Magazine article New African

The Curse of the Political Elite's Dishonesty

Magazine article New African

The Curse of the Political Elite's Dishonesty

Article excerpt

David Cameron's government promised in 2010 to cut down migration. What happened?

The migrants are coming and Europe is afraid. The UK voted to leave the European Union, a manoeuvre that it has been promised will protect the island's borders from the migrants threatening Europe.

The average person on the street is too busy surviving to waste time on being perfectly informed and can therefore be excused for being poorly informed. Europe's political leaders and commentariat by contrast have vast privileges. They are educated at elite universities, read more than Fifty Shades of Grey and have access to the latest scholarship on any subject in the world. They must, as a result, know and understand that today's world rests on a simple principle that came out of the boardrooms and think-tanks of the West: the free movement of money, goods and people. The EU and other regional trading blocs of the world may be more formalised and institutionalised manifestations of the principle but the spirit self-evidently applies globally, both in explicit and implicit terms. The reason for this: global capitalism.

The European leadership's reluctance to talk about Europe's problems in the context of globalisation is therefore plainly disingenuous.

The reticence only mystifies Europe's problems and renders them ripe for political exploitation. No surprise then when the migrant is identified as the cause of all ills.

In developing countries globalisation arrived packaged as a modernising concept that was going to change the social and economic conditions of people for the better. In Africa and Latin America, some people may still remember the Economic Structural Adjustment Programmes (ESAPs) of the 80s and 90s, all overseen by finance men in western capitals. The ESAPs ushered in the period of "economic liberalisation". To the ordinary person this meant learning to live with economic insecurities and inequalities as pursuit of balanced national finances and market liberalisation became the great national project to which state investment in public health, education and social security were sacrificed. The idea behind all this upheaval was to make the economies and citizens of developing countries competitive on the world market. What was not anticipated was that advanced economies would start importing labour from developing countries.

It was also not anticipated that the liberalising projects embedded into the wars prosecuted in the Middle East would throw up unwelcome outcomes. Back then Francis Fukuyama had declared the end of history, the Soviet Union had vanished and sharp minds starting to write end-times scripts. In 1999 Thomas L. Friedman came up with his Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention: "No two countries that both had McDonald's had fought a war against each other since each got its McDonald's." The theory lies in decrepitude. Nevertheless, Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans travelling into Europe will still eat a Mcburger; in that respect globalisation has prevailed.

One need not travel further than a refugee camp to find evidence of the culturally homogenising effects of globalisation: there is hardly a clothes, shoe or smartphone brand that cannot be found there.

The tendency towards homogeneity, however, also throws up yet another set of surprises: people cling ever more tightly onto their native identity and traditions. …

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