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Globalization and Human Solidarity by Tissa Balasuriya


Fr. Tissa Balasuriya from Sri Lanka is a leading spokesperson of Third World Theologies. He is the Director of the Centre of Society and Religion in Sri Lanka. He is the author of numerous books, including Eucharist and Human Liberation, Planetory Theology, and Mary and the Human Liberation. Published by Christiava Sahitya Samithy, Tiruvalla 689 101, Kerala, S. India, November 2000. Used by permission of the publisher. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted & Winnie Brock.


Chapter 4: Deeper Approaches and Alternative Long-Term Goals


A critical analysis of globalization would, hopefully, lead to an option for the genuine development and liberation of the people, especially the poor. Studies have to be carried concerning the economies, the social conditions of people, their human rights, working conditions, the flow of capital, the ownership of assets in a country and world, the availability and ownership of finance, the operation of agencies like the WB, IMF and WTO. We must be able to assess the impact of SAPs on the life of people. Data thus gathered and analyzed may show that the SAPs are a form of economic genocide as maintained by Michel Chossudovsky of Ottawa, Canada.(“Structural adjustment is conducive to a form of ‘economic genocide’ which is carried out through the deliberate manipulation of market forces. When compared to genocide in various periods of colonial history, its impact is devastating. Structural adjustment directly affects the lives of more than four billion people”. Quoted by Martin Khor in Third World Resurgence No. 74, p.17, Penang, Malaysia 1996.)

In this connection we can appreciate the need and significance of economics literacy, computer literacy, use of media so as not to be brainwashed by the systemic forces, and dominant orthodoxies. Since we are bombarded daily by the mass media with news and views on the economy and economic policies, it is necessary to be trained to demythologize the claimed orthodoxies of economists, academics, policy makers and media programmes, as is accepted in the case of the stories of the scared scriptures. Otherwise we could be used for promoting capitalist globalization. Such training has generally not been regraded as pertaining to the agenda of the schools of social and spiritual formation.

Partial Remedies Need Deeper Approaches

Some types of action and service are necessary, but by themselves they do not deal adequately with growing inequality and impoverishment. Thus

charity to victims -           is not a relief for social injustice

social service                   -           is not a corrective for social injustice

private enterprise             -           is not a substitute for public policy

local action                      -           is not a remedy for global problems

micro level action             -           is not a cure for macro level needs

poverty alleviation            -           is not a panacea for growing inequality

prayer, meditation            -           is not a proxy for needed social action.

Each of these is however good in itself and must be done partly as a remedy to the immediate problem and as a useful and necessary part of the longer term solution. Some persons and institutions may be called by talent and temperament to do only such a charitable work. But society as a whole should not be content with merely doing such relief work or giving such partial attention to issues, for it can prolong the problems. It even gives a good conscience to persons and society that do not deal with the root causes of the social problems.

Relevant action requires good information, data, knowledge and analysis. These must be made available to action groups. Peoples empowerment depend on conviction- commitment - for continuity.

In the absence of a systemic analysis persons of goodwill can be (unwittingly) used by the powers that be for their benefit:

-     to take care of the victims of the exploitative system,

-     to be the heart of a heartless world as Marx said of religion,

-     to ensure continuity of the power system

-     to educate the next generation to accept the dominant values

-     and be trained in the skills required for running it to legitimize the exploitative system

-     to prevent dissent leading to revolt

 

Such charity and social workers will be given an honourable place in it, and even respected when they do not contest the greed and injustice of the dominant.

It is not enough to be neutral, passive or concerned with only into local issues. The dominant system is going ahead spreading the values of the capitalist mammonic cult, economy and power.

To be merely conservative is to be defacto collusive with the destructive system. People must be conscious of the unintended bad effects of our good intentions and dedication. Christians must learn the lessons of their participation in the first phase of capitalist led globalization from 1492/1498 onwards. With immense dedication Christians by and large helped to build the unjust world system of colonialism. Are not most Christians generally neutral during this present phase of our re-colonization? If we are not active against it, we will be defacto used for it.

A good critical analysis of society should lead to an option for justice to all. People must be motivated to share wealth and not take more than a fair measure of the limited (and non-renewable) resources of the earth. This is particularly difficult but incumbent on the wealthy persons and countries. It means working practically to bring about changes in what is produced, and in the distribution of incomes and wealth so that urgent human needs of all are met before luxuries for a few. Such loving service in an unjust world demands in addition to personal charity and social services, changes in human relationships and societal structures to accept all needy persons as equal in dignity and rights. Such social justice is a specific spiritual challenge of the present and coming generation everywhere.

A local and global struggle has to be undertaken at least to moderate the giant TNCs that now control the production and distribution of most daily used commodities throughout the world, not to mention arms and drugs production and sales. This struggle can be inspired by their religions and moral ideals, to safeguard themselves and the world from such dangers and improve their quality of life according to the genuine values that can give hope and happiness to all. Much creativity is needed in the global situation as the leaders of capital use the most sophisticated and calculated means to increase their economic stranglehold on the poor peoples. A sustained struggle is required against the globally organized power of the TNCs, the rich countries, the WB, IMF, WTO and the collaborative local elites.

Alternative Long Term Goals

The counter power and strategies of action have to include alternative goals and means of realizing the vision both locally and at the world level.

A Just World Order: Global Ethic

The world has the means to provide every person and people with the means for a decent life. The overall alternative to capitalistic globalization would be the utilization of the advances of science and technology for the betterment of all present and future human life on earth. The whole earth should be regarded and treated as the physical environment for all humans (too) as consumers and producers, to be managed by collective human action for the common good of all. This can be termed ‘Globalism’. It was the philosophy that the poor countries urged, unsuccessfully, in the 1970s demanding a New International Economic Order (NIEO).

Such globalism is based on a collective interdependence of all in the world; not the collective dependence of South on the North as in capitalistic globalization. Where basic’ needs of all are cared for before the luxuries of a few. The rise of global consciousness can be a positive value in the forward march of humanity towards a more just and integrated civilization. This perspective is based on the position that the present capitalistic globalization is not inevitable, not uncontrollable, not irreversible. It is not viable in the long term and is not ethical. It is our challenge to work towards a more human world, that for Christians is the effort to move more towards values of the kingdom of God on earth as relevant to our times.(cf. Tissa Balasuriya: “Planetary Theology”, Orbis NY; 1984 and “Global Theology” CSR Pamphlet 50; August 1991.) People need to be empowered by activities such as building local capital through savings, promotion of organic agriculture, agro-industries, appropriate technology, cooperative enterprises, local trading, foreign debt renunciation or cancellation. The poor, marginalized people have to build their strength in order to move towards an alternative socio-economic order.

A New Type of Person

All concerned with the future of humanity must try to bring into being a new type of person, whose loyalty to humankind and to our planetary home is primary. Such a person would not neglect her or his own home, locality, or country, but rather so care as not to hurt others and the earth.

Given today’s consumeristic waste and ruin, such persons would try to simplify their wants. They would not find joy in acquiring as much as possible, but in sharing with others and in demanding little for themselves. Service to others would not be only a duty but also the source of profound inner joy and societal harmony. Instead of profit maximization for self or a small group, service to all would be a powerful motivation for creativity and a fair distribution of natural resources and of the fruit of human labour.

Respect for nature will enable such persons to rediscover the original and organic beauty in the ordinary things of life-bodies of water, trees, fresh air, the sunset, the moon, birds, fish, flowers, music - and in the creative arts. This is a quality of life that urban technological culture tends to neglect. It needs to be rediscovered for the human person to find fulfillment in a way that excludes greed, acquisitiveness, destruction and waste.

This is an eminently spiritual vocation that is consonant with the best inspirations of all the worlds major living faiths. It is a call to radical change because it entails transcending our narrow selfishness and loyalties to smaller groups that we have tended to absolutize. In accepting the other as other we have to learn to respect other race, the other sex, other religions and cultures, and not be a party to the exploitation of one by another.

The present world crisis summons us to grow in awareness of and sensitivity to others. This is a never - ending process, it is the path to other - centeredness and holiness. Those who follow it will naturally also bring an influence to bear on family and social life, on national and global relationships.

They will think of family life in relation to the good and the rights of other families. Through claiming a legitimate freedom for themselves, they will exercise that freedom with a sense of responsibility to others. In employment they will seek to make public and economic life serve the common good.

Motivation for this new type of person will be drawn from the theology we discussed earlier, in which God is seen as caring for all, Jesus is a brother to all, the spirit is present universally, the earth is our common mother, and society and history are where we can meet God in service to others. It is also a guarantee of personal fulfillment and happiness in living not for the possession of things but in service to others.(Tissa Balasuriya: “Planetary Theology”, Orbis NY, 1984 pp. 200ff.)

Know Strengths and Weaknesses

An important aspect in the struggle against the unjust globalization is weakness of the poor themselves. Their ignorance, laziness, corruption, selfishness, waste, divisions and conflicts must be recognized and corrected. The weaknesses and faults of the poor peoples lead to fragmentation of the liberative struggles. The civil wars in the poor countries and the wars of neighbouring countries like that of India and Pakistan lead to an enormous loss of lives and waste of human resources. Resolving these problems has to be a priority in the poor countries. Without internal peace with justice there will be no genuine development even if world structures are changed. Education for peace, communications among groups, attitudinal changes transcending narrow divisions and political and constitutional reforms are essential for resolving these problems.

Natural Resources

The poor countries are poor, not so much because they lack natural resources, but rather because their resources are being taken over by others, often at very low prices. The OPEC countries were able to obtain a considerable share of the wealth of the world by combining to raise the price of their oil exports. The terms of trade for the raw materials of the poor countries are a grave injustice in our world system. In a sense the poor countries are poor because they are impoverished by being opened up to the world system under terms that are unfavourable to them. They are now being compelled to sell their more valuable assets, production bases and services at cheap prices, e.g. removing their minerals as raw material for industries abroad, without the technology being communicated to them. The pollution of the land, waters and air that are concomitant with this globalization affects the environment of the poor countries also sometimes without their being able to control it.

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