Thursday, April 07, 2005

Globalization, The New El Nino

Do you remember when there couldn't be an untoward weather event that was not blamed on El Nino? Warm water in the Pacific was the cause of everything it seemed; forest fires in California, mud slides in California, flooding in Bangladesh, hurricanes in the Atlantic basin, the lack of hurricanes in the Atlantic basin, etc... In fact El Nino was blamed for everything but nice weather. The good weather must have been some freak of nature.

The beautiful thing about El Nino, from the commentator's point of view, is that it expresses a causal relationship without needing to show any specific causality. That makes it extremely handy. Freed from the need to show causality, El Nino became the perfect ready made answer to any question concerning extreme weather. And if extreme weather took place at a time when El Nino was not around it was no problem. The weather could be explained as being caused by the lack of El Nino, and we can even give that a name too, La Nina. See how neatly it all fits together?

Comentators on world politics now have their own version of El Nino called Globalization. It is perfect. The very word sounds important, maybe even scientific. At its very core is the notion of complexity. "An interconnected world in a complicated place!" we are told. Well, who could argue with that? For that reason alone Globalization can be the "cause of" just about everything.

Take this Jim Hoagland piece, The Backlash Paradox, as an example:

"Religion has long played a major role in politics in most societies, even if unacknowledged. But that role is changing today in many places -- and especially in the Middle East -- where religion has become politics to a great extent. To be more precise, religion is filling a vacuum left by the failure of state politics to explain, moderate or accommodate the forces of change unleashed in the superconnected and superstimulated world of globalization."

Boy, that Globalization sure is tricky stuff! And potent too. It is, evidently, the cause of the entire political situation of the Middle East. Wow, what explanatory power! Any change that occurs in the region can be chalked up to the pressure of Globalization, and, at the same time, any backsliding can be explained as a reaction against Globalization. It can be used to explain a society's climb to democracy, or its descent into barbarism. It's the cause of everything.

Or course, has anyone considered the possibility that the political situation in Lebanon today has been caused by warmish water in the Pacific? I could be on to something here. After all the world is an interconnected place. Who could argue with that?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We could go even farther, and replace "Jesus" in comedian Jeff Stillson's classic line about athletes thanking God to:

"Yea, we would've won the game, but globalization made me fumble."

Then again, that argument could hold true in today's NBA.