Every single day tens of thousands of people pour into clothing factories all over Argentina. These workers-teenagers, sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers, grandparents, students, musicians, artists, and activists-often live in cramped, makeshift homes, with corrugated tin roofs, dirt floors, and little running water or electricity. They usually wake up before sunrise, get dressed quickly, and climb aboard old, overcrowded smoke-spewing yellow school buses. They know they must arrive on time; so many skip eating breakfast. Punctuality is crucial. Being one minute late can cost a worker one day's pay. Most factories resemble large warehouses. They are typically well fortified. Steel gates, security cameras, and barbed wire are commonplace.
Armed guards search all workers and inspect their plastic identification cards before they enter the factory. Once inside, the noise can be deafening and the heat intolerable. Dust and lint fill the air. Safety equipment (e.g., masks, earplugs, etc.) is rarely provided. Bathroom breaks are usually timed and regulated; overtime, mandatory; and the work pace, relentless. Some workers sew, for instance, one hundred zippers on trendy, brand name jeans every single hour. Work shifts often range between ten and twelve hours, but they can last as long as fourteen or sixteen hours. Wages hover, depending on the country, around fifty cents an hour. Health care, sick pay, vacation time, and other related benefits are virtually nonexistent.
The wages and working conditions in these factories-known as maquiladoras in Central America-resemble William Blake's nineteenth-century "dark, satanic mills." The garment and textile factories or "mills" of that era were usually called "sweatshops." Contractors or "middlemen, " who received production orders from manufacturers, operated those shops. Their profits came from "sweating" their workers-mostly young women and children-through low wages, long hours, and poor working conditions. The "sweating system" generated intense competition. Contractors and manufacturers constantly tried to keep production costs as low as possible, making everyday life intolerable inside and outside the factory.
Indeed, through globalization or interacting economically, politically with communication, with technology, with financial transactions and with the exchange of know-how, the world is in a position to go beyond a few privileged countries and bring all countries into the global village. That global village should be all-inclusive. All countries should be given an opportunity to benefit from globalization. It is not a matter of "trickle down" or "noblesse oblige" or "G7 meeting," but a G191 meeting is needed since there are that many countries in the world at the writing of this book. Not a top-down but a bottom-up orientation must be considered to approach the world's economic well-being. Global issues must be examined by all, not only a few rich countries. The problems of economic inequalities cannot be solved by the decisions of G7 countries only.
All countries must be involved in this process. Indeed, through globalization or interacting economically, politically with communication, with technology, with financial transactions and with the exchange of know-how, the world is in a position to go beyond a few privileged countries and bring all countries into the global village. That global village should be all-inclusive. All countries should be given an opportunity to benefit from globalization. Globalization, without a doubt, is the most important tool to improve world economics. As UN Secretary General Kofi Annan stated, "Globalization has become the essence of modern life" (Annan 1999). As we improve the world's economic well-being, we will be able to get to the root cause of terrorism, which is essentially based on poverty. Hence, we will be able to eliminate the causes that create people who foment terrorism.
Used properly, globalization can achieve such a noble cause. Of course, not all of these are totally due to globalization, but the critical point is that globalization left alone will not do anything to counteract these experiences and, indeed, according to some, it is contributing to the worsening situation. There appears to be no help from the rich countries. There is no international government or superpower looking after the best interests of the poor nations. There does not seem to be any relief from the widening gap between the haves and have-nots. Therefore, there are only two alternatives for poor nations. One is to stay out of it, isolate the country and hope to survive. This reactionary move is hardly realistic. Wanted or not, globalization will knock on the door anyway.