When Globalization Hits Home

Globalization has declared a war on diversity by setting a universal standard of living. The process has most of the world convinced that the capitalist way is the “best” way.  For nations to gain international leverage, they must enter the race to modernize society. In essence, the reality of globalization results in standardizing all aspects of culture–language, customs, traditions, food, production, manufacturing, etc. When we see field workers drop their pitchforks and take up jobs at the nearest McDonalds–that is a product of globalization. When we see a street vendor sell rice plates for 50 cents outside a newly erected Louis Vuitton store–that is a product of globalization. When we see indigenous mountain people sell souvenirs to tourists for a living–that is a product of globalization. While the process of globalization standardizes, modernizes and quickly transforms a nation’s economic landscape, it inevitably widens the disparity between the rich and the poor at exponential rates.

There was a point in time when my dad’s family and my mom’s family were in the same economic class–DIRT POOR. I remember visiting both sides (Dad’s family in the North, Mom’s family in the South) and it was always everybody packed into a one room “home” with rice, salt and potatoes for sparse meals. By the end of the Vietnam War, most of the country was so fragmented and ravaged there were only 2 social strata: the impoverished and the ruling. In 2007, Vietnam finally joined the WTO (World Trade Organization) and made a significant shift toward an OPEN MARKET ECONOMY–which basically means they’re opening their doors to compete in the global economy, which basically means more standardizing, more mechanizing, more modernizing, more skyscrapers, more condos, more business suits, more wireless networking, more conference calls and more westernizing. This is a race, so you can either get with it or get left behind. But the reality is, some people can’t even run the race if they wanted to.

Being in the city (and capital, Hanoi), my dad’s side of the family still had the chance to go to school and pursue an education. Most of my dad’s siblings went into finance, marketing and business. With the booming open market, some quickly went from rags to riches (my aunt even got her own chauffeur!!). My dad’s family are part of the lucky few who entered the finance market at a good time–when it was rapidly on the rise and they got pulled up as quickly as they entered. Like stock markets, trading and closing deals–timing is everything.

My mom’s side of the family is less fortunate. They are stuck in the cycle of poverty which they’ll probably never escape. As a small fishing village, education was less accessible. When boys become men, they head out to sea and become fishermen. Girls find little ways to make money, like washing hair, bartering at the market or selling lottery tickets. That small fishing village my mom grew up in has not changed. Some of her siblings are still living in the same dainty shacks made of the same wood planks and metal sheets I remember visiting as a child. I’m surprised the homes haven’t collapsed under the water yet. Everyone is begging for a way out of poverty. My female cousins keep pleading me to find them American husbands that can marry them out of the cycle. Now, after all these years, the government is kicking everyone out of my mom’s fishing village because they want to build a resort for tourists. The villagers have no mode of transportation, no savings to buy land and no money to build a new home. Tourism, capital and resorts are all a result of globalization, which in turn makes the economy better, but makes the poor just damn pointless.

(This is actually the “nicer” part of the village. My aunt’s shack is on wooden stilts above the water. And the public toilet is like a high dock on poles. You squat above a hole in the dock that drops all your crap into the ocean beneath your stankin’ ass.)

With a Bachelor of Arts from UCLA, I’ve studied and theorized globalization from many angles. But I can’t even find the words to describe how I feel when I actually WITNESS the impact of it in my polarized family. North vs. South. City vs. village. Rich vs. poor. They say that those who flourish within capitalism can only profit at the expense of fucking over another entity. If there is a winner, somebody’s got to lose. So within economic politics, is the reason for my dad’s side becoming richer part of the reason that contributes to my mom’s side being fucked over?


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Filed under Bigger Than Me and You, Essays on the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

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