Chapter 15

The Power of TNCs
in the Story of the Asian People

In a way, I feel very much honored to be given this responsibility to I reflect upon the power of transnational corporations or TNCs in Asia. However, I must disqualify myself from this task in three ways. First, "People Toiling under Pharaoh," which I helped to produce, is a report, not a book. It is a report based on the 1976 consultation about TNCs held in Hong Kong. Many of the discussions during this present consultation (the Christian Conference of Asia-World Council of Churches ICCA-WCCI Joint Consultation on "The Church and TNCs" held in the Philippines in 1980) are, in a way, the expansion and deepening of that same consultation. However, I am not a specialist in the study of TNCs; therefore, I am not really qualified to do a thorough socio-economic analysis of them at this time.

Secondly, I do not think it is possible to make what we call a trans- or pan-Asian analysis. Some people might argue about that; but at this stage, such a pan-Asian analysis - let alone a global analysis - of the realities of TNC power in a concrete manner is impossible. This does not mean that we should not try. However, I want to disclaim any intention of analyzing the power of TNCs in the Asiawide context.

Thirdly, I am going to speak on the issue of TNCs, the power of TNCs, from what we might call a people’s perspective. This is because in Asia, particularly in the work of Urban Rural Mission (URM), Documentation for Action Groups in Asia (DAGA) and other organizations with which I have been involved, the concrete entity of the people has been our primary concern. In this context, I feel a little inadequate to speak about the people or even for the people. This is a very difficult task. You will see later some of the problems that I have struggled to overcome in terms of talking about the people.

In this consultation, however, I believe that we have three basic tasks that we have to begin to tackle. The first is that we somehow have to deepen our understanding of the reality of the people - what I call the stories of the people. Secondly, as much as possible, we must analyze the power realities of TNCs in the context of the actual lives of the people. Thirdly, I think we should be clearly aware that we are talking about this issue as a concerned group of Christians. Otherwise, we will be confused about what we can or cannot do. Our Christian involvement in this issue should be clarified through this consultation. Of course, all of the issues are not going to be dealt with in my small presentation. This is scheduled as a keynote address, but I do not think of it as such; rather, I am going to present some footnotes to this consultation.

In recent history, we are experiencing a giant new social organism which we call the TNC. I think the definition of TNCs has many problems; but for now, without defining it, let us recognize it as an organized reality with enormous power.

The giant corpus, people say, is not new, but I take issue with this assumption and would maintain that it is a new phenomenon. We began to realize its new dimensions of power rather recently, I should say, during the late-1960s. In fact, the phenomenon of TNCs and their power is very difficult to grasp at this time because information about them is not fully available. I do not know whether we are in a position, particularly from my Asian location, even to be able to obtain adequate information to do a serious analysis of TNCs.

We have been saying though that this new organization, this new social corpus, is not a natural organism. It is a human social organism, however, equipped with the best scientific minds, the most information, the greatest financial resources, the most efficient technology and the most complex organization. It produces everything that people can create from ordinary goods to cultural values. It claims it can solve all of the problems of human history. It is a new political agency, a powerful agency with political independence over sovereign nation-states. It is the most powerful, creative social corpus ever to emerge in human history.

What puzzles us, however, about the power of TNCs is precisely this point of its newness. Even if we had all of the information available about TNCs for accurate analysis, all of the categories of social analysis would probably be very strained. In recent years, how to understand this reality of TNCs in the world has been the great question. I have tried to survey much of the literature on TNCs, but my impression is that there is an inadequacy of concrete information and a lack of historical perspective from which to grasp fully this new phenomenon. As for my compilation of the report, "People Toiling under Pharaoh," rather than revealing the nature of TNCs in Asia, it has revealed the lack of information about them.

However, if you look very carefully, much of the information on TNCs comes from the TNCs themselves. It is not direct information gathered by us or the people. Therefore, the small-scale case studies of TNCs have been most significant, informative and helpful, as we have experienced in this consultation.

My proposal in this presentation is not to neglect analytical efforts to understand TNCs but rather to try to turn a little bit of our perspective from the TNCs themselves to the experience of TNCs by the people. Therefore, I have chosen as the title of my address "The Power of TNCs in the Stories of the Asian People." What concerns us is not the TNCs: it is the life, the actual living of the people. Today it is not so useful to repeat the claims of TNCs or to make counterclaims on the basis of statistics, economics or other explanatory means. Rather, we want to explore the stories of the people as a new historical perspective from which the reality of this giant social corpus can somehow be grasped. This new perspective may be seen as a human story of people in the world.

I. The Human Story of the People: Three Affirmations

I hope that this human story of people in the world and their historical perspective can free us a little from the logic of our existing societies, particularly from the rationality and logic of TNCs as a power which constantly confines, surrounds and incorporates us. When I talk about the human story of people, it is for me in many ways a new search to find another and different historical perspective from which to examine power. The struggle is not to remain on a too simplistic level but to delve into deeper concrete realities of history. We must break through some of the language barriers and the enslavement of our thinking on the rational, ideological and analytical levels. It is a struggle to break through these barriers and experience freely the concrete context in which we are living. Therefore, I want to make three affirmations about the human story of the people.

A. Stories of the People Reveal True Human History

First, this true human story is told by the people themselves out of their common sense and wisdom. The storyteller I call "bodily selfhood." I emphasize "bodily selfhood" in order to avoid the mental flight in which we often can lapse. Let me give you an example.

A friend of mine, a woman, has been working in Urban Industrial Mission (UIM) for a long time, since the late-1950s, therefore, for more than twenty years. One time when I met her, she confessed that she no longer felt able to effectively carry out mission with the workers.

"Why?" I asked. "What is the problem?"

Although she still understood the problems of the workers quite well, she explained, she had realized recently that she no longer felt the same anger as the workers, the anger that they experience in their day-to-day lives. This was such a shocking experience for her that she was contemplating quitting because it was no longer possible to bodily identify with the workers to the extent that she could share their concrete experience.

This sounds a little fundamentalistic in terms of the relationship between UIM workers and the people; but in all our understanding of history, if we lose our bodily or human identification with the basic concreteness of reality, our understanding of history will notbe fruifful or powerful enough. Therefore, I emphasize this bodily characteristic: the people who bodily experience historical reality in our context, the context of the TNC phenomenon, have the best experience of this phenomenon and are best equipped to tell the story of TNCs.

I will give you another example because this is the real point from which I want to begin. During World War II in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the atom bomb was exploded. Now how do we understand this experience? There can be many analyses of this particular experience. Probably the best scientific approach to understand the destructive character of the atom bomb would be by an atomic scientist who understands atomic physics. Let us take Einstein. An Einstein can mobilize social scientists, religious ethicists from theological seminaries, doctors, psychologists and military strategists to analyze exactly how much destruction the atom bomb caused. He can mobilize all the knowledge that the TNC has within its scientific grasp. But I wonder if that analysis will provide the quality of experience, the quality of understanding of the ones who suffered from the atom bomb.

How do we grasp human history then? Of course, we need Einsteins and all of the scientific analysis, etc. But it was many Japanese people who suffered and Koreans too. Some say that there are now about 20,000 Koreans living who experienced the atom bomb. Even if, at present, the knowledge of scientists about the atomic bomb is greater and more persuasive, I still maintain that a qualitative understanding depends on our efforts to collect all of the experiences and stories of the people who have suffered, including those who died (of course, we cannot get their personal accounts but rather the stories of friends and relatives who survived).

There is a certain impossibility of knowing the true experience of the atom bomb, however. There is something mysterious about the suffering that the people underwent. Throughout history, it is impossible to penetrate the reality of people’s suffering. Therefore, I would like to affirm that the stories that the people tell about their own suffering reveal the reality of history; and what is more, they have a parabolic character: they reveal something much deeper than we usually think.

People’s bodily experience is in two forms. One is the personal body, and the other is the bodily communion of people. I use this term deliberately - "bodily communion" - because I do not want to say "community"; I do not want to say "structure." It is a bodily experience of being together. There is a bodily communion. It is somewhat difficult to express; but in Korean, we call it Tong-chain Ton g-whal-che. It means participating together, living together or having activities together: this is a bodily experience. Both the personal body and the bodily communion of people form the basis for telling the story of the history of the people.

The people must tell their own story for themselves. Their present condition of life is that they are surrounded by languages external to their true desires and hopes. These languages justify and rationalize the power groups of which the TNC is no exception. TNCs merely use a more sophisticated and universalistic language to justify and beautify their power and image. These languages, however, do not express the historical reality of the people; instead, they select fragmentary pieces of the people’s language and organize these into a rhetoric that is merely an "extension" of the power groups.

The telling of the story of the people reveals the reality of their suffering and exposes the power-wielders’ language of "machination" as hypocritical and false. In telling their story, the people act as their own spokesperson rather than having somebody speak for them. To tell the story is to be the master of their own language and creator of their own meaning. They tell their own dreams and visions. They do not get intoxicated by the color television version of life.

The people’s language does not come from their heads first: it comes first from their bodies, from their guts. It is a bodily language. They cry, sob, agonize, fear, despair, get angry, curse, sigh, laugh, joke and rejoice -this is their language first and foremost.

The bodies of the people are often subject to strain, injury, sale and auction, poisoning, fragmentation, degradation and domination by forces outside of them.

The reclaiming of the human and communal body to be free and participatory will engender the historical dynamics to change the experiences of the people and, thus, release power for the people to move and to be in bodily communion.

B. The Human Story of the People Is One of Suffering

The second affirmation I want to make is that the human history of the people is a history of suffering. Suffering is something undefinable although we try to explain it throughout our lives, enlisting religions, philosophies and even social scientists.

What are the causes of suffering though? We have been grappling with this all through human history. If we do not know the causes, we cannot solve the problem. We cannot change the unexplained character of suffering, but neither can we be complacent about suffering because it destroys us. Thus, our basic attitude about suffering is that we try to overcome it whether we understand it or not.

Let me give you an example of what I mean by suffering. There is a Korean term, "Han." Again, Han is very difficult to explain. It is a feeling experienced by most women. It is an intense, accumulated, suppressed feeling of injustice, a deep sense of indignation. It is a kind of universal feeling of all the Korean people. When you are feeling oppression or exploitation, injustice or discrimination, especially when you experience this innocently without any cause, you experience Han.

One story goes like this. A woman was in love with a man, but he abandoned her and took another woman. In ancient times, once a woman was taken by a man as a lover, she could not get married again. She died as an unmarried woman and became a ghost, a spirit, and this spirit would go into the people. Her Han was so violent that at times it could make people crazy through all of its destructive acts.

I think the experience of suffering of the people creates a kind of Han, a powerful Han. This Han separates the spirit of the people from the body -sobbing, crying, feeling restless, destructive, crazy. This is the experience of suffering, and I think that the people have Han in relation to TNCs when they suffer under their power. According to what we have heard in this consultation, we must have experienced Han. I am not speaking simply in a symbolic manner. To counter the effects of suffering, that is, Han, we must mobilize the power of the people; the source of power becomes the important question.

We must now look at another kind of suffering. We might even call this the Han of Nature as well as the Han of the people.

We know that the people are blessed with the land and sea and Nature; they are the gardeners of the natural world. They know how to tend their natural world, even though at times Nature is violent. The people depend upon Nature and dare not make her angry. They praise Nature’s beauty and harmony and do not make Nature the object of exploitation.

The story of the people is an orchestration of the natural rhythm of natural life and human drama. In this regard, the wisdom of people has a lot to say. Nature is to be seen, not only in economic terms, but also with the eyes of people’s aesthetic sensitivity. But the new social organism of the TNC with its massive power of science and technology spoils, exploits, poisons and breaks that balance, turning the Garden into a wasteland where there is no shalom or koinonia between the people and the Garden.

We also know that the story of the people is interwoven with the experiences of suffering and joy, defeat and victory; yet up to the present time, suffering overwhelms joy. The entrance of the giant corporate entity of the TNC in the unfolding story of Asia has caused a great deal of experiences - positive and negative. Depending upon one’s perspective, the phenomenon of TNCs could be called modernization for those who benefit and coercion for those who suffer.

Human suffering, however, and the God of Justice are incompatible. It would be an unforgivable sin to explain the cause of suffering in terms of fate. There is some mysterious illogicality in suffering. Because of this illogicality and the innocence of people’s suffering, there arise profound yearnings for justice and vindication. These become important dynamics that move the people.

In reaction to these living dynamics, the antagonist rationalizes the irrationality and injustice of suffering in order to contain or divert the people’s movement. Such rationalization takes many different forms: myth, religious doctrine, ideology or even scientific rationale.

The story of the Suffering Servant and its equivalents in other religions though represents the core of the people’s experience of suffering. Christians confess that the Suffering Servant is the Messiah who liberates the suffering people. On this theological plane, one could affirm that the suffering of the people can have redemptive dynamics, especially their innocent suffering.

As we seek an explanation for suffering, we must not masochistically rationalize suffering itself; for where there is suffering, there is an irresistible will and power to overcome it. One should also not spiritualize suffering, for it is a total and whole experience of the body, soul and spirit. Suffering is a bodily experience - a personal as well as communal experience that has spiritual depth. The story of the people is their experience of striving to overcome suffering and to banish all of the structures - cultural, social and political - that undergird suffering.

C. The Story of the People Expresses Their Vision of the Future

I would like now to move to the third affirmation: an affirmation that the human story of the people holds a new vision for tomorrow. The people’s story expresses the vision of a future which is not a continuation of today, but a qualitatively new "today." The rulers, however, have made the future of their society an extension of the present as though history were a national continuum or a progressive stairs upon which the powerful climb.

The people’s vision of tomorrow is the real manifestation of their fundamental aspirations over and against the dictates of preconditioned plans of the future, such as the picture of the year 2000 envisioned by the so-called futurists. Because of their suffering under the present historical conditions, people dream dreams and become masters of social imagination for their tomorrow.

The Korean tale of Hong Kil-dong illustrates this dimension of the people’s story. Hong was an alienated youth, born of a Yangban (aristocrat) father and a concubine of low social origin. Because of his "improper" birth, he experienced discrimination. Hong organized a people’s justice party (Hwalbindang) to rob the rich and distribute to the poor. The tale of Hong stirred the imagination of the common people in 19th century Korea; for in addition to a redistribution of wealth, it included the vision of Yuldo

- a sort of picture of the people’s tomorrow - where there would be no discrimination or exploitation of the common people: Yuldo was a just society.

We need not romanticize the popular tale of Hong Kil-dong for others, however. The important message for our purposes today is that the vision and dream of the people’s tomorrow is a powerful ingredient in the story of the people, kindling a "wild" imagination that leads to transcending dynamics and a transforming movement of history.

I recall Samuel Parmar’s paper wherein he said that if we are going to understand TNCs and the reality of their power in Asia the starting point should be a new vision of the people. Thus, this element - a vision for tomorrow - is the basis for understanding the reality of Asian peoples.

Let me remind you of the story of Jesus the Messiah, who lived among the Galilean people and who interjected into the story of the people the powerful vision of the Messianic Kingdom of shalom, justice and koinonia as powerful transforming dynamics in human history. In this Messianic Kingdom, all of the people are resurrected bodily and enjoy koinonia, justice and shalom under the leadership of the Suffering Servant who has won the decisive battle against the Leviathan.

We see, therefore, that the story of the people is intertwined with the religious story that the people believe in. We also see that the dimension of the future enters into the drama and creates transcendent or transforming dynamics to break open the closed and limited experience of the present life for an unfolding story of tomorrow.

The World Council of Churches (WCC) recently established some signposts to the Messianic Kingdom through its focus on JPSS - Just, Participatory and Sustainable Society. These social goals, however helpful they maybe, should be interpreted as the predicate of the Messianic vision in the context of the people’s story in Asia.

II. People Toil under the Power of the Giant Corpus Called TNC

We have set the context to tell the story of the people toiling under the giant corporate power called TNC. Now we are proposing to understand the TNC as a new configuration of power in world history. What this means is that we should understand the TNC in broad political terms in which are integrated its socio-economic, political and cultural dimensions. Thus, the TNC is a giant power in the story of the people.

One of the major concerns about the TNC is its enormous power which disrupts the political life of the people. Some argue that the TNC is the engine of the military-industrial complex, which forms the technocracy. Technocracy is a social system in which technocrats and believers in science and technology form the dominant force in society and seek to solve all social and human problems through its use. What this means is that technocracy is a new system of politics where the political life of the people can be limited in relation to technology. The fundamental problem is that the participatory process is more and more curtailed through technocratic politics. Not only is political control over the TNC difficult because of its enormous power, but most governments are adopting their mode of operation based on corporations, especially on TNCs, where the sole aim is to control all factors in society for a designated goal: profit or increased power. The TNC is also difficult to control because it does not have a "political constituency" in a liberal democratic sense, although it exercises power politically and internationally as if it were a "sovereign state."

The political impact of the TNC in the Third World is very alarming. Its own political power is overwhelming when compared to national governments, even when disregarding the political backing of its home government. The TNC, once deeply entrenched, can decidedly affect the national economy and can endanger national security. Furthermore, the TNC in its home country (for example, the United States) acts under a degree of legal control and popular restrictions; but when it moves to Third World countries (they say "soft states"), it behaves like a lion in a jungle with no respect for the national laws of the host country. Rather, it uses political power to legislate laws to suit itself; and when laws are cumbersome, it uses illicit means, such as bribery and blackmail. For awhile, the U.S. Senate was very concerned about this kind of behavior exhibited by U.S.based TNCs.

Today TNCs act in the international arena as independent political agents, accountable to no nation in a traditional sense. This is the reason why they are called transnational corporations. The TNC is a "stateless state" with no popular constituency. It has its own foreign policy and influences major international issues, from war and peace to pollution.

What is the nature of this power, and what is its source of power? The TNC is a new Leviathan, which is beyond the grasp of existing political analytical tools. It is a giant social corpus that has control over science and technology, that dominates the organizational process of global society, that commands the best information and, most of all, that controls the productive system of nearly all nations, dominating the production of items from baby food to oil. (We have described the TNC, however, as a blind man would describe an elephant, that is, with only a partial picture of the elephant.)

The nature of TNC power is power without check; it is power in danger of becoming an absolute power in a relative sense, not in a traditional sense. No people’s power can control the TNC. This creates an unequal relationship in which the TNC is powerful and the people are powerless. The suffering of the people is fundamentally their powerlessness over their own destiny. TNC politics nullify political self-assertion, people’s participation and their vision for an alternative political life. Thus, the TNC inhibits political development in Third World nations.

When I try to analyze power, it helps me to approach the TNC in a comprehensive manner because power is a concrete reality when exercised. Also, power is comprehensive. Power is not merely a physical force: it requires organization; it involves science, technology, language, legitimacy and moral character; it involves spiritual, religious and physical character. Whatever means one person uses to push another person, he or she is exercising power. It is an influence, a force. Here, I understand this power as the antagonist in the drama of the people; thus, the structure of history is the story of the people as protagonists. They are the storytellers, the story creators, they make history. But the power is the antagonist preventing the unfolding of their stories. People try to go to Yuldo, but the power blocks their way.

Therefore, the problem of the people, their problem of suffering, can be described as the problem of powerlessness. We suffer because of powerlessness. Once the Asahan Dam has been built (the huge dam that was built in Sumatra, Indonesia, displacing many people and disrupting the environment), what can we do? We can do very little. It is part of our life. Jam not saying that we must accept defeatism. I have personally experienced recently that the understanding of human history in a very optimistic and, even sometimes, triumphant way is a betrayal of the actual reality of the people. The fact of powerlessness must be taken very seriously and so too must the power of TNCs.

What is the nature of this power, however? I am going to give a very simple analysis. The power of TNCs is, in the first place, a new organizahon and social existence, which we call a technocracy. "Technocracy" is broken down into two parts: "techno" and "cracy"; "cracy" is power. Techno-cracy is the power of technology and science. I try to describe TNCs as technocracy because science and technology have acquired new characteristics.

Brzezinski is famous for founding the Trilateral Commission and for being U.S. security advisor to former President Carter. He has written a small book called Between Two Ages. In that book, he tries to describe how science and technology are transforming the whole world organization. He says that "global village" is a misnomer: it is not "global village"; it is "global city."

Even if you are living in a rural area, you are living in the city because, Brzezinski says, satellites go around the globe constantly taking pictures. It is effective. The rural villagers do not know about them, but satellites constantly take pictures, and somebody does something with those pictures. This will eventually affect the villagers; for even though the pictures have not directly reached the village yet, they will affect what is going to happen in that particular place.

In other words, he is saying that Third World political leaders have no possibility of imagining what is happening in the world - science and technology, its organization, computers, communication - whatsoever. When I read this kind of information, I feel threatened. The other day I was reading Time magazine and learned that there is a satellite that takes pictures in such detail that even a car’s license plate can be read.

I do not want to be dramatic about this, but somehow there is a newness about this science and technology which we cannot completely grasp at this time. That is the reason why I try to understand the power of TNCs as technocracy because the TNC as a corporate organism is an engine or agency which promotes science and technology and utilizes it to affect our lives in their totality. It has an organizational principle which provides social structure in a certain way. It creates certain values. It determines what we should like and what we should not like.

Technocracy is a system of society composed of the believers and holders of science and technology. Believers means those who believe that all human problems can be solved through scientific and technological processes. These believers take control of power in a given society and carry out their vision for society. We then call this society a technocracy.

This technocracy has three components. The first is, of course, the TNC, the economic corporate organization, which is the engine of technocracy. Secondly, it has a government, which is increasingly organized in a technocratic manner. Decision making is also increasingly dependent upon technocratic processes, and technocracy has its inherent dynamics which affect the politics of a given society. (In other words, I raise the question of whether the technocracy, when it takes over the government, is not making democratic participation inherently impossible. This is a serious question that we must ask. Is not democratic participation ruled out?) The third component is the military. This particular component is very important be-cause here we begin to explain the militarization of our societies.

In about 1960, American sociologists created a doctrine. It was the ideology of the military as a modernizer or as a modernizing elite. Particularly in the Third World, the military is the crude translator of technocratic dynamics in this kind of environment. Therefore, inevitably, the basic problem common to our Third World societies is that the TNC presence, the government and the military are organized into a technocracy, not merely in terms of a political alliance, but by the inner logic of the power of TNCs. In other words, there is a basic integration of our societies through the functioning of the technocracy. This is being controlled, of course, by the TNCs.

When I say that TNCs have this magnitude of power and when I call TNCs a sovereign power, this also means that they have no accountability to any nation or people. In other words, this is a power which has no possibility of accountability. Maybe I am stating the case too strongly, but I want to make this point because we have the assumption that we can control technocracy.

The U.S. government, for example, somehow has wanted to control technocracy; and if we have a people’s organization with so many people organized, we believe that somehow we can control it. Thus, there is a basic assumption that we can control TNCs, but we are not certain about the "controllability" of TNCs. In other words, speaking somewhat theologically, is not technocracy a kind of absolute power, not in moralistic terms, but in terms of its own dynamics? Because no one can have power over and against the power of technology, therefore, technocracy is a power beyond control, that is, it has a certain absolute character.

Secondly, we may describe the power of technocracy as a new Leviathan, a new form of sovereign state. To explain its nature, technocracy uses science and technology and, therefore, is by definition extremely rational and logical, even mathematical. It uses mathematical logic as a way to extend its power. The computer is also mathematical; it is organized in mathematical themes and complex ways, and according to these themes, technology is created and implemented. Thus, the basic controlling mechanism is mathematical. It is a very puzzling fact, however, that the power of TNCs, whkh is supposed to be so rational, is, in fact, so irrational and cynical. I was rather surprised during our sharing of national reports to discover that TNCs, which are known to exploit people in a very rational and skillful way, also try to lie and cheat. In other words, what I am trying to say is that the basic character of TNCs as a power is cynical and very irrational. When they are not controlled, they become like lions in a jungle. I see this as a new Leviathan.

III. Resources of the People over the Power of TNCs

The stories of the people are told in terms of their suffering and their mastery over their own language, body and the future. For example, such storytelling is not merely to communicate one’s experience to others. To tell one’s own story is to be in charge of one’s own language, one’s own body, and, therefore, of one’s own destiny, the future. Thus, in the act of telling their story, the people have already begun to exercise power. It is important, therefore, that people speak and tell their story. I think this is one way in which we can begin to speak about and deal with TNCs and the suffering they have caused. As we work out how to tell the story louder, deeper and in more moving and persuasive ways, we can deal concretely with TNCs.

A second resource is somatic strength, bodily strength. I do not mean force, although, of course, force is important, but rather I am speaking of the bodily strength we feel when we experience history as a community or as a human body. Certain dynamics emerge in our bodies because of our perception and experience. In other words, we have to move; we cannot sit down all the time. This is fundamental. It is not just a physical movement; this is a movement of action, an act; it is a bodily movement. We can say it is a form of historical praxis. Community organization may be an example of the bodily act. Politics by the people, of the people, is a bodily act.

Thirdly, I want to talk about social imagination and give one example of this. In Korea, the March 1 Independence Movement of 1919 is regarded as the pivotal experience in Korean history. A study of this movement shows that many people - ordinary people - participated, even though they were not really very well organized in modern political terms. We could say that they just acted spontaneously. Many scientists and organizers believe that this kind of spontaneous act is not useful in political struggles, which they feel must be tightly organized and controlled, but I must say this: the language that emerged at that time was clearly some kind of apocalyptic-language-of-the-indigenous-kind. The people were feeling apathetic and dispossessed; they were discouraged and were not acting. Somehow, however, this apocalyptic language got into their bodies; they suddenly became militant; they suddenly changed. This phenomenon is very difficult to explain. In other word& the resources of social imagination - the whole world is going to fall and the new world is going to come - this kind of social imagination in apocalyptic language gives tremendous power and is a great resource.

Fourth, I would like to mention the spiritual strength of the people or the mobilization of religious faiths in Asia. I think this aspect of our concern, even in a discussion among Christians, is somehow much neglected or is sometimes underplayed or distorted. The story of the people is a spiritual drama. Some social scientists define the well-being of the people only in terms of the calories that make one physically healthy or the goods that satisfy one’s material needs, but this is a very cheap view of human development. The story of the people contains an abundant life of spiritual struggle and meaning. The spiritual strength of the people, in particular, is the very power that makes them survive and strive for tomorrow. Therefore, the mobilization of our religious strength is most important in terms of the resources of the people to deal with and to fight the power of TNCs.

Finally, what I call the koinonia of the people is our abiding resource. We talk about the solidarity of the people, but I would rather use this term, koinonia, because it is a concrete experience of the people, like the koinonia we have felt here. I think this experience, even a brief time of being together, gives us tremendous resources and generates immeasurable amounts of energy. It is very difficult to define koinonia precisely; but among the people, koinonia is a very important resource and power to deal with many different and difficult situations. Just to give you one example: How to deal with the question of defeat in a concrete situation is a very important issue in our struggles. We do not always have victories. Thus, koinonia is an important resource that enables us to deal with defeat, to deal with the situation of not being able to understand, to deal with the sense of powerlessness. Koinonia includes the characteristics of participation and sharing. The people’s language and body, their role as gardeners and their spirit form a sort of paradoxical power of the powerless. This is qualitatively different from the arbitrary, brute force of the ruling power: it is the power of truth, love, peace and justice; it is the power of resistance against injustice; it is the power of brotherhood and solidarity of the people, full of human love.

The power of the people emerges when they have the solidarity of koinonia among themselves. Their power is also their vision of their destiny; for when the people move for tomorrow, their power rises. This kind of people’s power not only counterbalances brute force, but it also challenges the nature and legitimacy of corporate power, such as the TNC. The reality of the people’s power has some disturbing effects, however, because there is no structural continuity between the power of the people and the power of the powerful. The former exposes the irrationality and injustice of the latter, thus, beginning the transformation of the power of the giant corpus. The true human story of the people can then be created, which may be called "humanization by the people."

Victory is not inherent in the story of the people, for no power can be organized against the giant corporate power on its level. Victory is an impossibility. Therefore,, the story of the suffering people has to be connected with the victorious story of the historical miracle. Historical transformation is not achieved as the inherent logic of history, but the suffering of the people brings about transformation, such as the Ultimum Novum (New Tomorrow).

The first point pertinent to this discussion is the politics of the Messiah. Now the term "messianic" is very dangerous to use: very dangerous in the sense that "messianic" is sometimes associated with national chauvinism or the TNC as the source of salvation, just as nationalism used in terms of the nation-state is equally alarming. Messianism used in association with power- realities, like the TNC, is demonic, satanic. It is not truly messianic because in Christian language the Messiah is the Suffering Servant - the most adequate image of the Messiah in my opinion. Servanthood is the true form of the Messiah. Not only is the Suffering Servant against the power of injustice, but through the power of the Suffering Servant, the ontological status of the power is negated. In other words, power is not supposed to exist in human life. The arbitrary use of power does not have a place in the story of the people. But it is there. It is an inevitable fact; it cannot be justified; it can never be explained.

This Suffering Servant is also a leader; He is supposed to save everybody, not with his power, but through His suffering. It is here that we witness Messianic koinonia with the people in which the Messiah has solidarity or koinonia with the people who are suffering. It is here that the people’s politics come into play and transform history, the power-reality, in the most fundamental way. This is what I call the Archimedean point, the point from which we begin to think about the reality of power. Thus, this fight against TNCs is not a question of whether we have a little bit of control over TNCs and make them a little more human; rather, it is to fundamentally transform their tendency to hold power.

Secondly, in the Christian understanding, the Messiah is of the people, and the people are of the Messiah. In other words, the identity of the people and the Messiah are united in the Suffering Servant. In the Christian understanding, therefore, the first point of solidarity is in suffering. Solidarity should be like love, the solidarity of love, the solidarity of struggle in a concrete sense. Here the implications are related to my earlier story about my woman friend who had been working with the laborers, who had a basis from which to participate when she shared their suffering. I think this Messianic koinonia with the suffering of people gives us a kind of theological foundation from which to delve into the stories of the people.

The third point relates to the cross and resurrection of the Messiah with the people. We assume in our thinking that somehow social transformation and society after the transformation is somehow explainable; the transition is somehow rationally explainable; there is some theoretical linkage between the old and the new societies. On the basis of this assumption, therefore, you can program the results. I question this assumption. If we have this kind of assumption, we will fall again into a kind of situation where the theory is not really a good theory if the transition is not good; the theory is not working. In other words, with our theoretical foundation gone, we cannot fight.

In the Christian faith, we never talk about the process of cross-suffering and the victory over death as a continuum. But we believe in the resurrection. For me, the resurrection is the overcoming of suffering, the overcoming of death which is the ultimate destiny of suffering. This death, the cross and the resurrection provide a structural understanding of the story of the people. However, this story is, in a way, fundamentally disjunctive in that the story of suffering cannot easily be connected to the story of resurrection.

Finally, the Messianic vision has two components. One component involves the resurrection of the bodily people. The resurrection of the body is important. We do not believe in immortality of the soul, and we do not believe that bodily resurrection takes place only at the end of the world when people get up and begin to tell their past stories. The resurrection takes place and its bodily movement begins here and now.

When the body is hit by a hammer, it resists. You have a pain in your body because you react very violently. That is the pain; you do not feel pain if you do not react. When you have been beaten up, you feel pain at first. After four or five rounds, however, you do not have pain; the body does not react. When the body reacts, it is a sign of life. In other words, this bodily resurrection should not be understood as an abstract idea. This physical body that we possess is a spiritual body; there is no other body besides this one.

A second dimension of the Messianic vision includes shalom, koinonia and prosperity. Some people might question prosperity, but true prosperity must be talked about by the people. Why not prosperity? Only justice? I do not want justice without prosperity. Give me land, abundance - something concrete - something to eat and enjoy. I do not want freedom only; that is too abstract. I do not want only koinonia; there should be a good life. Some people will say that you should be ascetic and that materialistic things are bad - not to the people! We must have this kind of concrete vision of prosperity.

As the people go forward to the Messianic Kingdom of shalom, koinonia, justice and prosperity, we can have hope. In this way, I hope we as Christians can participate in the story of the people.

In conclusion, I would like to make one statement: The basic unit of Christian praxis is koinonia. This koinonia is acting with Messianic conviction, vision and style in the story of the people where the battle is going on between power and powerless people. This is my vision - perhaps inadequate - about how to participate in the struggle of the people against the power of TNCs.