New Civilization News: Information imperialism    
 Information imperialism
picture5 Mar 2003 @ 02:50, by ashanti

The invisible people of the world speak out: The Non-Aligned Movement Summit, held in Malaysia earlier this week and attended by almost 110 countries representing about two-thirds of the worlds' population, made a strong call for multilateralism, global peace and development.

President Thabo Mbeki writes in ANC Today:
"The current situation therefore suggests that even as the representatives of two-thirds of humanity, including those in the immediate neighbourhood of Iraq, were urging a peaceful resolution of the Iraq question, a few countries were determined to make the statement that war against Iraq is inevitable.

This indicates that the XIII NAM Summit Meeting was justified to draw attention to the global imbalance of power, when it said "the rich and powerful countries exercise an inordinate influence in determining the nature and direction of international relations".

The international media has played an important role in keeping the world informed about the developments on Iraq. This has included live television transmissions of the proceedings of the UN Security Council.

Nevertheless, the "inordinate influence" mentioned by NAM, showed up even in these transmissions.

For example, repeatedly, the television broadcasts cut off the African members of the Security Council as they were about to speak, so that the world never got to know what Africa, and the developing world, think. Even as the Iraq debate among the countries of the North rages on, there is hardly any mention of what the countries of the South feel and think.

In practice the point has been made that this issue will be resolved solely and exclusively on the basis of what the countries of the North decide, regardless of what more than two-thirds of the world's population, the citizens of the countries of the South, think or feel. The fact that some of these countries serve as members of the Security Council is little more than a small and irritating distraction."

* An outstanding paper on Information Imperialism echoes this view:
Extract: "It is obvious that the ‘South-North flow of information’ debate stimulates a moral discourse. It links to ethical issues such as exploitation, exclusion, discrimination and marginalization with regard to the flow of information. Various approaches can be followed to address the moral issues at hand. One might be a utilitarian approach focusing on the greatest good for the greatest number of people. According to this approach information is seen as an instrumental value that creates ‘happiness’ for the greatest number of people. The notion of ‘the greatest good for the greatest number of people’ might however entail the exclusion of minorities – which are not always seen as part of the ‘greatest number of people’. The meaning of ‘good’ with regard to the South-North flow is also debatable. What is seen as ‘good’ by developed countries might not be experienced as ‘good’ by the developing countries."

"The rule-utilitarianism approach can therefore be seen as a common-good approach that assumes that a society shares certain values and norms (expressed as rights) that must lead to a shared common good. What is then the ‘common good’ that must be striven for in the South-North flow of information? Two inter-related issues can be distinguished. The first is the establishment of a sustainable global knowledge society. In the words of Weiser (2002:3): “We must build a society with no limits to knowledge”. This can only be achieved when knowledge is effectively shared globally. This will enable people around the globe to interact on a creative basis and thereby add value to the limited resources that are left. A one way flow of information, be it from North to South or a limited South-North information flow (limited due to perceptions, biases and information discrimination) will not contribute to this common good. What is needed is the establishment of an effective and interactive global communication network (North-South and South-North) that will allow the flow of specifically scientific information between continents, countries and societies."

"It is clear that the third world countries, and in particular African countries, experience a deep frustration with the current South-North flow of information. It has been argued that the main moral concerns relate to the limited contribution that the ‘South-generated information’ makes to the global knowledge society. This situation does not only inhibit creativity but also hampers sustainable development. The second moral concern is the unbalanced global public sphere where opinions are formed and views exchanged based on primarily ‘North-generated information’."

* My sentiments exactly! The day the North begins to *listen* to the South, and the exchange and flows of information open up, is the day we take a great stride towards global wholeness and sustainability. Until that day happens, we will continue to fragment and disintegrate. Imperialism is not sustainable.

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