Globalism speaks to the phenomenon of the merging of the world’s capital markets into one big marketplace of a complex international tapestry of corporate conglomerates. Globalism thrives on communications technology that makes it possible to carry on every conceivable social, political and economic transaction at the speed of light to and from anywhere in the world. Add transportation technology that can take us anywhere on earth in one day. The good news is we have so shrunk the world that places that used to be difficult to access are now totally accessible. The bad news is that places that used to be difficult to access are now totally accessible.
An example of good news is communications technology wielded as a weapon of political revolution in the Middle East manifesting a remarkable toppling of tyrannical governments that would not have been conceivable a few short years ago. We also note the economic prosperity for small entrepreneurs around the world who can access the global marketplace by by-passing expensive gatekeeper systems of mass media. YouTube has been phenomenal in launching spectacular careers overnight in rags to riches stories told simply by people with laptops and internet connections. But globalism also springs forth a concentration of unprecedented economic power that hovers over the world’s communities like a foreboding spaceship ready to descend on an unsuspecting population as they sleep. The dark side of globalism speaks to the ease with which the most far-flung communities situated thousands of miles from a corporate board room can be instantly impacted by decisions made by total strangers with no emotional connection to the people who live there, and whose measure of success is narrowed to a dispassionate quarterly review of the corporate spreadsheet.
No person, village, town, city, state or nation is outside the shadow of globalization. The occupy Wall Street movement, the anti-APEC sentiment, and the protests against the World Trade Organization are David and Goliath attempts to deal with the rise of the multinational conglomerates which have been wildly successful and whose growth model usurps the very sovereignty of nations and turns all too many national and local governments into instruments of growth, with corporations dictating the conditions of development and quality of life.
Of all the examples of a growth model being dictated by forces far removed from the impacted community, Hawaiʻi is a classic case study. Our number one industry is tourism to the tune of $13 billion annually. Hawaiʻi tourism began as a simple enough business model. The early days found our tourism businesses owned and operated by local people. The construct of the up close and personal exchange between guest and host was central to the quality of the visitor experience. But dramatic growth inevitably lured a stream of off-shore investors. And one day we woke up to find that, with the exception of the Outrigger Hotels, not one major hotel chain was locally owned. Aloha was no longer an experience, it was a brand. Board room decisions that dictated industry growth shifted to far away financial centers. Hawaiʻi had become like a movie with the script being written somewhere else.
Today, we struggle with a love-hate relationship with tourism. It’s our DNA to be gracious hosts. It confuses us to have not so good feelings about welcoming visitors because industry growth seems to have extracted a high price on our quality of life that we measure by more than the quarterly spread sheet.