Doubts about globalization

January 8th

It is not easy to admit that the main and fundamental concept of my worldview might be wrong. It is not easy to admit that those doubting voices about that concept that I ignored or ridiculed over the years might have been right all along. But it would be even worse NOT to admit it and face the facts and keep going in the wrong direction just to save face. And I am in the process of changing my mind about globalization and its effects on the world and me.

There is no doubt that I myself am a great beneficiary of globalization. I was in the right place at the right time — starting my work career in the mid-1990s, when global interconnectivity was in full bloom. I was fortunate that I went to university in the United States and learned corporate fundamentals there. And the fact that English, from being my second language, became my first — and the one that I still use daily equally with my native language. That ability to speak colloquial, idiomatic English while being steeped in American culture had opened a lot of doors and helped my advancement even after I came back home to Poland after 22 years in the USA.

I also have seen how globalization benefited so many people around me — from the ability for easy travel and study/work movement around the world to working for global companies and benefiting from their work ethic and culture to the ability to become a part of a financial middle-class (as considered by Western standards). I know that globalization has benefited hundreds of people around the world and lifted them from poverty to financial stability and gave them rising living and health standards.

But globalization only works if even all the smallest chain links stay interconnected and safe from damage and unbroken. And it is apparent that it is becoming an impossible task to maintain it working as it is supposed to. Of course, the Covid-19 pandemic had shown how easily the supply chain can be broken — from closing down cities and regions, closing down airports and ports, to implementing new, cumbersome safety regulations. But there are others — a week-long blockade of Sues Canal last year disrupted global sipping for several months. A more severe than usual winter last year in parts of China and Russia and Belarus disrupted cargo trains there. Brexit has become a bureaucratic and logistic nightmare. And now — in Kazakhstan, the unrest and a possible democratic revolution or a looming heavy crackdown and more despotic measures there have disrupted all the trains plying the New Silk Road between China and Europe.

As it happens, I have several extremely important shipments that are now stuck somewhere on the winter steppes of Kazakhstan, and cargo companies have no information or clue when and how they might be released. I guess I have to accept the fact that global connections can be so easily broken by any kind of political or social turmoil. And I can only expect more of that — with all the social inequality and religious and national fundamentalism on the rise and climate change becoming visible.

I still believe that globalization has brought the net benefit to the world, but without the safety of the national supply chain and local manufacturing security, we are going in the wrong direction. Any two-bit, tin-pot despot who can control even the smallest part of the global supply network can and will disrupt it if in doing that there is any perceived benefit to him. This whole concept of globalization needs to be rethought and readjusted by those in political or economic power. Let’s see if that proactivity will happen.

I have strong doubts that it will.

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“for they knew what sort of noise it was; they recognize, by now, the footsteps of the Furies”. Enjoying life on the road to recovery. Observing and writing.

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“for they knew what sort of noise it was; they recognize, by now, the footsteps of the Furies”. Enjoying life on the road to recovery. Observing and writing.

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