Embracing ‘The Third Wave’
One night saw me watching and listening to the performance videos of Charice Pempengco. I realized that Charice, being “the YouTube sensation” that she was once known for, would not have been possible without the Internet. Her success, which is due largely to the exposure that social media has given her, would not have been possible, say, in the 1980s, or even in the early 1990s.
Charice is indeed sensational, one of the few singers who can leave musical greats like David Foster in awe and admiration. And I am obviously a fan, not just of Charice but, as important, of her story. Hers is not the usual Cinderella, rags-to-riches tale, like that of Manny Pacquiao. My admiration for her story stems basically from the fact that whatever she has reached and achieved at this point was made possible by the Internet.
I should hate globalization. That is how I have been taught by dear mentors in the social movements. But I chanced upon a two-decade-old article written by Ed de la Torre and offering a useful distinction between globalization and globalism. De la Torre argued that globalization is something that we as individuals or as a nation cannot avoid. Globalism, on the other hand, or that which presumes that everything global is superior, is something we can and must shun, he said, citing the proposal of the writer Peter Waterman.
Indeed, globalism poses serious threats to small but deserving industries and gives undue advantage to giant corporations that back their brands with powerful advertising, creating competitors and eventually killing off competition, observed analyst Randy David. But then he added: “How can anyone stop a process that is being brought about by the unstoppable spread of modern technology and lifestyles, the massive increase in interaction among civilizations through tourism, trade and communications, and the dizzying mobility of people in search of work?”
The challenge for us, and for the state in particular, noted David, is to see to it that the breakneck pace of the new economic order does not create enormous disparities that are politically unsustainable. The state should ensure that basic services like education, housing and healthcare are immediately available for distribution to the majority of our people, especially those who have less in life. We cannot simply allow the market to offer these on behalf of the government.
The issue has a lot to do with the uneven levels of development between and among concerned countries, distorting the integrity of the less developed societies.
I would like to stress, for instance, the value that a solid education plays in the development of a strong workforce that is ready to compete against the rest of the world. My argument is that modern technology, particularly the Internet, has worked for us in terms of equalizing opportunities for many people who are otherwise locked in the market’s obliviousness to the rest of the world, transcending geographical boundaries, political persuasion, religion, and, yes, even time zone differences. That is precisely the reason the call center industry is booming, generating billions of pesos in revenues. It’s just fascinating. To my mind, this phenomenon compares reasonably to how overseas work has served as a stopgap measure meant to address domestic unemployment back in the 1970s. Now, the Philippines is steadily becoming the largest service economy in Asia, outperforming India, and even China. It has worked positively for what I’d like to call “the technoglobal economic democratization.”
Today, freelancer sites like Odesk.com, Elance.com, etc., offer remote online work, bringing to life what Alvin Toffler predicted some four decades ago. Working on projects for offshore clients has allowed young professionals and retirees alike to earn above-average wages while staying in the comfort of their homes, allowing them to be with their families and to make use of their spare time in other productive activities, overcoming the problems that overseas work has created. In his classic work “The Third Wave,” Toffler wrote: “Until now the human race has undergone two great waves of change, each one largely obliterating earlier cultures or civilizations and replacing them with ways of life inconceivable to those who came before. The First Wave of change—the agricultural revolution—took thousands of years to play itself out. The Second Wave—the rise of the industrial civilization—took a mere three hundred years. Today history is even more accelerative, and it is likely that the Third Wave will sweep across history and complete itself in a few decades.”
Obviously, Toffler, who invented the term “telecommuting,” was referring to the service economy—the Third Wave. The freelance marketplace is indeed revolutionizing the economy, democratizing the global distribution of incomes, and allowing Filipinos to compete in an arena that transcends geography and politics. This is the new political economy. While there is enough bases for well-meaning individuals to shun globalization altogether, we must take advantage of the great possibilities that this entire process has come to offer. While globalization is more popularly seen from the standpoint of the perils that we associate with it, the rest, I believe, is a promise—an exciting one.
Joseph Jadway “JJ” Marasigan is the senior managing partner of Adeptima Consulting Philippines, an executive search firm that helps businesses fill the gaps between operations and human resources. It also provides virtualization and offshore consulting services to clients in Europe and the United States.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.