A CHRISTIAN RESPONSE TO GLOBALIZATION AND DEBT*
J.B. Banawiratma S.J.
Let us approach this issue in three steps: (1) the challenge of globalization, (2) our religious response to that challenge, and (3) the problem of debt in the context of globalization.
The Challenge of Globalization
The phenomenon of globalization is most discussed from the economic perspective and understood as integration of economics of the whole world including the 3rd world into liberal capitalist economy dominated by the Group 7 (Delhi 1998, a group consultation on globalization). Globalization is not a neutral phenomenon. It might show itself as a positive phenomenon of human fellowship and solidarity promoted through international networking. Yet, it has been especially related to "neo-colonialism" (Mangunwijaya 1998), economic domination, cultural aggression and political imperialism. Using the expression of Pope Paul VI "financial or technical assistance was being used as a cover for some new form of colonialism that would threatens their civil liberty, exert economic pressure ... or create a new power group with controlling influence" (PP, 1967, no.53)
To open a broader discussion it might be useful to hear A. Giddens general definition on globalization.
We can describe the global action at distance with its multi-aspects affecting local and personal contexts with the following diagram (Boff and Pixley 1989:12).
The diagram shows that the action at distance happens not primarily between nations and states, but between the classes of different nations. The most marginalized people are the dominated classes in the poor countries. They undergo double domination, namely from the vested interests of international organizations and from the dominating classes in the South.
Economical action at distance includes three related areas - the movement of goods, capital and labour across national boundaries, in which free market plays the dominant actor directed by profit motivations of private enterprises (cf. Kunen 1997:17). The Human Development Report of UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) 1992 depicted global distribution of income in a famous figure of "champagne glass". The richest 20 % of worlds population receives 82.7% of the total world income while the poorest 20% receives only 1.4%. The gap between the rich and the poor is continuing to grow.
The global economical movement has been supported by political power in the North and in the South. The support has two faces. The authoritarian regimes prevent poor peoples participation in economics and politics, and free politics (sometimes in the face of democratic rhetoric) that is directed by interest of free flow of money. The Indonesian Bishops Lenten pastoral letter 1997, for example, mentioned among many other problems, the problem of corruption, collusion and manipulation in all areas of our national life.
The economic domination and political imperialism are supported by cultural aggression driven by the new technologies. The hidden and worst agenda of advertising is to produce peoples illusion so far as to hold the principle, that buying, possessing or consuming goods and services are the guarantee of human satisfaction and fulfillment. Sometimes the traditional values of culture are abused to manipulate people and to keep them silent towards the "imperialistic father in an over-extended family" (cronies). Instead of being critical to traditional values in the context of post-traditional social order, these values are abused for economical and political domination.
Religious Response: At the Side of the Power or of the People?
A short glimpse over the phenomenon of globalization brings us to deep impression and concern of its implication. Globalization is not a neutral matter. It is pregnant with ambiguity, with unfair competition and unjust relationship in all areas of life. The political, economical and cultural domination are interconnected. Often religion instead of defending the poor, becomes a part of powers hegemony.
The national problem is not only caused by foreign impacts; it is also a matter of national condition. The government exercises oppression in many ways. It has means like military, laws and ideology that often supported by cultures and religions. The government knows the importance of economy and the agents of big business need the support from the government. They act in collusion with each other with the expense of workers, farmers and victimized people. We can depict the domination as follows.
The diagram shows how the struggle for social change has structural difficulty strengthened by ideology, information, laws and military. The farmers and the workers (men and women) should organize themselves. By so doing the farmers can become more independent and autonomous. Not like now, rather than being producers they are more consumers of seeds, artificial fertilizer and pesticide that are controlled by the fabrics. Without empowering the farmers enough food can not be available. The workers should organize themselves, so that they are strong enough to struggle for their interest, so that they can participate in the process of production and take part in the profit. People and groups as many as possible should take part. But the first actors are the poor, the exploited themselves. Without their participation there will be no real social change. In other words, the way to follow is empowering the poor, promoting movement from below.
One of the impacts of globalization is the rise of fundamentalism (cf. Giddens 1994: 6-7, 245) that shows itself not only in religion, but also in family (nepotism), in ethnicity and race (primordialism) as well as in gender (patriarchy). Christians are not free from this temptation. The danger of fundamentalism lies in its refusal for dialogue and its potential for violence. In this condition, it has not been difficult for the military, and other interested parties, to manipulate religion and ethnicity in order to set one group against another and to divide and rule, devide et impera. The dominated and marginalized people become more powerless.
Religion is not a neutral phenomenon. It can be religion of the powerful or of the poor. Religion can legitimize injustice or defend the poor and the marginalized, live for justice and humanity. Being Christian is to follow Jesus Christ as the Way, to be with Him where He is and to do what He did and is doing. Consequently, orthopraxis has priority over orthodoxy, and both needs to be contextually performed. With the poor, God has an agreement to ally against Mammon, against the absolutization of power and wealth. Jesus is the symbol of the conflict between God and Mammori, between Gods kinship and Anti-Gods kinship, between positive and negative power. The criterion of following the Way is preferential option for and with the poor and the marginalized, whose primacy should be struggled for.
The Churchs preferential option for (and with) the poor and the marginalized need to be manifested concretely in all areas of life, economics, politics, culture and ecology. We should be aware however that the poor are not just objects of charity, they are also agents of social change. As for all human beings, their dignity comes from being made in the image of God, being co-responsible for the creation. Therefore, the most appreciative service for them is to be with them in such a way that they are able to empower themselves and to control their own lives (cf. Giddens 1993:208-231; 1994: 14-15). The efforts for the empowerment of the poor are the manifestations of option for the poor, which is centered in the poor themselves.
We need to be grateful that in Asia there are movements of justice, compassion and solidarity. We observe among the youth, intellectuals, legal advocates and nongovernmental organizations, inter-faith movements, efforts to empower people, to stand at the side of the victims, to defend the rights of children and women. The womens movement supporting the victims and to struggling against violence has manifested sensitivity for life and brought extensive impact. The community consciousness of legal values, freedom and justice, as well as cultural and traditional rights is increasing. We also experience universal trends to cooperate in the promotion of human dignity and human rights as well as democracy. All of these are the signs of Gods presence and action in our life in Asia.
It is also a really promising sign that Asian contextual and liberative theologies are flourishing everywhere (see Pieris 1988, Amaladoss 1997). Hopefully these theologies can serve not only as intellectus fidei but also as intellectus amoris et compassionis to help people of faith to be compassionate and loving God and the afflicted.
The Church is called to live not for herself, but to be open to follow Christ witnessing Gods kinship. A new way of being and living Church that is more flexible to face current challenges can be described as communion of contextual communities, namely Basic Christian (Ecumenical) Community towards Basic Human Community and Basic Inter-Faith Community as a community of dialogue and transformation. The call for global ethic can be put in a framework of globalization of solidarity, or "globalization from below". The imperialistic globalization should be met with a counter strategy, namely a culture of networking among contextual communities towards globalization without marginalization, towards building a worldwide community of justice, peace and integrity of creation. God is calling us to be faithful disciples of Jesus Christ in praxis; we are called to live out risk-taking solidarity with the victims. The credibility of our witness needs to be gained through our honest and sincere attitudes, words and acts.
The Problem of Dedt
One of the problems within the context of globalization is international debt. It is an example of international unjust relationship involving the debtor countries as well as the creditors. Take an example of Indonesia. "During the New Order period, the World Bank provided $30 billion in loan to Indonesian government. But due to existing culture of corruption, 30% of the aid was misappropriated. Finance has come to means of stealing and accumulation of wealth through the public fund without control" (Winters 1999: 90). J. A. Winters describes the fact as criminal debt. For more than 30 years the World Bank continued to give loan even when it knew that a big amount of the money was stolen. (Winters 1999: 124). Therefore, there is enough reason for Indonesia to demand cancellation of all or at least part of that criminal debt. Yosef P. Widyatmadja thinks in the same direction and offers suggestion how decrease in debt can be used as a way to seek the balance of the right of living and sharing natural resources (Widyatmadja 1999: 127).
The Catholic tradition has offered some considerations about the problem of debt at least since Pope Paul VI.
The encyclical letter of John Paul II, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis (1987, No 19.3-5; cf. Pontifical Justice and Peace Commission 1986) depicts the situation of foreign debt as follows:
U.S. Catholic Conference Administrative Board has raised the principles of justice, solidarity and the common good and offers the following criteria:
Again on the 100th Anniversary of Rerum Novarum John Paul II has written an encyclical Centesimus Annus, that also has concern for the problem of debt.
The problem of debt is one of the challenges to live out global justice and solidarity, the progress and participation of all, the priority of the poors rights to live (cf. Mueller 1996). By entering the year 2000 we are called to proclaim the Jubilee, the joyful message to the poor, freedom from all kinds of slavery. Let the Churches become symbols of Emmanuel, God dwelling among us. God began the good work in Asia, God is now doing good work in Asia, and God will bring it to completion.
* Presented as an introduction to discussion at the seminar on "Freedom from Debt Campaign Training", CCA, Chiang Mai, Thailand, November 28 December 8, 1999.