The current globalization situation has become a parallel to the popular movie “The Matrix,” labor organizer Raj Jayadev said Wednesday at an activist conference held in Corwin Pavilion.
People are part of an illusion they have collectively bought into and cannot see through the code, he said. Jayadev and other anti-globalization advocates took their message to UCSB with the goal of teaching young adults about the brainwashing effects of globalization and the market economy.
Corwin Pavilion was filled with enthusiastic students and members of the public eager to participate in workshops and forums and listen to international guest speakers from the globalization and youth leadership conference Youth at the Millennium organized by the Santa Barbara Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.
Many of the speakers and organizers were activists during a period of social reform and realized the importance of organization and activism in achieving changes within the global structure. The older visionaries present said they wanted to use their experience and apply it to problems younger activists will face.
“When we grew up in the 1960s, there was a culture of mind expansion available that was strong, a current of emotional aura. I was in Santa Barbara at the time and coordinating with others spontaneously on projects like these,” conference organizer Phil Grant said. “We realized that reaching out to adults was not enough. In order to pass on what we had received in the ’60s, we had to reach college-age students.”
Grant said the problem facing students today is globalization and not civil rights, but the strategies are the same. The goal of the conference was to educate the many young people who are not familiar with the effects of globalization.
“Globalization is commonly known for having negative effects associated with sweatshops and rainforests, but there are also many issues here in the U.S.,” said Jayadev, who said he was affected by his work in the Silicon Valley.
Globalization would properly serve as icing on the cake, but is instead an increasingly unnecessary commodity, said Satish Kumar, editor of Resurgence Magazine.
“Globalization has gone mad, we are shipping French wine to California and California wine to France, Japanese cars to America and American cars to Japan; this is unnecessary,” Kumar said.
Kumar and Jayadev spoke about reverential ecology and social change with environmental studies professor Mark McGinnes as moderator.
“The idea behind the concept of reverential ecology is that you must develop respect for who you are and not what you have, respect for fellow humans, and respect for nature. It’s about valuing nature in its own light rather than valuing it because of the way it benefits us.” Kumar said.
As an answer to the topic question, “Can We Seek Justice for Both People and Nature?” Kumar said it is possible for both if we have social justice.
“At the moment there are 6 billion people in the world. Four billion are below the poverty line and 2 billion live privileged lives. This cannot be sustained because it causes desperation, which causes terrorism and violence,” Kumar said.
Nuclear Proliferation and Militarization
NAPF Youth Outreach Coordinator Michael Coffey said people born after the 1970s lack valuable information about nuclear weaponry, especially because many depend only on the media. Younger people rely on the film industry as their main frame of reference for how and why violence manifests, he said.
“The entertainment industry has produced many movies that depict violence, using nuclear weapons as a dramatic symbol for anger or evil,” Coffey said.
Nuclear terror is often misrepresented in the media, Coffey said, citing an article titled “U.S. Army Nukes Philippines” in the April Fool’s Day edition of the Daily Nexus as an example.
“The Daily Nexus has taken a horrific aspect of culture and turned it into humor in an insensitive and offensive way,” he said.
NAPF President David Krieger is involved in UC Nuclear Free, a campaign to organize students opposed to UC research on nuclear weapons, because he is against the UC’s involvement in managing the U.S. nuclear defense laboratories such as Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Every nuclear weapon in the U.S. has been produced under the direction and management of the UC system, Krieger said.
“Most students don’t know about it or are acquiescent. The UC thinks it’s prestigious to be involved in such important, national work,” Krieger said. “Students must question officials and administrators and demand that the UC stops cooperating with the labs.”
Seeking Youth Involvement
Youth involvement comes out of the realization of the costs of benefits and an attempt to live outside of the market economy, said Antonia Juhasz, project director for the International Forum on Globalization. The low number of participants, Kumar said, is due to the market economy’s powerful role as a brainwasher.
“Consumerism is now the opium of the masses,” he said. “It is the new addiction and obsession.”
Kumar attributed the coercive effects on society to the big-business industry that is obsessed with using people as tools for economic growth. The people who aid the transportation of goods or provide the “dirty work” hold uncreative, unfulfilling jobs as cogs in a larger machine.
For those who want to get involved, Juhasz said many might feel obligated to support American society, particularly after Sept. 11, and shy away from getting involved in anti-globalization advocacy. On the contrary, she said, this is all the more reason to instigate change.
“We’ve been trained that whatever is in the media is what’s worth while,” Juhasz said. “Suddenly groups like us are all over the media for questioning the model and making a stand. This is making it easier to criticize and finally making activism cool again.”
Juhasz said taking the next step and becoming an activist as a young adult is difficult because it puts you out there in a more public way. We’ve created a culture where activism is considered outside the norm, she said.
“Getting involved off campus in a local community group is the best way to fight globalization,” Jayadev said.