Notes for Presentation on Globalization
Waterloo, Ontario - July 2001
John has reminded us of the root meaning of economics and ecology: care of our home or household. This would be the aim of a just economy. I'm sure each one of you in this room tries to run your home in a just way, tries to observe right relations within your domestic sphere. Yet when we think about it, corporate globalization has reached right into Canadian households through our consumerism, through an increasingly concentrated media with limited, often biassed coverage and even through an educational system that in a growing number of cases makes corporate advertising of MacDonalds or access to Coca-Cola a condition of grants, computers or software. Many of us feel a sense of connection and control slipping away: over our lives, our households, our communities, our sacred planet earth.
For it is one thing to have deepened our faith to the point where we can turn over control of our lives to God; it is quite another to turn over control to Monsanto, General Electric, Talisman or Nike, to name just a few of the transnationals.
Yet it is at the household level - at the level of heart and hearth - that we shall find what we need to respond to the challenge of globalization, the central challenge not only of this age, but for the planet. Because neither the planet nor the life upon it can survive the continued pursuit of an economic model based on unlimited growth and unlimited use and abuse of the bountiful but finite gifts of nature.
At the level of heart and hearth we find the response of faith that another world - a just world - is indeed possible. There also we find the strength, grace and creativity required to shape and to live out alternatives to corporate globalization.
I'll spend the next few minutes picking up on a few of John's key points and exploring with you ways in which we can not only resist the unacceptable, but realize a redeemed world.
The first thing I'm picking up, which will be difficult for you to see, is a handful of alphabets. John explained to us features of SAPs (Structural Adjustment Programs); the IMF (International Monetary Fund); the FTA and NAFTA (Free Trade Agreement and North American Free Trade Agreement). He went on to look at the MAI (Multilateral Agreement on Investment); the WTO (World Trade Agreement); and sub-parts of the agreement: GATS (General Agreement on Trade in Services) and TRIPS (Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights).
The only real rival to the numerous and awkward acronyms of the Anglican Church and our coalition committees are those of international trade. As a friend put it, "We're drowning in an alphabet soup of trade deals." So, keep a handful of alphabets in view. They help demystify the trade deals for me; they're a good reminder that whatever the flavour-of-the-year name, what's at stake is food, land, control over what's being grown and how it's being distributed, the health of our bodies and our health services, our schools and public education.
The next thing I pick up out of my household - "pretend," as she would say - is my little girl, our three-year old adopted daughter, Aurora. The story of Aurora's birth family is the story of our current economy. Aurora's birth mother is one of 13 siblings. The family lived in a rural area in central Mexico until about 20 years ago. I have never met Aurora's birth mother and know only the outline of this story, but it is so sadly common, played out world-wide, that we can imagine the details. Prices were down. Input costs were up. Subsistence level farming was becoming impossible in an export concentrated economy. Rural public services, such as they were, were being diminished. And what beckoning light appeared to the east? The first maquiladoras...the maquiladoras of Juarez.
The family moved to the city. Aurora's birthmother, then about 19, likely joined her siblings and parents in factory work. The violence and poverty of Juarez eventually pushed first the parents to cross to El Paso, Texas, then later on some of their adult children. Maquiladora work is not for the old. Not even for the middle-aged.
I next pick up the household radio, permanently tuned to the CBC, long-suffering from the cutbacks of successive governments. It is mid-April of this year. Aurora is running a wooden train through her bear's tea party. "The World at Six" is broadcasting a special on Juarez and its problems as part of the lead-up coverage to the Free Trade Area of the Americas Summit in Quebec. And I am packing a small case because the next day I will spend my 46th birthday making a 12-hr. bus journey to Quebec City.
The world converges in your heart and in your household.
I am going to Quebec because I do not want the maquiladoras of Mexico to be multiplied throughout the Americas. I do not want young women to be raped and murdered while making their way to or from the factories in the darkness of late night or early dawn. I do not want more rural families displaced from the land to make room for agribusiness. I do not want more miscarriages and handicapped births caused by agricultural workers being forced to handle pesticides with little or no protection. I do not want the increased incidences of asthma and allergies among those consuming the foods sprayed with those same pesticides. I want, as John quoted from the Church Leaders' Statement on the FTAA: "not just trade, but JUST trade."
I pick up from the bedside table in my room in Quebec a pair of swim goggles, a scarf and a bottle of apple cider vinegar. I can't believe it, but they are my new symbols of democracy. I have just hurriedly purchased them, realizing I need to be prepared for the events of the weekend in ways I never imagined.
Between Friday afternoon and Sunday afternoon I will have been tear-gassed numerous times, although never involved in or nearby any violent actions against the police or RCMP. I will have flushed out the eyes of dozens of people there to protest peacefully against policies and processes they judge to be unfair and undemocratic. People who are unprepared for and shocked by the violence of the response of the security forces acting under the directives of the Governments of Canada and the Province of Quebec. I will have just missed being fired on with plastic bullets; others, including a federal member of parliament, are not so fortunate.
A couple of weeks after "Quebec", a journalist friend in Ottawa emails to say she was there, off-duty, merely as an observer. "But there was no room for observers, " she says. Tear-gassed with contact lenses in, rescued by street medics she finds herself challenged to think differently about not only the current trade deals, but the governments that are brokering them.
Lastly, I pick up from my household a pair of my Aunt Edie's knitted socks. They are a celebration of the beauty and strength of diversity.
One of the main flaws of globalization is that its ideology and processes have no room for diversity. No room for cultural diversity, economic diversity, bio-diversity or human diversity.
As John noted, American fast food is now displacing flavourful and healthy local and regional dishes in many countries. American television dominates the airwaves worldwide and masterpieces of art such as Michaelangelo`s ``David`` are reduced to a sales prop for blue jeans. Transnationals, though not the main employers of workers, as John noted, take over, edge out and shut down the multiplicity of small businesses that are. Seed and gene pools become seriously restricted as growers are forced to reject a myriad of heritage seeds and species in favour of the potato most convenient to the french fry slicers, the MacIntosh apple that is round, waxed and travels well, the chicken that can most easily be factory raised. Indigenous populations the worlds over are pushed out and polluted out to make room for mines, cattle ranching and clear-cuts.
Conformity and uniformity are central tenets of globalization. Ursula Franklin, scientist and long-time peace activist, has said that she used to think politicians were ill informed, but well intentioned. She says she now knows them to be well informed and ill intentioned.
Her conclusion is instructive for an examination of our relationship - as individuals and as church - to power and the institutions and instruments of power. For let their be no mistake; globalization is about power. It is far too late in the day for naivete, self-deception or wishful thinking. Jesus understood very well how power was wielded. He saw and articulated powerfully who benefited and who lost as a result of the self-interested decisions of the powerful.
An effective and scriptural response to globalization is reflective action rooted in the values of citizenship, community and democracy.
Specific suggestions that connect with these values will be made at lunch tomorrow. You may also pick up a sheet I`ve prepared that sets out questions and offers directions for those keen to work for a redeemed world, a world where justice is globalized, not misery.
REFLECTIVE ACTIONWhat can we do? How not to be overwhelmed? How to turn anxiety into action?
Everyone in this room has the capacity to make a tremendous difference to the direction we are going in. And the Church at parish, diocesan, national and international levels has not only the capacity, but also the responsibility to act as an agent of positive change and transformation.
Our starting place is our hearts and homes. We don`t have to be experts on trade deals. But we do have to be honest about our attitudes and habits; we do have to inform ourselves about what we purchase, what we eat and how we invest; and we do have to be engaged with our communities and with the democratic process.
Since we all live and move and have our being in very different places and circumstances, there can be no one right response to globalization. But wherever we are, we might consider the following set of questions about:
In the coming days, weeks and months you will ask yourselves these questions in your hearts and in your homes. Your responses have the power to lead to a redeemed world where the globalization is of justice, not of misery.
The Eco-Justice Committee and staff assigned to it, the Primate's World Relief and Development Fund, and Kairos (the Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives) work on the issues of globalization through research, education, advocacy and theological reflection. We will be pleased to respond with suggested resources (print and human) to your enquiries about globalization and responses to it.
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