Opinion » Columnists
Author`s name Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey

The globalization of inequality

Many families in Western Europe and North America throw away a third of the food they buy. Not so in Ethiopia, where 4.5 million people are in need of emergency food aid. The situation is so dire that many of the starving children who arrive at emergency aid centres are turned away because they are not starving enough. Where, now, is Globalization and all the wonderful benefits it is supposed to bring?

After seeing the shocking images of starving children with pencil-like legs, sad and sorry eyes, covered in flies, eyes which should be bright and shining and full of hope for the future, the word Globalization sounds suddenly hollow and empty. It represents the globalization of what? Certainly not the right to eat, the right to clean water, the right to education, the right to healthcare, the right to inviolability of the person.

Certainly not a square meal at the end of the day and the basic right to grow up in peace and have access to knowledge which enables the individual to pursue a career of his or her choice. After the great social and scientific advances of the last two centuries, the fact that we have a crisis of this magnitude in Ethiopia in 2008 speaks volumes about the world we live in.

It is a world where hundreds of billions of dollars, if not trillions, have been wasted on destroying Iraq, its infra-structures, society and hope for the future, where the culprits – mass murderers, torturers and war criminals - go unpunished, are received with handshakes and smiling faces in international Summits as if nothing had happened. It is a world in which up to a third of the food bought in many households in certain areas of the planet is thrown away, while 4.5 million people not that far away in this present day and age are starving to death.

It is a world in which well-fed western teenagers with access to everything roam the streets of their communities with knives, insulting and beating up old ladies, drinking until they vomit, while in Ethiopia, thousands of their peers are not going to wake up in the morning, let alone have a future.

It is a world in which desperate parents are carrying their dying children to emergency food

distribution and health centres not because there isn’t any food, but because the prices have risen so high they cannot afford it. Welcome to the globalization of the market-based economy, complete with all its wonderful trimmings – the subsidies and the tariffs to make it more equally market-oriented for some than for others; its growing vulnerability to, and the increased influence of, speculation by brokers and commodities traders and an unfettered inhuman and inhumane distribution policies which care nothing for the abilities and needs of the individual.

If this is the market-oriented capitalist monetarist model, how unattractive it is. What an egocentric, evil model it is, feeding the greedy and starving the poor. And if this is Globalization, how telling that the world today manages to globalise the sex trade, pornographic filth, prostitution, disease, drugs traffiking, crime and anti-social behaviour but not, apparently, basic precepts such as the right to eat.

As we look at the faces of these children, and go to the back of our fridges to clear out the fruit we allowed to rot and the butter we left to go rancid, we should collectively think very hard about who we are and where we are going, because what we see before us is not very attractive to behold.

May the future generations judge us for the desultory, hard-headed refuse we have collectively become.