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Globalization’s monster: Covid-19

TIME was when the Philippine elite’s mantra, what they saw as nearly the cure-all for everything that ailed the country, was “globalization.”

It was former president Fidel Ramos who practically made it a national policy. He ingrained the doctrine so much into the ruling class’ consciousness that the capture of even our key telecommunications industries by “global” companies like Hong Kong’s First Pacific Co. Ltd. and Singapore’s Temasek Holdings Pvt. Ltd. — even through a patent violation of our Constitution — has been nonchalantly accepted, even to this day.

In the globalist ideology, nations are remnants of the 20th century. In the 21st century, there would be a borderless world in which global companies source their materials and labor power from whatever part of the globe that is most efficient. Top corporate executives and millennials boasted that they were “global citizens” rather than parochial Pinoys. Children of the elite were sent to Ivy League schools in the United States and boarding schools in the United Kingdom to be our contributions to the world’s global citizens.

Guess what, most of the world have now shut down their borders to keep out the horrible coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.

Accounts of its swift spread in Italy, as an example, show that it was in part because of the northern territory’s globalization. Its industrial and fashion centers, such as Milan, had extensive ties with Wuhan, China, where products designed by expensive Italian fashionistas were mass-produced by cheap Chinese labor. Sunny Spain, romantic France and glorious England were the playgrounds of the global citizens; now these are becoming ghost towns.

Perhaps there might be other reasons — in previous columns I speculated that Southeast Asians may have some form of immunity or that the warm temperatures of the tropics kill Covid-19 faster — but look at the top 10 countries where the most cases of Covd-19 are. Except for China and Iran, these are countries — led by the world’s leader in globalization theory and practice, the US — that are at the hub of a the globalized world they created since World War 2.

Global citizens
Even in our country — and I condole deeply with their families — anecdotal evidence show that many of those who died of Covid-19, who might have even been super-carriers, are the well-off who traveled to Europe in recent days; our global citizens. The village of a relative in Cavite that seemed to be a secure shangri-la from the plague was penetrated by Covid-19 — brought by a Filipina married to a British man who just came from London.

Covid-19 has become globalization’s monster.

New York is the center of the globalized world. New Yorkers boasted that when one walks in Times Square, you’d hear more than a dozen languages in conversations. It has now become the epicenter of the pandemic in the US, which has 85,000 cases, half of which is in New York city.

Because of its leaders’ incompetence, but also because of its tight embrace of democratic rights that Americans refused “guidelines” to stay at home, the US — the leader of the globalized world — has been reduced to a desperate nation, its president nonchalantly announcing that he would have done a “very good job” if those killed by the virus didn’t exceed 100,000.

The nightmare that globalization has become is not lost on its champions. “The pandemic could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back of economic globalization,’” wrote Robin Niblett, director of the Chatham House think-tank.

He added, “The architecture of global economic governance established in the 20th century was at risk,” raising the prospect that political leaders might “retreat into overt geopolitical competition.”

But Robert Kaplan, one of globalization’s ideologues, sees recent events as merely the end of phase 1 of globalization: “[The] coronavirus is the historical marker between the first phase of globalization and the second… Globalization 2.0 is about separating the globe into great-power blocs with their own burgeoning militaries and separate supply chains, about the rise of autocracies, and about social and class divides that have engendered nativism and populism.

Whether globalization is strengthened in a different form through this plague or whether it will still prove as the most efficient system for the world’s economy, the plague has demonstrated certain incontestable realities.

First, when push comes to shove, when hundreds of thousands of a nation’s citizens are threatened, it’s every country for itself. The Beatles’ “imagine there’s no country” is an infantile wish of the rich.

While China has demonstrated remarkable global solidarity in sending assistance to Italy, the Philippines and the US, remember that they have been able to do this only after it had put its own epidemic under control.

The European Union (EU), the supposed template for globalization, is nowhere to be seen, with each European country deciding on its own when it banned travel to and from their nations, with only a trickling of EU help to such ravaged countries as Italy and Spain.

Many countries are competing against each other to secure face masks, personal protective equipment and ventilators. Countries are refusing desperate pleas from luxury cruise ships and even two mighty US aircraft carriers with Covid-19 victims to touch their shores.

The second reality and the most important for us to understand is this: in this era of human evolution, it is the nation-state that is the most important organization that determines whether a human lives or dies, lives a prosperous life or a miserable one.

Thousands of years ago, it was the tribe and then, starting in the Middle Ages, kingdoms supposedly became a deity’s proxy for his or her perfect and just rule on earth.

It was only in the last 200 years or so, starting with the 1789 French Revolution, that nation-states emerged as such all-powerful social organizations to which humans depended for the kind of lives they will live. Or whether they are killed painfully by a virus.

It is not nongovernment organizations, corporations, the Church, not even the family or — for the extremely foolish — the Communist Party that will determine peoples’ fates. It is the nation-state. That is the big, big lesson of the current pandemic.

Hundreds of thousands of people will die of the Covid-19 disease in the US, Italy, Spain, Iran and many European nations because their nation-states failed them. China has saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of its citizens, as Japan and South Korea — and, I dare say, the Philippines — has or will.

There is an old-fashioned term for this notion that it is the nation-state that is, in this era, the most important organization that determines the fate of men: nationalism.

A more fancy term I had coined for this two decades ago: The Strong Republic*.

*This is explained in detail in the 13th chapter of my 2018 book Debunked.

Email: tiglao.manilatimes@gmail.com
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This Post Has One Comment

  1. German P Palabyab

    Great read as always.

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