Globalization and the Passion
Globalization is a priori neither good nor bad. It is what people make of it. What is at stake is the quality of globalization. Likewise what is at stake is the quality of the contributions we bring.
-Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, 2002
These comments by Archbishop Martin were spoken during his keynote address on the 2002 Conference on Humanizing the Global Economy. The Church has, for a time now, become aware of the phenomenon known as Globalization and it has also realized that this phenomenon is crucial for shaping the world we live in. At that time the Church along with civil society was becoming aware of the increasingly interconnected world we were living in. Now, with the global food crisis, the global recession and, most recently, the emerging swine flu pandemic, we are all well aware of the global state we live in. To understand how and why things happen in the world it is important to understand the lens of globalization which alone can offer us any real understanding for world events. To help us understand how our economy works, why terrorism is on the rise, why the climate is changing, or what dictates the foreign policy of almost all nations including our own we have to understand the context of Globalization which affects all these things.
Globalization has ebbed and flowed throughout human history. We should recall that Christianity was born and developed during a period of Globalization that at the time was developed by the Roman Empire. More recently after two world wars the experiments of the League of Nations and the United Nations have attempted to organize this global society. Economically globalization really took off after the Second World War especially with the ideological competition between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. Today we find ourselves living in an economically global society and still struggling with a politically national agenda. Just think for a moment about how eager we are to tear down certain economic walls through the elimination of trade barriers while politically we are eager to build new walls like the one between the U.S. and Mexico.
As a community whose mission is to bring people closer to God through the message of the Passion we are obliged to live out this evangelical counsel which, along with chastity, obedience, and the memory of the Passion, we identify as essential for our goal to be with God. We (lay and vowed) ought to strive to also live out this value in our own daily lives and asses our own use of “riches.” However as we are a preaching community we also ought to highlight the lack of values towards global solidarity that exist in some of our global economic policies such as with our trade agreements or with the conduct of out transnational corporations.
Today’s Globalization is very complicated. We are fortunate enough to have organizations that attempt to simplify this massive phenomenon. The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has developed an educational site known as Globalization 101. In its general definition it states:
Globalization is deeply controversial, however. Proponents of globalization argue that it allows poor countries and their citizens to develop economically and raise their standards of living, while opponents of globalization claim that the creation of an unfettered international free market has benefited multinational corporations in the Western world at the expense of local enterprises, local cultures, and common people.
Globalization is a process of interaction and integration among the people, companies, and governments of different nations, a process driven by international trade and investment and aided by information technology. This process has effects on the environment, on culture, on political systems, on economic development and prosperity, and on human physical well-being in societies around the world…
This sets the tone for Archbishop Martins comment. As a phenomenon Globalization is neither good nor bad, it’s simply an amoral concept. It becomes good or bad pending on how humanity creates and utilizes this phenomenon. One of the major issues that has emerged is the widening gap between rich and poor.
The response of the Church and of Catholic Social Teaching is to “Humanize the Global Economy” and to do this by promoting a spirit and a global ethic of solidarity. Pope John Paul II encyclical on Social Concerns offers this vision on the ethic of solidarity:
Solidarity helps us to see the ‘other’-whether a person, people or nation-not just as some kind of instrument, with a work capacity and physical strength to be exploited at low cost and then discarded when no longer useful, but as our ‘neighbor,’ a ‘helper’(cf. Gn. 2:18-20), to be made a sharer on a par with ourselves in the banquet of life to which all are equally invited by God. #39
Global solidarity is the key that will guide our Catholic response to the Global world. Through Global solidarity we would identify the global relationships we engage with and be a responsible agent of the global community in responding to the structural forces that impact and shape these relationships. We relate to the Global world through our own investments and consumptions as well as through specific global relationships that we have with our missions or with the international community. America’s main impact on the issue of Globalization is played out through its transnational business community and its International Trade Agreements. To be sure there are other factors such as foreign debt and aid as well as the role it plays with international institutions but Corporations and Trade are, arguably, the most powerful forces of American Global involvement. We American Passionist will need to address these issues especially as we see that they are emerging from those in the underdeveloped nations.
The concrete expression of this ethic of global solidarity is found in the tradition of the evangelical counsel of poverty. The Passionist Rule states:
In a world where the unjust distribution of goods is a major source of division, hatred, and suffering, we want our poverty to witness to the true value and purpose of these goods.As far as possible we intend to share our life with others, and to use our possessions for the relief of suffering and for the increase of justice and peace in the world. – #13
Poverty is not only an exhortation toward living a simpler lifestyle. It is also a lens from which we understand the purpose of our divine calling which is to preach the salvific message of Christ Crucified. The purpose of preaching the Passion is to lead ourselves and others towards a loving relationship with God. Many factors lead us and other members of the human community astray from this path. Not least is the factor of materiel wealth. In reflecting on poverty Fr. Aelred Smith, C.P. offered this analysis:
The “problem” of riches is that they create a self-dependence which leads to separation both from God and from one’s fellow human beings. Riches wither the human spirit. Riches leads to an overconfidence in human resources and human capability to the neglect of God and inner values.
Social structures are a reflection of the human condition and structures of Globalization are no exception. When we consider the global role of our own wealthy nation, along with its own global self confidence and either the lack or idolatrous use of Divine values, we have every reason to think that Fr. Smith’s reflection is applicable here. Solidarity is the social value that can break our nations vice towards “riches” and self-dependence.