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Modernization and Globalization

"Demonization of the `rebel' leaders of the South was a recurring characteristic of the West's justification for its barbaric acts against the `rest'.. Language makes acceptable what is inhuman and unjust.. Language and ideology serve the same goal - the veiling of reality and the acceptance of what is inhuman and unjust.. Racist and sexist ideologies define the pecking order.."
Modernization and Globalization

By Yash Tandon

[This article is translated from the German on the World Wide Web,  http://www.rosaluxemburgstiftung.de/Einzel/Barbarei/Fassaden.htm. Yash Tandon who lives in Zimbabwe is director of the International South Group Network and director of the Southern and Eastern African Trade Information and Negotiations Initiative.]

The opposition between "North" and "South" diverges more and more. Statements underlining a general division of the world - as for example the thesis of the "North" in the "South" and the "South" in the "North" - do not weaken but strengthen this assumption. "North" and "South" are more than geographic constructions. They also refer to specific cultural and consumerist characteristics. The dominant North has historically recruited small investors of its own class in the South, those who rule there and share in over-consumption. At the same time the North produces an impoverished and marginalized "South" in the North itself that does not rule but suffers under under-consumption.

The modernization theories of the 1950s and 1960s started from the assumption that the societies of the South should open themselves to the North, open their economy for western technology and science and imitate the democratic institutions of the North. In retrospect, these theories were nothing but an ideological expression of the continuing western desire to dominate and conquer the "rest" of the world. This striving exists today. However it is now called "globalization" and no longer "modernization". Like the earlier concept of modernization, globalization is also represented by its ideologues as a process driven by unstoppable technological and economic forces. This "natural" process is inherent in history itself.

Socialization of Language

Language can veil reality. Often language is consciously projected to stimulate a certain perspective and world-view. Thus people did not have an individual identity in colonial time when they came from the colonized world. They were Arabs, Asians or Africans. Their personalities were generalized and their individuality dissolved. This made it simpler to rule the colonized. The racist polarization between "us" and "them" furthered global control during colonialism.

Nothing describes better the skillful use of language in producing world-views than the western definitions of "barbarism" in our age. No one who is normal would justify the bombardment of the US embassies in Nairobi or Daressalam in August 1998. Whether this was the work of the "terrorist" Osama bin Laden is open. The government of the US regards him as a culprit. On this basis the US bombed a pharmaceutical factory in the Sudan. The factory was said to be manufacturing biochemical weapons. If one were objective, the US bombardment would have to be described as an act of barbarism as happened to their embassies. However only the latter is barbaric in the language world of the West.

UNICEF, the children's relief organization of the UN, reported in 1999 that nearly 600,000 children under 5 died on account of western sanctions against Iraq. Child mortality rose after the sanctions from 56 per thousand births to 131. This can only be barbarism. Still children only suffer "collateral damage" from the sanctions in the language of the dominant circles of the West. In an incredible way, language caricatures a grotesque reality, "cleansing" it from all evil and releasing the criminal from all responsibility. The scandalous defense of this bloodbath by the West consists in shifting all responsibility to Saddam Hussein.

The scapegoat-culture is deeply rooted in the culture and history of the West. One pushes responsibility for the "collateral damage" striking the Yugoslavian people on Milosevic, holds Fidel Castro responsible for the sanctions of the US against Cuba, isolates him and tries to remove his from office. Jomo Kenyatta is blamed for the British atrocities committed on the Mau Mau. Accuse Nassar and bomb the Suez Canal. Hold Lumumba responsible for the chaos in the Congo and murder him. Charge Gaddaffi and bombard his house. Denounce Mugabe; he is Marxist. Vilify Mahathir Mohamed because he doesn't take it lying down. Demonization of the "rebel" leaders of the South was a recurring mark of the "justification" of the West for its barbaric acts against the "rest".

Language makes "acceptable" what is inhuman and unjust. "Collateral damage" against civilians gives a clean veneer to bombardments. The collective term "Africans" dehumanizes the individual and makes it easier to control him. Demonization of the individual leader estranges him from his people, his history and his desires, represents him as irrational or simply mad (the brave Somalian fighters against British colonialization were simply described as the "mad Mullahs") and set outside "civilized" discourse.

Socialization of Ideology

While language describes particular events, ideology is a complex mixture of values, prejudices and assumptions. Language and ideology serve the same goal - the veiling of reality and the "acceptance" of what is inhuman and unjust. The anthropocentric ideology sets people in the center of the universe and "justifies" the subordination of all "base" life forms under its control and abuse. The ideology of the "burden of the white man" sets the white man and the white woman in the center of the universe and forces down all other human races to levels that can be controlled and misused. The ideology of "Anglo-Saxon superiority" puts the English and the Anglo-Saxon Americans at the center of the universe. Even Anglo-Saxon women are moved down in class compared with the crown of creation. Racist and sexist ideologies define the pecking order in human society.

While language is descriptive, ideology is prescriptive. Ideology points to the direction in which the universe has to move on command of the "superior" being. Communist ideology was teleological. It promised to lead to a classless society on the order of the avant-garde of the proletariat. Capitalist ideology is economistic; it promises unending "growth" at the command of the owners of capital. Both are reductionist and presumptuous; both ignore the role of the human spirit for promoting humanity.

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