I’m holed up in icy Montreal waiting for a visa from the UK home office. To keep myself occupied, I thought of blogging every day about what (and why) I’m reading. So here’s the first installment. If the weather keeps up like this, there could be many more – at least until I get to go home!
I devoured two John Ralston Saul books this week: The Collapse of Globalism, and A Fair Country: Telling truths about Canada. These could be read sequentially: after outlining how globalism fails, Ralston Saul presents a solution in his address to Canada’s elites. Basically, the premise (oh so prescient) is this: the system of globalism attempted to reduce society to economic terms, and in doing so, applied market logics so broadly that they ceased to be useful. The principle of governance, so essential to democracy, was replaced with the principle of management. Ralston Saul traces these principles, and the broader ideology of globalism, through phenomena such as trade agreements, changes in intellectual property laws, and the privatizing of the public sector. He concludes by describing a potential of a return to nation-states, but notes that we should still be wary of “negative nationalism.”
The Collapse of Globalism brings together so many of the observable consequences of globalism that it would be tempting to say that it anticipates the current correction financial systems (which is also a crisis in governance and regulation) and the ensuing failure of trust in these systems and regulations. But it doesn’t, really. Instead it outlines in broad terms some of the things that I’ve observed in more focused situations: frustration with the “it’s out of our hands” market ideology of globalism can provoke an identification with a more contained identity. This could be national, local, or cultural. In its negative form, such small-scale identifications confound our relationships with the other (Ralston Saul talks a lot about the other) and intensify conflict. Positive nationalism, on the other hand, reflects “a renewed and growing desire to build our societies at all levels with our own hands – that is, to find ways to be involved”.
This is just one resonance in this book with what I’ve observed happening in grassroots (and not-so-grassroots) groups. In response to a failing system, we can be remarkably ingenious in developing something better – if we build on our strengths. This is exactly what Ralston Saul addresses in his next book, where he argues that Canada has been neglecting its third founding pillar – the First Nations. The result of this has been the development of a colonial mindset and the divestment of many of the country’s resources through increased foreign ownership. He entreats Canada’s elite (that would be you) to break out of complacency, and restore the sense of this country as a place where negotiation is valued over quick solutions, and where the founding principles of Peace, Welfare, and Good Government return.
You’d like to know how? Well, one good way would be to lobby the CRTC to stop Internet throttling. In a clear example of short-sighted management/market ideologies, Bell Canada has appealed for the right to continue to throttle P2P applications on its network, even as it begins to prioritize its own audio and video content. SaveOurNet.Ca has more information.
Canada already has the most consolidated media companies in the world. What’s more, its status as an internet leader is in sharp decline. Why? Because the telecom companies don’t want to invest in delivering the “last mile” of connectivity to homes and businesses. Their construction ends at the neighbourhood loop level. All the more reason for muncipalities/communities/neighbourhoods to invest in local networks.
Whew! I got all the way from globalism and Ralston Saul back to local broadband. I must say, it’s been fun.