A response to Friedman’s Flat earth hypothesis – Dr. Vandana Shiva

Vandana Shiva

The project of corporate Globalisation is a project for polarising and dividing people – along axis of class and economic inequality, axis of religion and culture, axis of gender, axis of geographies and regions.

Never before in human history has the gap between those who labour and those who accumulate wealth without labour been greater. Never before has hate between cultures been so global. Never before has there been a global convergence of three violent trends – the violence of primitive accumulation for wealth creation, the violence of “culture wars”, and the violence of militarized warfare.

Yet Thomas Friedman, describes this deeply divided world created by Globalisation and its multiple offspring’s of insecurity and polarization as a “flat” world. In his book “The world is Flat” Friedman tries desperately to argue that Globalisation is a leveler of inequalities in societies. But when you only look at the worldwide Web of information technology, and refuse to look at the web of life, the food web, the web of community, the web of local economies and local cultures which Globalisation is destroying, it is easy to make false and fallacious arguments that the world is flat.

When you look at the world perched on heights of arrogant, blind power, separated and disconnected from those who have lost their livelihoods, lifestyles, and lives – farmers and workers everywhere – it is easy to be blind both to the valleys of poverty and the mountains of affluence. Flat vision is a disease. But Friedman would like us to see his diseased, perverse flat view of globalization, and polarization as revolution.

Thomas Friedman

Friedman’s false flat earth history then enables him take two big leaps results of coercive, undemocratic “free trade” treaties are reduced to achievements of information technology and corporate globalisation and corporate control is presented as the collaborations and competition between individuals.

Neither e-commerce not walmartisation of the economy could take place without the dismantling of trade protections, workers protections, environmental protections. Technology of communication do not make long distance supply of goods, including food products cheaper than local supply. Low wages, subsidies, externalisation of costs make Walnut cheap, not its information technology based supply chain management.

Citizens’ movements fighting globalisation advocate democratic, consensual governance and fight W.T.O, the World Bank and global corporations precisely because they are undemocratic and dictatorial; they are authoritarian and centralized. The W.T.O agreement on Agriculture was drafted by Amstutz, a Cargill official, who led the U.S negotiations on agriculture during the Urguay Round and is now in-charge of Food and Agriculture in the Iraqi Constitution. This is a centrally planned authoritarian rule over food and farming.

The biggest wall created by W.T.O is the wall of the trade related Intellectual Property Rights Agreement. (TRIPS). This too is part of a centrally planned authoritarian rule. As Monsanto admitted, in drafting the agreement, the corporations organised as the Intellectual Property Committee were the  “patients, diagnosticians and physicians all in one.” Instead of telling the story of TRIPS and how corporate and WTO led globalisation is forcing India to dismantle its democratically designed patent laws, creating monopolies on seeds and medicines, pushing farmers to suicide and denying victims of AIDS, Cancer, TB, and Malaria access to life saving drugs, Friedman engages in another dishonest step to create a flat world.

Friedman presents a 0.1% picture and hides 99.9%. And in the 99.9% are Monsanto’s seed monopolies and the suicides of thousands of farmers. In the eclipsed 99.9% are the 25 million women who disappeared in high growth areas of India because a commodified world has rendered women a dispensable sex. In the hidden 99.9% economy are thousands of tribal children in Orissa, Maharashtra, Rajasthan who died of hunger because the public distribution system for food has been dismantled to create markets for agribusiness. The world of the 99.9% has grown poorer because of the economic globalisation.

And the world we are reclaiming and rejuvenating is not flat. It is diverse democratic and decentralised, it is sustainable and secure for all, based on cooperation and sharing of the earth’s resources and our skills and creativity. The freedom we seek is freedom for all, not freedom for a few. Free-trade is about corporate freedom and citizen disenfranchisement.

Free trade freedom is flat earth freedom. Earth democracy is full earth freedom and round earth freedom – freedom for all beings to live their lives within the abundant, renewable but limited bounds of the earth. We do not inhabit a world without limits where unbounded corporate greed can be unleashed and allowed to destroy the earth and rob people of their security, their livelihoods, their resources. Full earth freedom is born in free societies, shaped by free people recognizing the freedom of all. Diversity is an expression of full earth freedom. “Flatness” is a symptom of the absence of real freedom.

Editor’s Note: About 20% people enjoy the fruits of Globalisation. This includes the power structure, Political power and their administrative machinery and the economically privileged class supported by corporate media, educational, cultural and religious institutions.

The rest 80% are at the receiving end without a voice in the decision making. They have only one power if they can rise to the occasion—“Peoples Power”


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