Sunday, April 29, 2001
: . Walden Bello, the executive director (yikes, hierarchy!) of Focus on the Global South, on Naomi Klein’s No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies (the book, the site), one of the sacred texts of the anti-globalization movement. He concludes:
Naomi Klein paints an unparalleled portrait of the culture of capitalism in the age of globalization. She also provides us with the best analysis yet of the rise of the anti-globalization movement. She has, moreover, written a very insightful work on the dynamics of light manufacturing, the service sector, entertainment, and retail, where marketing has eclipsed manufacturing, where selling the product has given way to establishing the hegemony of the brand in the consumer's total lifestyle.
But the portrait is incomplete and one-dimensional. Nike and Tommy Hilfiger are not in the same class as Intel, Microsoft, Long-Term Capital, Cisco Systems, and Citigroup, the high-tech and financial giants which power the rest of the economy. Indeed, Nike and Adidas and Walt Disney ultimately dance to the tune of the Wall Street-Silicon Valley complex. In the total economy, it is not "synergy" or brand imperialism that ultimately serves as the engine of change but the classical crisis of overcapacity in production leading to the hegemony of finance capital.
: . An unoriginal personal observation: Could it be that the mesmerizing power of The Brand streams from a crisis of social relations, the uprootings wrought by global capitalism? Power, as any introductory Sociology course will teach us, doesn’t merely flow from the top down. Marketing firms after all do not coerce us to shop. Instead, they prey on our inner vulnerabilities: buying by the brand allows us to consume our way into community, virtual neighborhoods of our own choosing when what we presume to be ‘organic’ social forms have crumbled away. The mantra of out times: We shop therefore we are. Sadly this consumption of unreal estates affords us only the most illusory of freedoms and the coldest of communal embraces: a padded room of choices whose keys are kept by capitalism’s hidden hands.
: . Naomi Klein on the World Social Forum held two months ago in Porto Alegre, Brazil:
In workshops and on panels, globalization was defined as a mass transfer of wealth and knowledge from public to private—through the patenting of life and seeds, the privatization of water and the concentrated ownership of agricultural lands. Having this conversation in Brazil meant that these issues were not presented as shocking new inventions of a hitherto unheard-of phenomenon called "globalization"—as is often the case in the West—but as part of the continuum of colonization, centralization and loss of self-determination that began more than five centuries ago.
This latest stage of market integration has meant that power and decision-making are now delegated to points even further away from the places where the effects of those decisions are felt at the same time that ever-greater financial burdens are off-loaded to cities and towns. Real power has moved from local to state, from state to national, from national to international, until finally representative democracy means voting for politicians every few years who use that mandate to transfer national powers to the WTO and the IMF.
: . After a few years of careful avoidance, I finally saw Schindler’s List.
Twice. A sacrilege: the film’s power wears thin from repeat viewings. Lift off its somber cloak and you find a few rusty gears. Schindler’s List employs all the old tricks of Classic Hollywood Cinema: some sections seem more like solemn versions of Yentl, in somewhat grainy black and white, stocked with stock characters and stock scenes. If as James Wood once said: ‘characterization is merely the management of caricature,’ then parts of Schindler’s List must offer us examples of calculated mismanagement, all for dramatic effect. Now I am a sucker for melodrama, especially real life ones, and the film made me cry and cry and cry some more. Then I saw the film a second time and I cried again. But the film’s flaws must detract from its historical referentiality: all these things did happen in The Time of Evil but surely not in the most familiarly heart tugging ways? But there were small moments when the film took a breather from its operatic arias: a train carrying the Schindler Jews is misrouted into Auschwitz, unbeknownst to its passengers. As the train chugs and hoots across a bleak winter landscape, some women reminisce about Sabbath dishes like cholent a slow-cooked meat and vegetable stew akin to the Filipino Sunday dish pochero. They smile at their recollections but we, the audience members who overhear all this and know what is to come, ache to warn them of the horrors ahead. This is how we experience even the grandest of historical events whose effects spill across world maps: bodily, in our own small ways, and within the narrow compass of human vision unaided by panoramic lenses. Historical films like historical villains always aspire to be superhuman in scale. But the most horrific of historical events astound us in their superhuman disregard for individual lives sacrificed in the service of an overarching Cause. Schindler’s List attempts a delicate balancing act: expressing the worth of individual lives while also exposing the workings of a terrific Holocaust. It does not always succeed.