If there was a book which really made me sit up and think about the world we are living in then Falling Off the Edge: Globalization, World Peace and Other Lies by Alex Perry probably is up there.
Perry paints a grim yet honest picture of globalisation mainly from a developing world perspective ranging from the dissenting workers in China’s new cities to the Maoists of Nepal and Naxalites of India hoping change will come through the barrel of a gun not just in Kathmandu and Delhi but also in New York and London. Perry highlights globalisation is not trickling down to the poor of the world and there is no real hope for success or a distribution of wealth if we continue this trend. Perry paints a real human story as he speaks to villagers in Sri Lanka, factory workers in China, tribal workers from Kenya to MEND fighters in the Niger delta who are not the beneficiaries of globalisation.
He gave extra emphasis to China and India, two countries which are in line to be the next big two in terms of economic and social success. However Perry articulates the pitfalls of their success as there are more victims rather than winners. He shows an elite who have gained so much from the free market, yet at the same time India has 40 million more destitute workers in 2006 than it had in 1993, while the city of Shenzhen has factories where staff just earn $56 a month.
Perry allowed the subjects he was writing on the chance to present their version of events, his encounters with Somali pirates and Indian I.T. workers. Perry doesn’t condone violence as he meets fighters who some may refer as “liberators” while others may say they are “terrorists,” Perry shows their stories as an economic struggle which is hidden under the guise of politics or religion. He shows how these people have witnessed an erosion of their natural resources which are pillaged or sold to fund the economic success which in turn fuels their anger and make them take back by force. For every economic winner of globalisation project, there are more losers who are born into poverty and a rut which they cannot get out of. Perry constantly shows that there is a huge proportion of the planet is falling off the edge as globalisation has not trickled down the realms of success.
For myself the book has cemented the perspective that the system we are living in is in crisis. Perry’s book was written five years ago but now as we see in the West are now falling short of the Globalisation dream. British voters decided to support BREXIT, many many say it was due to fear and blaming the EU, yet there were many working class have been left at the wayside due to forty years of de-regulation and inequality. We are also seeing in the USA the Trump factor which could even win the Presidency, again we see a revolution of regression as many working class communities are falling foul of the globalisation project.
I thoroughly enjoyed his honesty and fair portrayal of Indian industrialist, Ratan Tata who understands the importance of giving back and providing the common good. Tata, who lives a frugal life, comes across as a kind of billionaire with a conscience who has set up foundations honouring how own workers, he told Perry “how much profitable if you target the very bottom of the income pyramid – a lot of people with a little rather than a few with a lot?” His aim was through his investment and somewhat filling the void of the State he wants to make the poor into consumers.
The epilogue, written in 2010 shows that that the financial crash of 2008 has added fuel to the fire of resentment against globalisation. We are living in a prosperous times and myself who works in Qatar can see the wealth with the few while so many who are building and sustaining a city sadly may make enough to send money home for their families, but it comes at a price.