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Thursday, July 21, 2005

The Other Half

I have written in recent posts about globalization as articulated my Thomas Friedman in his “The World is Flat.” I visited the impact this is having as cultures collide. I have given a hint of what this has meant (and will mean) for the US and other technologically advanced societies. But there is yet another question. What about the roughly 3 billion people, half the planet, that are as yet untouched by globalization?

Participation in the global economy requires several things: An educated labor pool, a healthy labor pool, physical infrastructure, just social institutions, and hope. Most people can quickly identify the first four of these.

People must be literate and capable of doing basic mathematics to interact with the global economy. Diseased and malnourished people can not function on a day to day basis. In Africa, where AIDS is epidemic, not only are the victims incapacitated but millions of caretakers are absent from the economy. Countless orphans do not receive sufficient care and education. One of the biggest sources of disease is contaminated water. Without clean wells, water delivery systems, or at least roads over which to transport resources, there is no way to maintain healthy communities. With intermittent or no power, there is no way to take advantage of labor saving and life saving technologies. Furthermore, it makes no difference if an educated healthy person with access to needed infrastructure wants to advance themselves if government corruption, bribes, and absurd regulations only take back whatever they accomplish. Sexist or ethnically discriminatory values keep large portions of populations from reaching, or even trying to reach, their potential.

I believe that significant improvement for cultures suffering these maladies can only happen in the context of hope. There must be the belief that the future can be different. I have written elsewhere about Walter Brueggemann’s assessment that the goal of fallen human culture is to keep us in an “eternal present.” It is the belief that what is, is what always well be. It provides meaning and order, even if many or most live in deprived conditions. Challenging the “eternal present” is always dangerous because there are always some who disproportionately benefit from the arrangement and they will retaliate. People will not change unless there is some new vision that inspires them to risk and to struggle. They need hope.

What is the role of the Church in this context?


At July 22, 2005 9:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Remember this story:
In 1910 at the World Missions Conference in Edinburgh, the established missionary societies of the West divided the world in work areas so they would not get too much in each other's hair. These protestants decided also to stay out of Latin America, believing that, after all, it was Christianized already, by the Roman Catholic Church.
The Pentecostal movement, born in 1906, probably didn't know about this agreement, and sent missionaries to Peru and Chili, to work in the shanti towns. They didn't come with a social action plan, are you kidding, they were only interested in winning souls. That was part of their methods and ethos: a Christian is supposed to be actively involved in evangelism. If a young member of a church showed some gifts in evangelism, there is a good chance that his church would send him away to start a new church somewhere else in a shanti town.
These people were hopeless, but their faith gave them hope. They also accepted responsibility for others' salvation. It created an entirely different attitude in them. They started to see that education was necessary to get leadership skills.
To make a long story short: these Pentecostals, numbering well over one million now, are now predominantly middle class people, with many having college educations.
That's what hope did for them.
Fortunately, the government did not ruin everything for them, like governments have been doing in Africa.

At July 26, 2005 12:27 AM, Blogger CyberCelt said...

It is hard to have faith when you are hungry ...

In 2003, 36.3 million people, including 13 million children, in the United States did not have access to enough food for an active healthy life. Some of these individuals relied on emergency food sources and some experienced hunger.

Who is going hungry in the U.S.?

The face of hunger is the older couple who has worked hard for their entire lives only to find their savings wiped out by unavoidable medical bills; or a single mother who has to choose whether the salary from her minimum wage job will go to buy food or pay rent; or a child who struggles to concentrate on his schoolwork because his family couldn’t afford dinner the night before.

Aren't most of the people going to soup kitchens to blame for their own situation?

Almost 40 percent of households seeking emergency food banks assistance had one or more family member currently employed. Hunger is becoming a growing problem among the working poor.

If people are willing to work, why are they still at risk of going hungry?

United States has the highest wage inequality of any industrialized nation (Hunger in a Global Economy: Hunger 1998, Bread for the World Institute). People can work full-time, low-skill jobs and still not make enough money maintain a basic standard of living-buying food, paying their rent and medical bills, buying clothes for their children and affording a car so that they can travel to work.

How does hunger affect children?

Children are twice as likely to live in households where someone experiences hunger and food insecurity than adults. One in ten adults compared to one in five children live in households where someone suffers from hunger or food insecurity.

Child poverty is more widespread in the United States than in any other industrialized country; at the same time, the U.S. government does less than any industrialized country to pull its children out of poverty (What Governments Can Do: Hunger 1997, Bread for the World Institute).

Even relatively "mild" undernutrition—the kind of hunger we have in the United States—produces cognitive impairments in children which can last a lifetime, according to Dr. J. Larry Brown, director of the Center on Hunger and Poverty at Brandeis University.


Thought you might want to see this. I find it alarming that we can go to war to free another country and we cannot feed our youth and elders. God help us.

At July 26, 2005 8:19 AM, Blogger Michael W. Kruse said...

Thanks cybercelt. I hope to get to some of the issues you raise in a few posts. I am trying to do some Bible review before I get their. Hope you will check in and see what you think.


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