The Parable of the G-20, Blind to the Elephant

Linked with Devinder Sharma – India.

Published on STWR, by Devinder Sharma, 20 November 2008.

The leaders of the G-20 Group of countries who met in Washington DC for an emergency meeting to revamp the global financial landscape can be compared to the well-known story of ‘blind men and an elephant’. Like the six blind men who concluded that the elephant is like a wall, snake, spear, tree, fan or rope, world leaders grappled in bright light for six hours and yet failed to frame an action plan that could truly stimulate the global economy.

The elephant in this case is the parasitical global financial system. It has thrived all these years on the hungry stomach of starving millions, extracting every last available ounce of blood. Untamed and unregulated, it demolished the borders of the nation-state to emerge unfettered and free – unrestrained by governments, and liberated from society’s control. In the process, speculative and mobile financial capital has played havoc with the global economy. The elephant has been on a rampage …

… Before we discuss alternatives, allow me to draw your attention to another sinister design. The financial crisis is now leading us to a more terrible food crisis in the near future. The recent surge in food prices, accompanied by food riots in 37 countries in the beginning of this year, was a mere tip of the iceberg. After destabilising the global economic structure, the financial forces are moving into agricultural markets. Speculation in commodities trading is now widely acknowledged to be the major cause behind the food price crisis. But what happens when the hedge funds and the bailout packages are used by insurance companies, banks and investment firms to purchase farm lands across the globe?

Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank are eyeing a takeover of China’s livestock industry. Morgan Stanley has purchased 40,000 hectares in Ukraine. Landkom, the British investment group has also bought 100,000 hectares of land in Ukraine.

The two Swedish investing firms, Black Earth Farming and Alpcot-Agro, have purchased 331,000 hectares and 128,000 hectares of farm land in Russia, respectively. South Korean giant Daewoo has taken on a 99-year lease 1.3 million hecatres of land in Madagascar, which is nearly half of the country’s total arable land, to meet food security needs back home. Along with these private companies, the governments too are in a mad race to purchase land in Asia and Africa to grow food to be shipped back home (see my article: Land Grab for Food Security: Corporatising Agriculture).

What happens when the food bubble bursts? Who will bail out the hungry?

Returning back to the ‘TINA factor’ (the assumption that ‘There Is No Alternative’ to economic globalisation), there is in fact a very plausible alternative. The solution lies in the principle of self-reliance that Mahatma Gandhi advocated so many years ago. It is time to revisit Gandhi and dig out his vision for a sustainable world; where production by the masses is not replaced by production for the masses; where food security does not mean importing cheaper food; where every hand is provided a decent job; and where growth does not translate into profits, but happiness.

A vision in which the earth has enough for everyone’s need, but not for everyone’s greed. Such a world is surely possible. All it requires is for us to stand up, throw away the blind covers, and be counted. (full text).

Comments are closed.