Wednesday, April 02, 2008

A message from the gleaners

The Gleaners - Millet
From the Financial Times: "Migrant workers are choosing to move to Europe, Australia or Canada instead of the US in order to protect the purchasing power of the money they send home to their families, according to one of the world’s leading experts on remittances. The shift is a result of sharp falls in the value of the US dollar against other international currencies, many of which have been boosted by the rise in commodity prices."
David Seaton's News Links
Millions of people around the world are making economic decisions every day of their lives and even the decisions of the poorest people are of great significance if they all take the same decision together at the same time.

When we think of globalization we usually think of "Davos Man", not the person who picks our lettuce, cleans our house or carries bricks up a scaffold, but they are the infantry of globalization and the money they send back home or take home when they return, keeps much of the world turning.

Often the fortunes of an entire clan of dozens of people at the other end of our planet depend on the work and earnings of one pair of hands, far, far away from home... but just a glance away from us. Places that only a generation ago only "existed" for us in National Geographic, now survive only a MoneyGram away from us.

Once upon a time, when many of our ancestors immigrated to America, the world was so big and communications so difficult that the break from "the old country" was total. Brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers never saw or heard from the immigrants again. Maybe a letter, perhaps someone returning from America with a message. We make a great romance of it all, but most of it was pain. I believe that that pain still haunts the American subconscious.

Of course they sent money home in the old days, in Ireland "a letter from America" still is a synonym for money I'm told. But nothing can compare to today's going to some little hole in the wall on any street and sending a money order every week to the ends of the earth, a money order that arrives in hours and nothing compares to being able to call home for practically nothing to find out how the money was spent and talk to parents and children and nothing compares to being able to take a cheap flight home with presents every vacation to be made a fuss over in your home town.

Families remain intact across the world, languages and customs are not forgotten... Returning home in a box to be laid to rest with your ancestors is no longer a hopelessly expensive dream.

The opinion of these people, who leave their sweat and their blood and tears far away from home, when taken in their millions, is even more serious than the opinion of those who move fortunes only with the click of a mouse. Like the song goes, the immigrant, "works hard for the money"... They give value, they demand value in exchange for their lives and they know value. On the other end of the satellite telephone connection their people tell them what can be bought with every penny of their lives.

This is literally the end of a dream that lasted hundreds of years. The dollar's magic is gone and poor people no longer want to be paid in it. Can the rich commodity producers be far behind? DS

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I live in Canada. The US dollar was still worth slightly more then ours. I knew the US was in trouble when I went to the corner store with some US bills on me. The Vietnamese owner refused the US bills. Never thought I would see the day. That is scarier then any article or Wall street analysis.