Grace Chang opened Cultural Harmony Week with a thought-provoking lecture on globalization, exploited peoples, and misrepresentations of issues by those who are not involved. And while she raised good points and asked tough questions, I respectfully disagree with some of her views on the grounds of optimism.
She began her lecture by asserting that she is "not a champion of globalization," and that she believes it is a negative concept that only acts in an unjust way. To a certain extent, I agree with her. Globalization, in many ways, has created modern day imperialism and the informal colonization of third world nations by corporations spawned in first-world societies.
The idea that this is inevitable, that the system cannot be changed for the better while remaining within the context of the concept, is not entirely new. Let me draw your attention to Karl Marx.
Marx was not wrong when he pointed out the immorality of capitalism, but he missed one huge point. As brilliant as he was, Marx could not grasp the potential of democracy to temper capitalism. In the United States, as industrialization polarized wealth into the hands of a privileged few, the immorality of capitalism, as Marx articulated, manifested.
No revolution needed to take place, however. The bourgeoisie did not need to be overthrown, because the United States' democratic form of government responded to this polarization and mistreatment of laborers with an era of "progressive" politics aimed at reforming labor and tax laws to protect what Marx would have viewed as the proletariat.
Chang is in the same position as Marx. She sees the inhumane injustice that globalization has brought to less wealthy communities around the world, and she believes that it is a terrible thing. Indeed it is. But where she parallels Marx is in the fact that she looks past the potential for first-world leaders to create international trade agreements that protect the interests of all participating countries, no matter their wealth or resources.
We are still in the early stages of globalization, much like the world was seeing the first stages of capitalism and industrialization when Marx wrote his thoughts, and it appears that globalization is simply a terrible exploitation of poor nations and a poor disguise for modern day imperialism and colonization.
But not every trade agreement has to be like NAFTA. Just as governments across the world stepped in to temper the immorality of capitalism in the early 20th century (many would argue that it is still going on), the international community must work to create laws and regulations.
These regulations must transcend borders and insure that Coca-Cola doesn't put up a plant in a poor third-world nation, use the clean water for its factory, pollute the water and air and then repay these actions with poorly-paying jobs and a product that does not meet the basic needs of the people being exploited.
Leaders of nations across the globe need to sit down and discuss ways to keep corporations from ravaging a sovereign nation's natural resources, regulate working conditions, end child labor, enforce a global minimum wage and prioritize human rights over profit.
I am optimistic about our ability to do this. I look at historical evidence of self-regulating systems of human interaction and see the potential for well-meaning people to correct injustice. It often takes a long time and causes much unfortunate suffering along the way, but it can be accomplished.
While at the moment globalization can be seen as an evil, the potential of a global economy and global human society is too exciting to neglect.
Jesse Goldberg is a freshman English major who thinks rose-tinted glasses are pretty hip.