressure local governments to concede mining rights to areas claimed by indigenous people, something which directly threaten the ecological balance and contaminate sources of water.
       *Consider to what extent the lives of persons in developed capitalist countries are intermixed with the notion that the human being is essentially motivated by competition and the profit motive. It is as if "success" were to come as the result of the persons who are most aggressive competitors, those who gauge a person on how much he or she has accumulated rather than on his intrinsic value as a human being.
       *Consider what motivates countries and their military and corporate structures to engage in war. Whatever the causes of wars in the post industrial era, the result has been imposition on the looser of the winner's value system. History is inevitably written by the winners. Furthermore, wars have constituted a key factor in economic and technological development, something which former U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower described as the: the "military-industrial complex." Most of the wars of the 20th and 21st centuries have also served to divide up the world into spheres the spheres of influence of the dominant blocks, which in turn impose their view of the world on the world's "hold out" enclaves. 
        * Finally,  Consider the idea that in its intent to "penetrate" foreign markets, the corporate world seeks basically to transform outlying areas of the world into its mirror. Globalization is an euphemism for the construction of an economic and political allowing a small economic and financial elite to carry out a restructuring of the world's markets in accordance to their conveniences.The other face of globalization--massive movements of immigration of persons fleeing from poverty or political repression--is the unexpected result of globalization. 
        There are of course those who argue that this expansion of the Western industrial system around the world has brought an awesome advance in technology, health and standards of living. True.Yet the vast majority of those advances continue to reside in the industrialized countries, while there is a rapid process of disintegration of indigenous life styles in outlying regions. As Western values penetrate "backward" areas, the options become increasingly limited: either incorporation of those values or resistance and reevaluation of local life styles--something strongly resisted by the corporate world.

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