The Problem of Global Inequalities

So it’s the week of the applied anthropology conference (SfAA), and I’ve been hitting up some sessions. Of course there have been some great talks. I have heard Paul Farmer, MD and anthropologist, a few times. While his talks have been a bit on the disappointing side, it was still pretty cool to see and listen to a guy who has made such a big impact in the realm of global public health. I’ve heard some interesting talks about race and ethnicity and how the misunderstanding of these terms is really fucking up health research and health care here in the US. I’ve heard about research being done in Guatemala with Mayan communities, and in Mexico with Zapatista communities. I’ve listened to a discussion about the various types of violence that permeate our everyday lives, and how the poor and marginalized experience violence to a larger degree, and more often. I was introduced to the idea that governance itself is violent and to increasing numbers of people - just look at our prison populations, drug-abuse, uninsured populations, and poverty levels in the U.S. and abroad. I’ve seen some really interesting people, and some really egotistical people - all doing interesting work.
Overall, I think the theme that I’m taking out of the meetings is that inequalities are very real around the globe - both in developing countries and in western “rich” countries, and we are reaching a point of urgency in the need to address the situation. These inequalities span the spectrum of what make up people’s lives, but perhaps most importantly are the ways in which they affect health. The health of people in resource poor settings are decidedly and drastically worse than their counterparts living in the wealthier northern nations of the world. What’s worse are the policies of these northern countries (and I’m talking primarily about the U.S. and Europe here) that only serve to exacerbate the problems. The neo-liberal, capitalistic, profit at all cost approach is serving to widen the gap between the wealthy and non, while increasing the numbers of needy, and decreasing their way of life in innumerable ways. We are experiencing what has been termed the “Development Wars,” which can be seen as the increasing competition for a shrinking number of resources in increasingly distant and disparate places around the globe. Competition, by its very nature, results in winners and losers. We tend to forget about the losers, however, their numbers are becoming so large, that it’s nearly impossible to ignore them. In many ways - economically and militarily for example - the global competition that is taking place between the U.S., other “first world nations,” and the developing world is completely out of whack. It can be seen as a professional NBA team for instance, playing against a bunch of junior high intramural kids. It’s no secret who the losers in this game are, and it’s not even worth playing really - except the winner’s rewards are things like oil, lumber, food, water, power, labor, and many other natural and manufactured resources, while the losers face dire consequences in all aspects of their lives, and really just struggle to stay alive.

May the losers eventually know victory.

WalMart the Good???

Being one of the least likely to throw support in the direction of WalMart, I offer that this should fall short of that. The link below from the Wall Street Journal describes the success that the big-box retailer is finding in developing nations - specifically Mexico. What is the driving force behind this success? The "chain-master" is able to bring prices down to a level where even the poor can afford to shop there. This is huge in developing countries, where there is often an upper class, a lower class, and very little in between. Add to this their employment policies. Apparently anyone can get a job in the store down in Mexico, and in-company mobility is accessible to all. A management job in 'WalMex' puts one directly into the middle class. This is all quite confusing actually. How do we approach a corporation that uses exploitation as a means of profit generation, but then turns around and makes the products accessible to the lower-income populations. To be fair, they continue to put the 'mom and pops' out of business, and people are beginning to shop the chain instead of the traditional outdoor markets. Is this just an inevitable development in this age of globalization?
Read the article here: