Published on Webdiary - Founded and Inspired by Margo Kingston (/cms)

They devour their reason and scarce think: the globalists come to the island nation

By Craig Rowley
Created 24/08/2005 - 02:28

G'day. I'm going to see John Ralston Saul at the Australian National University tonight, and hope to see one or two Webdiarists there. I'm out of action tomorrow in Sydney, speaking at a lunchtime forum at the NSW University of Technology on the politics of the family then meeting several Webdiarists who've taken on the challenging task of finding a way to make Webdiary financially viable. Hamish Alcorn and Kerri Browne will keep Club Chaos ticking over while I'm away.

Today Webdiary's accountibility columnist Craig Rowley [1] on the Ralston Saul critique of globalisation.

They devour their reason and scarce think
by Craig Rowley

In all earlier civilizations, it should be remembered, commerce was treated as a narrow activity and by no means the senior sector in society. John Ralston Saul

John Ralston Saul [2] is back in our part of the world [3], and you know wherever he goes he's bound to get everybody thinking. He is here to open up discussion with people of all walks on life after globalism [4]. On Friday, the Canadian author touched down in Melbourne and immediately started conversations [5]. That night he delivered the keynote address at the opening of The Age Melbourne Writers Festival in the Melbourne Town Hall. Written on our number-plates down south we have a slogan "On the Move", and wits quickly add "up north" to complete the sentence. That's exactly what John Ralston Saul is doing this week. On Monday he heads to Sydney and as a guest of the Evatt Foundation will present a public lecture [6] in the evening.   On Tuesday, as part of ANU's Public Lecture series [7] you can hear John Ralston Saul for free with no booking required and then on Wednesday, the Ideas Festival [8] up in the Smart State is bringing John Ralston Saul to Brisbane to present a special August ideas public lecture.

A week later there will be more discussion of things global, but this time unless you have been invited as one of the "senior figures from the world's leading companies" you won't be welcome inside the total security lock-down [9]. The Sydney Opera House will be taken over by these people, those who see themselves as 'chief' among us, whilst they sit down to discuss globalisation [10] amongst themselves privately and well away from the ordinary people this globalisation is supposed to serve.

This contrast - between the free sharing of ideas that will take place during John Ralston Saul's visit to our country and the exchanges that take place inside a corporate conference closed to anyone but those whom Saul would call the 'courtiers' - says it all, and then some.

It is the contrast between a change for the better and a change for the worse. One the one hand is the promise of creating a 'global village' and a universal citizens culture - within which we share increasing possibilities of personal exchange, mutual understanding and friendship between "world citizens". One the other is the curse of creeping crony capitalism [11] - within which the kind of corporate cabalism [12] that happens at CEO conferences aims chiefly to spread a universal consumer culture. It's the difference between what we can have if we get up, get together and make it and what we're sold.

To be critical of globalism does not require an anti-globalisation stance, despite what some would have us believe (including the Howard Government). They'll go on pointing out that it's 'just trade' (which is really just the frame they prefer because it makes any opponent appear 'protectionist'), they'll carp on about inevitability (debunked yet again in John Ralston Saul's The Collapse of Globalism), and they'll smirk and say that it's nothing new (and we may ask: So what? Does that make critique of it taboo?). Christopher Sheil of the University of New South Wales pulled apart that kind of government rhetoric on globalisation and anti-globalisation in his keynote address [13] to the CPA Business Jigsaw convened in Adelaide in March this year, and concluded:

"Globalisation – not only does the government not know what is happening: it does not want to know."

There is something it should know and should be talking about – there is another way [14] to globalise. It's not hard to see, if only we open our eyes. So let's start thinking and talking about that. Another world is possible – L'alternative - l'altermondialisme.

Source URL: