‘The New Rulers Of The World (2001) analyses the new global economy and reveals that the divisions between the rich and poor have never been greater – two thirds of the world’s children live in poverty – and the gulf is widening like never before.
The film turns the spotlight on the new rulers of the world – the great multinationals and the governments and institutions that back them such as the IMF, the World Bank and the World Trade Organisation under whose rules millions of people throughout the world lose their jobs and livelihood.
The West, explains Pilger, has increased its stranglehold on poor countries by using the might of these powerful financial institutions to control their economies. “A small group of powerful individuals are now richer than most of the population of Africa,” he says, “just 200 giant corporations dominate a quarter of the world’s economic activity. General Motors is now bigger than Denmark. Ford is bigger than South Africa. Enormously rich men like Bill Gates, have a wealth greater than all of Africa. Golfer Tiger Woods was paid more to promote Nike than the entire workforce making the company’s products in Indonesia received.”
To examine the true effects of globalisation, Pilger travels to Indonesia – a country described by the World Bank as a model pupil until its globalised economy collapsed in 1998 – where high-street brands such as Nike, Adidas, Gap and Reebok are mass produced by cheap labour in ‘sweatshops’ and sold for up to 250 times the amount received by workers.
He films secretly in one of the biggest sweatshops in the capital, Jakarta. Over footage of hundreds of mostly women and children in the camp, with its open sewers and unsafe water, Pilger reports that workers are paid the equivalent of 72p a day – about one American dollar – which is the legal minimum wage in Indonesia but acknowledged by that country’s own government as only just over half a living wage. Many children there were undernourished and prone to disease. While filming, Pilger himself caught dengue fever.
He also recounts the previously untold story of how globalisation in Asia had begun in Indonesia and how Western politicians and businessmen sponsored the dictator General Suharto, who brutally seized power in the mid-1960s. “The great sweatshops and banks and luxury hotels in Indonesia were built on the mass murder of as many as one million people, an episode the West would prefer to forget,” he reveals. “Within a year of the bloodbath, Indonesia’s economy was effectively redesigned in America, giving the West access to vast mineral wealth, markets and cheap labour – what President Nixon called the greatest prize in Asia.”
‘The New Rulers Of The World’ is a collision of two of Pilger’s continuing themes – imperialism and the injustice of poverty. It observes the parallel between modern-day globalisation and old-world imperialism. “There’s no difference between the quite ruthless intervention of international capital into foreign markets these days than there was in the old days, when they were backed up by gunboats,” says Pilger. “Much of my global view has come over years of seeing how imperialism works and how the world is divided between the rich, who get richer, and the poor, who get poorer, and the rich get richer on the backs of the poor. That division hasn’t changed for about 500 years, but there are new, deceptive ways of shoring it up and ensuring that most of the world’s resources are concentrated in as few hands as possible. What is different today is there is a worldwide movement that understands this deception and is gaining strength, especially among the young, many of whom are far better educated about the chameleon nature of capitalism than those in the 1960s. Moreover, if the intensity of Establishment propaganda is a guide, at times bordering on institutional panic, then the new movement is already succeeding.”
The New Rulers Of The World was a Carlton Television production for ITV first broadcast on ITV1, 18 July 2001. Director: Alan Lowery. Producer: John Pilger. Associate Producers: Chris Martin and Laurelle Keough.
Awards: Gran Prix Leonardo Award, 2003; Certificate of Merit, Chicago International Television Awards, 2003.