Archives for category: Globalization

Whenever I need groceries, it is always this little shop called “Hawki’s” that I turn to in my neighborhood of Zahle. Like many Zahlawi buildings, it’s situated in one of those classic Libano-Italian buildings from (I’m guessing) between the 17th-19th centuries. That is to say, golden-colored sandstone with a rough exterior, polished on the corners of the building; bright green shutters and black iron balconies, all topped by those lovely carrot-blush tiles.

Hawki’s is owned by a family, namely the father – I’m going to call him S. S is a nice guy (he has to be). He offers good advice and runs into the upstairs room to hunt for merchandise I might need. He knows everyone in the neighborhood. His son, who also works there, was kind enough to give me an arak glass (note: not a glass of arak) when I bought my first Arak from them, despite my protests. All in all, an alright place to do my shopping.

Because Zahle is relatively prosperous, it is not out of place to spy non-Arab faces on occasion, working as domestic help: Ethiopians, Sri Lankans, Filipinos, Nepalese. Someone from the building opposite mine has a Filipino maid, whom they send on errands to Hawki’s to buy a few items, like cigarettes. I have seen her come in several times now while I am there, shy and small-seeming, but trying hard to be confident. Chuckling with the locals, S will ignore her until he has served everyone else (even if she were before them), then turn cold-facedly to her to ask what she needs. She responds in heavily accented English, which he cuts through by interrupting and talking pleasantly to someone else, leaving her waiting again.

Why S feels the need to do this is beyond me. Well, actually it isn’t, but I don’t really feel like going into it right now. Regardless, the plight of domestic workers is not unique to the Arab world. It is however a good example of some of the things that make globalization either a jungle or a goldmine, depending on who you are. Transnational communities, remittance work, complete lack of labor protection – these are all part of the picture.

But it was great to catch this New York Times article discussing domestic workers in Kuweit, because it could have been about any Arab country, or anywhere at all – it even makes reference to the US somewhat. But it all makes me want to tie this into Ethiopian Suicides, the Lebanese blog associated with the Anti Racism Movement, which advocates on behalf of domestic workers and all issues of race in Lebanon. The reality may be gray, but some people are trying to bring in some color.

Last time I was in Hawki’s, before I left for Istanbul, it was just S, the Filipino girl and I. She was buying cigarettes, while I waited for her to finish. I nodded my head to her in greeting, and she smiled widely. An honest smile.

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Joe Sacco from The Guardian just had a comic featured, titled “Not in My Country,” about African irregular immigrants in Malta. A good portrait of the unseen and heart-wrenching consequences of globalization.

For those of you who read The World Is Flat by Thomas Friedman, globalization is great. Nothing but good can come from networks that span continents and connect disparate populations together – to make money, of course. For the most popular example, take a look at InfoSys. “Win in the flat world” indeed. But if they’re winning, then who’s losing?

As it turns out, we all are a little. Networks spanning continents, connecting disparate populations together sounds suspiciously similar to….terrorists networks. Yeah. Social media and the new tools of the globalized, flat, market are just as useful to groups like Al-Qaeda. So I was very amused to find an article here in The Times that acted as though it were really that shocking the way these small, tightly-knit terrorist organizations around the world are multiplying and extending their influence. Really? Is it that shocking that the Shabaab can connect, download, upload, meet up and cause a stir across borders?

It is and it isn’t. But the world isn’t flat – it’s bumpy, it’s far away, and it’s curved, meaning that we don’t always see the effect of our decisions. Our actions (as a government) have consequences today that they may not have yesterday, or a year ago, or an era before. In an interconnected system, a good offense is not a good defense – it’s a good way to get our country tangled up in a whole lot of trouble. That is what happened in Somalia and Somaliland.

As for people at the individual scale working with social media, I’m not sure that Obama solicits foreign policy advice from his Facebook page.