Tuesday, February 03, 2009

A Quick Thought on Protectionism and Globalisation

I know this is a topic of discussion globally right now, so I figured I'd weigh in.

I'm all about buying locally, supporting artists/growers/farmers in my region, but I think I do this hypocritically.

That is, I believe in some sort of brotherhood of man, that we're all connected and that national boundaries are (somewhat) insignificant in the grand picture. (Of course, nationality is very important when discussing values, the stories we live by, expectations, blah, blah, blah.) But I believe in globalisation as an idea (though the reality has had a rough start since it was started by the powerful...seems sketchy to be sure).

You see, I believe in globalisation like I believe in trading with my neighbors. For example, Rob (our neighbor down the street) is a great handiman. He helped me put some shingles up where there was a hole on the side of our house. I could have done that, but I valued his ability and skill and paid him for it. Perhaps at some point, he'll hire us to design a website because we're pretty good at that. This is called trade. And in the largest sense, this is called community.

Yes, I did just say that trade is community.

I've known a great many folks (myself included) who have overvalued "going off the grid"...this idea of getting off the Empire's system, going into the margins, etc. But isn't this a form of isolationism, elitism, and narrow tribalism? It's the perfect American hero...a person/small community shouting a loud (or quiet) Fuck You! to the "Empire" (as if it's that simple).

But I think we miss something here. We would say that trading in our neighborhood is a good idea, and buying stuff locally-made is great. (Of course food could be a wholly different discussion here.) But what about buying stuff from our neighborhood of neighborhoods called the State of Oregon? Or our neighborhoods of neighborhoods of neighborhoods called the US? Or our neighborhoods of.....you get it: The World.

Now I can only write this post because I used to think it was much more black and white, but I see more nuance now and I really think that entering into a phase of protectionism and it's shadow (isolationism) would be dangerous.

Trade is community. The "off the gridders" don't need anyone. That is not community.

Anyone else have thoughts along this vein? Again, I'm not pointing fingers. I'm just suggesting the duplicity that many of us live by...myself hugely included.


David said...

i'm with you. local does not have a defined border. as though 100km's in my vicinity is local and everyone else is foreign, or as if people on the other side of the great lakes are foreign but everyone on this side are my true neighbours.

who is local is truly determined by neighbourliness.. (mine as well as theirs) not purely by proximity.

the best job a border does is to protect what is "ours" so i don't much care for them... they only serve to help us limit the answer to the old old question of "who is my neighbour"

Micah Andrew Hasty said...

I think when we try to define neighbor we may be placing ourselves in an unwanted and unneeded box. When Jesus says we are to love the Lord our God with our heart soul mind and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves. I think he means all people. We're to love all people as ourselves. We are to love them as Christ loves the church. When we are loving all people this way then we are effectively reaching out to all of our neighbors.

joel said...

Ahh Ryan, this hits on so much of what we've spoken about over the last year and i just want to thank you for painting such a thoughtful and nuanced portrayal of this conversation. It'd be fun to add to this but i think we'd find it redundant.

EmmA...er...Pamela said...

of course it's all completely legitimate.. and people are allies based on who they trade with... and trade is the first thing cut off when political things go sour. this isn't really about trade, but about community... i was talking with a kashmiri friend who has settled down in nepal selling cashmere scarves... and we were talking about how before the political instability was a deterrent for tourists (who make up 90% of his customers) and then, just when things become "stable" in nepal, the economic crisis happens... the guy said the funniest thing..

"see, we've got to pray for them in order for them to be able to do business with us."

just an interesting thing to hear.