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Sunday, 21 September 2008
I posted this in our new facebook group http://www.new.facebook.com/group.php?gid=27107809513 :
Paradox of life: China food scare, globalisation and transformation of intimacy.
I think what he said is really quite true, but the recent milk scare can be viewed in this way, or by looking at how people reacted.
I'm attempting to do a sociological analysis, but it's obvious that I'm still an amatuer. The following is from memory and my understanding. If you're interested, please verify first.
The recent milk scare may reflect upon how China looks at its food safety, especially with its history of a line of food scares.But how does it affect us? How does it affect the world?
From various readings I reflect that with globalisation, communication, travel and trade is made much faster, and communication almost instanteous. Time and space seems to be compressed, identities seem to be change like the winds in a storm, values that people try to pass down trickle away, replaced by the values of those propagated by the media. People try to construct their identities, but have to deconstruct half-formed ones as soon as another major global/local change comes along. Is developing a blase attitude really anyone's fault?
The New Division of Labour takes over the global manufacturing line, and Marx's theory of the people's fetishism of commodities seem to be true to most consumers - do people know of what labour has been put into your food?
For example, chocolate. People have to harvest and transport the cocoa beans, the milk, the sugar, among other ingredients, from all over the globe to one location where they prepare the chocolates and package them and transport them and market them and sell them - all these tasks are taken up by different people but do consumers think of them when they buy the chocolates? Do we not just look at the price and decide whether or not we can afford, or are willing to afford that money to exchange for those morsels of bittersweet chocolates?
Recently the 'milk scare' in China has affected a few products around the world because the milk was used in the manufacturing of those products. What interested me was not how the very phenomenon of China milk has affected Singapore, since I have already taken for granted Singapore's dependency of food from outside sources. I was more interested in the many SMSes I received asking me to not eat those products affected and forward the SMS to others.
What affected my interest in these simple smses is a recent reading from Giddens on people's trust in abstract systems and the transformation of intimacy, in today's modernity. Yes, time and space has been compressed. Yes, we now believe more in "experts" and lesser in people around us. In fact, I think Giddens would argue that we believe not in the experts, but in the abstract system in which those"experts" are more credible. We take in messages from the media, some without question. And in Singapore, perhaps people believe in the abstract system called "the government". We put so much trust in the various agencies that we expect food to be safe unless they issue a warning, stating otherwise. (I take the stand that although the current system is still working, people should develop a pro-active awareness about things around us.)
Those SMSes,however, are proof of the many strands holding us in connection with others. These smses come from friends from all over, who express their concern for the receipient's personal health and well-being. These friends do not come from a physical geographical village, but from a global ghetto.
Another example is the Sze Chuan earthquake. Aid from all over the globe poured in, aid from strangers to strangers upon hearing of the natural disaster - contrast this to teachers who saved themselves but abandoned the students they were supposed to be guiding.
So, in my view, although bad news does travel fast, but the actions taken by people through structural facilitation (NGOs/Mobile phones and Telecom companites), even though they face certain structural constraints (Political, legal constraints), gives me hope in concepts we call agency, humanity, friendship and intimacy.
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