By Chris Barts
America is the most successful empire in history. We have accomplished more with private industry than Rome ever accomplished with phalanxes. Microsoft colonizes much more effectively than Spain's Conquistadors ever could. The sun may never have set on the British Empire, but a globalized economy with near-instant communications and nightly redeye flights from New York to London make a few ports in the West Indies and Africa hardly seem impressive. All in all, local institutions like countries and borders seem to be fading away.
Yet, in a world moving towards globalization, how does one explain the stunning reality of civil wars from the Balkans to Zaire, from East Timor to Taiwan? The increasing balkanization of the world seems to disprove all theories on globalization. Neighbor-against-neighbor fighting tends to decrease the amount of goods a market can move in a region. One would imagine the gospel of global industrialization would have reached their ears by now, but how many Big Macs can a person buy if their average wage is 50 cents an hour? Truly, we have a long way to go to make the world safe for McDonald's.
And it is corporations like McDonald's that are globalization's biggest assets and liabilities. Every day, McDonald's serves up imperialism with a smile. It also serves high-calorie high-fat diets to millions of people who lack the education to know any better. Perhaps it comes down to a good news-bad news joke: The good news is that we have a relatively good crop of multinational corporations ready to enlighten the world with capitalism. The bad news is that those corporations, from Levi's to McDonald's, also sell an impossible, and sometimes harmful, dream of how life should be, from rail-thin models to fat-filled burgers. Something must be done.
And something is being done. Along with the corporations, organizations like the Peace Corps are giving impoverished people worldwide things like schools, bridges, and basic sanitation systems, not to mention vaccines and medical care. They get large donations from the same large industrial nations that export Big Macs and Kentucky Fried Chicken. With enough education, the exportation and global establishment of stable industrial bases can only be helped. And that helps everyone.
Education and social and economic stability will be improved by globalization, but they are also essential factors for its rise. This fact will either prevent globalization or it will help it along immensely. The fact that there are Big Macs in Bangkok argues strongly for the latter.
Having an education that includes computer literacy will greatly improve a person's chance of success. Education, as always, saves the day.