We tend to think of globalization as a recent trend, but Martin Luther King was well aware of it as early as 1963.
When we arise in the morning, we go into the bathroom where we reach for a sponge provided for us by a Pacific Islander. We reach for soap that is created for us by a Frenchman. The towel is provided by a Turk. Then at the table we drink coffee which is provided for us by a South American, or tea by a Chinese, or cocoa by a West African. Before we leave for our jobs, we are beholden to more than half the world. (Martin Luther King, Strength to Love)
As moral leaders, a modern-day Gandhi and King would be concerned with the justness of the economic relationships between consumers and producers in the global village. And they would soon arrive at an unsettling conclusion: true freedom means becoming independent of multinational corporations.
- Multinational corporations value profit over people, inverting the moral law of the universe (i.e., people are more important than things), thus promoting materialism, the mother of consumerism
- Multinational corporations corrupt our democratic institutions, persuading politicians to serve their interests rather than the needs and interests of the people
- Multinational corporations have no regard for God
The historical Gandhi and King often viewed and spoke of justice in terms of good and evil. “Noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good,” wrote King, paraphrasing Gandhi. In moral terms, a modern-day Gandhi and King would consider multinational corporations evil. True freedom today, they would conclude, requires noncooperation with multinational corporations.
Calling on people of goodwill to not cooperate with multinational corporations, they would focus on the basics – food, clothing, shelter, and transportation. And they would set the example of noncooperation themselves.
At Gandhi’s ashram, for example, the daily routine included working 3.5 hours in the field and 3 hours in the kitchen. (Gandhi’s philosophy and the quest for harmony) “Grow more food,” the elder Gandhi told fellow Indians at meetings in the countryside, one of which attracted 600,000 people. “Every pint of water, whether from bathing and ablutions should be turned into backyard vegetable beds. Greens could be grown in earthen pots and even in discarded old tins.” (The Life of Mahatma Gandhi) A modern-day Gandhi and King might promote Freedom Gardens, the 21st century equivalent of Victory Gardens.
Gandhi also told audiences longing for independence that they must not wear foreign clothing. “When they applauded he asked them to strip off all wearing apparel made abroad and pile it in front of him. To this heap of shirts, trousers, coats, caps, shoes, and underwear Gandhi then set a match.” As the pile burned, Gandhi “begged everybody to spin and weave their own clothing. He himself took to spinning half an hour per day.” (Gandhi: his life and message for the world)
As leader of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, King encouraged African-Americans to stay off city buses and helped devise an elaborate and efficient carpooling system that moved thousands of African-Americans around Montgomery every day for a year. Likewise, a modern-day King would promote public transportation (what if Rosa Parks had owned a car?), and collective self-reliance.
For Gandhi and King, noncooperation was not merely a political campaign; it was also a spiritual plan. In contrast with multinational corporations procuring resources and selling goods all over the planet, a modern-day Gandhi and King would be advocating worker-owned cooperatives that sell local products only, competing with multinational corporations not for profits but for human souls.
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