It is an old story of humanity: Pocahontas, Avatar, and countless other western movies depict the cultural conflicts between the indigenous cultures and the society who thinks they are entitled to the land that is not being “used.” In the “white-man’s” definition of civilization, the land is used as a resource to be used in commerce to the full extent, but for native people, the land is to live on and respectfully subsist from. How can our modern society built of national governments grown from imperialism interact with indigenous cultures who have been harmoniously living with nature? For native cultures the land cannot belong to anyone, but in government, land is strictly bought, sold, and controlled by those who have the “right” to do so based on structuralist ideas of bourgeois entitlement. While indigenous people do not fall under the category of proletariat because they do not work for the bourgeoisie, they fall outside the structuralist system of workers being exploited by capital owners. However, they are subject to even more exploitation because of their lack of participation in the system. They cannot rise up in “revolution” against the bourgeoisie because they have no place within the system to levy any power it would have given them. In class we watched a recent documentary called Crude released in 2009. It tells the story of a lawsuit initiated by the indigenous people affected by the pollution and contamination caused by Chevron in Ecuador. In our textbook, Introduction to International Political Economy, 6th Ed. by Balaam and Dillman, page 494 talks about the injustices of the Nigerian gas industries and even how the government tried and hanged the indigenous peoples’ activist Ken Saro-Wiwa in 1997.”Critics charge that the government has displaced locals to construct housing projects for the well-off…Many structuralists blame the state for delayed or nonexistent efforts to improve Nigeria’s water supply, roads, and telecommunications systems.” (Balaam and Dillman, page 494). Oil is a big way the rich can get richer and the poor get poorer heightening the division of class in society. Every person deserves access to the same rights and resources as everyone else despite their status in a capitalist society. Something has to be done with the way we treat people who do not have the same economically driven survival strategy.
MNCs and LDCs
Multinational corporations in the United States and other developed countries have a history of entering and taking advantage of less developed countries over and over again, in turn polluting their environment as well as their culture. In 2010, Jakarta Post published an article titled “How MNCs Threaten Our Environment” which summarizes the impact of globalization and MNCs on less developed countries. Author Kumba Digdowiseiso states that MNCs seek to operate in less developed countries because “they offer lax environmental standards” and gives the example of Asia Pulp and Paper Co. Ltd., or APP, a company that has entered Riau, a province of Indonesia, and taken advantage of their land and lenient environmental laws. Digdowiseiso goes on to write that “natural forests in the province have been cleared for pulp and mills production” thus “elephant and tiger habitats [are] being destroyed, and the land is left barren” and ruined. In polluting and destroying their land, they are affecting the health of the people who live near the sites of logging and also where they store their waste. This is clear evidence of exploitation of the bourgeois class as it destroys the only technologies and resources available to people without all the accumulated wealth. The indigenous peoples rely on the health of the natural environment much more directly than the rich people of corporations and more developed societies, so when a corporation neglects environmental health, the people living off the land are directly hurt.
Eyes on the Forest (EoF) is a website created by an environmental organization in order to investigate happenings in Riau related to APP logging and deforestation. They have profiled the destruction and looked into climate change in the area. According to EoF, residents have experiences floods, fires, as well as displaced and dangerous animals entering their villages. Over time it has been made clear that MNCs have taken advantage of less developed countries for their own benefit, but how can we end and prevent this exploitation?
“Kill or be Killed”
Time and time again history of mankind has proven the idea of ‘kill or be killed’. The Conquistadors conquered the Aztecs, Native Americans were demolished by White men, through disease and violence. But in more recent centuries, it has been technology that has determined the winners and the losers. Starting with the industrial revolution, the nations with the more technology and innovation have set the precedence for the world. It continues in this day and age, too. As seen in the film Crude, American companies have now the power to come in and drill oil in lesser developed countries with little consequences. Why? Because we have the power and the wealth, and Ecuador is in need of those. If they had the means and ability to, Ecuador would probably be drilling their own oil and becoming much more economically successful, and without the harmful effects, like cancer and death, on their indigenous people to boot. Our capitalist perspective on the world continues the cycle which only benefits us, and Ecuadorian oil effects are a small sliver of the consequences. Without making these large companies (especially energy and natural resource companies), hugely responsible for their actions, we only perpetuate the same endless harm to everyone else that isn’t a part of these rich companies. Who benefits? Only a few, and leaves the rest of us to suffer.
Power and Exploitation
Exploitation of indigenous groups is something that has been going on for a long, long time. The cycle of exploitation by the wealthy and powerful has continued throughout history. When the European settlers started to colonize Africa, they did it without any regard for the native tribes already there. They set boundaries that broke up tribes that had been together for centuries and had no interest in cooperating with the indigenous people to make sure that they could continue their way of life. The same thing happened when America was settled. The Native Americans were forced off their lands that they had been living on for decades. Simply because these settlers felt like they were more superior than the natives seemed to give them the right to take away their land and force them to move. Because these people did not have the technology nor the same way of life, they were looked upon as uncivilized savages and were not given the same rights as a human deserves. And these people had no way of fighting back. The governments encouraged this taking over the land, and the indigenous people had no chance. But they deserve to be treated as humans as well. Not having the same technology or the same amount of wealth as the upper classes does not mean that they should be subjected to sub-human treatment. Everyone should be given the same rights, no matter how little power they wield in society. One could say that “every man for himself” is a very capitalist idea because everyone has to work hard to keep their status in a society run by wealth and competition. But we have to recognize that capital is good for the short term and only for a select few wealth people. In the long term, environment, culture, and future generations are much more valuable to a sustainable human population. Situations like the one we saw in Crude should never happen, but until we start treating everyone the same in the eyes of the law, no matter how wealthy or influential they are, things will never change.
The Cost of Economic Security
Economic growth and stability are huge parts of national security. In order for a nation to give its constituents their due security, the nation has to be able to afford weapons, technology, infrastructure, etc. One way a nation can get the money is through encouraging foreign direct investments. When it comes to inviting in MNCs to drill and exploit natural resources at the expense of the indigenous cultures and environment, national security is not reconciling with individual freedoms. To benefit the whole nation, the indigenous people are forced to give up their cultures, their livelihood and their dignity. But they never signed up for that! Nor do they have the power to put an end to it. The structured society where the exploited stay exploited and the rich just get richer is a disgusting one. The human freedoms of individual people, no matter who they are, need to be recognized and respected when national security is being addressed. National security has to protect the people living in its territory, not exploit them and cause them such cultural damage. In order for national security to be fully functioning, economic security must not come at the expense those its primary function it is to serve.