Month: September 2014

Globalization as Marketing

Last week, two boats full of refugees passing from North Africa bound for Europe sank in the Mediterranean. At least 700 refugees were killed, according to the International Organization of Migration.

Also last week: A new news organization built upon social media, video and interactivity was launched. A well-intentioned friend who works for them tagged me in a promotional post  as part of their marketing campaign from their Facebook page. The text of the promotional post read:

We’re part of a #global generation – without borders – connected to issues that impact your life, our world. [This new news org] is where we’ll begin experimenting with these stories and we want your help in shaping it. Do you ever laugh, cry, get angry or inspired? You’ll fit right in.

Although I am technically a member of it, I would never sit down intent on writing about the “millennial generation.” But this post about my generation as a “global generation without borders” bothered me to the point of logging into this neglected blog to record some thoughts.

The implication of the claim “we are part of a global generation” is that our generation includes people of our age range all over the world. I understand the use of “[Blank] without borders” is popular for emphasizing modernness, the reach of an organization or network, and many with that use the tag are great organizations (see médecins sans frontières and reporters sans frontieres).

But the global generation ‘without borders’ qualification come across as remarkably classist.

It underscores an ignorance of or a willful disregard for to the experience of the vast majority of people, young and old, throughout the ‘developing’ or ‘third’ world. Although globalization has given us ease of access to communication technology and information from around the world, and perhaps eased the travel of millions in the West across international borders, for people in the colonized world or developing nations, borders have never been more real and more restrictive.

One of the real consequences of globalization is that it facilitated the flow of money across borders while restricting the movement of people seeking access to that money. I heard someone propose an alternative definition of refugee as “a person who has been separated from capital by an international border.”

Imagine someone from this news organization (which, it should be said, is based in the tech-utopia of central California) looking a young Palestinian in Gaza, an Iranian imprisoned on Nauru island, or a Honduran detained in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley in the eyes and tell him or her that our generation is ‘without borders.’

Perhaps for Westerners, who maintain levels of wealth unheard of for most of the world and are thus allowed to move with considerable freedom, the reaction to globalization is to celebrate technology the flow of information. In the Middle East, where borders have been imposed on them by colonial powers, the reaction to them is often a violence that, far from being resistance-as-branding, is demonized in the West: Hamas or the Islamic State.

Instead of buying into this “generation without borders” mythology, we could be first the first generation to really address the damage that borders cause. We could begin to repair communities torn apart by them, such as in the West Bank or the Mexico/Texas border. We could assist and facilitate people, such as those refugees crossing the Mediterranean, who are literally dying to access the economic opportunity that is allegedly created by globalization.

Ours could be the generation that builds a better world — instead of cynically trying to re-brand the problems out of the one we have.