GLOBALISATION & DEVELOPMENT
In 1962 Marshall McLuhan coined the term 'Global Village' to speak of the way electronic technologies were connecting up the world both socially and culturally. But it was not till the 70s that the word ‘globalisation’ first appeared in an advertisement for American Express Cards. It's clear from that that it was economics which was to utilitise the new electronic media to connect up labour, capital, and cultures into an inter-related global web. The word has come to represent a world where we observe an intimate connection of economics, politics and technology, culminating, some would say in a dominating cultural totality.
Benjamin Barber, writing in 1996, observed that against this pressure for unification is a backlash of localisation where each culture and subculture thrusts against its own extinction – the title of his paper was 'Jihad vs. McWorld'. Western capitalism has tried to get ahead of this backlash with the concept of 'Glocalisation’ (originally a Japanese concept) where control remains central but the impression is given that the local is the global producer’s major concern. As the Australian boss of CocaCola put it, "we have passed through global to local, so it's no good saying 'think global, act local' any more. From now on it's 'think local, act local'." This whole scene has made me want to ask questions not only about globalisation but also about Incarnation. Read on to find out more.
With Neo-liberalism has come the rise of the notion that 'the'Market is God' – so all our decisions should be made on the basis that the Market will decide how best we should act and think. Everything should therefore be seen in terms of its price in the market. Even education must be understood no longer as the opportunity to grow as a rounded human being but the chance to get ahead in the market for jobs. Health similarly is bought and sold, quantified and budgeted according to the market rather than human need. This means that all our social interactions today have a distinct neo-liberal flavour. Bishop Laurie’s international travel has informed his thinking and writing on this important subject – and his theology too seeks to inform this new predicament.
When we get under the skin of the issue of globalisation it soon becomes apparent that Globalisation and Urbanisation are dynamically interconnected one with the other. Indeed, you cannot have one without the other in today's world. Bishop Laurie therefore wrote a short book addressing this interconnection, describing it in clear terms and under the microscope of Theology - and this publication went viral. It was translated into many languages and worked on
in study groups around the world. The booklet argued that the dynamic of our new global, urban scene changes how we must engage the world both theologically and in our mission. The book was instumental in the establishment of the international Anglican Urban Network.
Towards an International Anglican Network and Commission on Faith in an Urban World, February 1999. (The Proposal document for the setting up of the Anglican Urban Network)
A Report on a visit to New York to investigate a way forward for the Anglican Communion, September 2000
Addressing the Global City, Texas 2002
Talk of a 'Developed' countryhas always been rather offensive to my ears. It usually refers to economic development but so often the wealth that that wealth has created is not shared by those who have played a significant part in creating it. Many indeed are made abjectly poor and have to suffer horrendous conditions by those who amass the wealth as if it is their right alone. The term 'development' gives the impression that with it comes the improvement in the life-chances of all the people of that nation, thus absolving us all of the duty to be alert to the needs of justice for all.
Scenes from the same city
Another concern I have is what the use of terms like 'under-developed' and 'developed' nations does to those who are so labelled. Often 'developed' nations adopt an air of superiority, assuming that the designation speaks not only of their economic clout but their moral authority, when this is usually so far from the case.
On my way home from India I usually stay for a while in the United Arab Emirates – renowned for its expansive deserts and extreme wealth. Some years ago I stayed with the Anglican Chaplaincy in Dubai which has a wonderfully international congregation. It is also working with the desperately poor workers who are constructing this playground for the rich. They live in atrocious conditions in men-only work camps outside city
limits and are bussed in and out to work their gruelling shifts on the great skyscrapers of the city. There is no unionisation and the work is very dangerous and they have no redress, even though many workers lose their lives in the construction process. So as the plastic play-ground is constructed for the few, the many risk their lives to earn enough to send back to the families they left behind. It's a familiar story from around the 'developing' world.
The Anglican Chaplaincy is deeply caring for all concerned and has been negotiating with the Dubai Government which allows the Christian community to worship on Fridays, so it was there that I was pleased to conduct a confirmation service one year.
The JUBILEE 2000 CAMPAIGN was a national endeavour to bring to the attention of people around the world the fact that the so-called 'developed' countries were offering their people the myth that they were caring for the countries that needed 'development' while all the time offering aid which was tied to the advantage of the donors. The international trade deals were also working in favour of the rich countries, to the extent that the 'third world' now actually owed the rich countries vast sums in debt which drained their every endeavour to better themselves. It was a story rife with corruption on all sides. Gordon Brown, the UK Prime Minister was an international leader in this campaign which included the gathering of thousands of us in Birmingham in 1998 where the meeting of the rich nations was taking place in the city centre to talk about trade. We formed a human chain all around the city centre to symbolise the chains of debt in which the poorer nations were enslaved. I still have the T-shirt!