Technology is transforming Marshall McLuhan’s global village from theory into reality. Increased access to information, thanks to the Internet and the Web, shatters barriers erected by those who would monopolize it. The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, as well as transnational corporations (TNCs), saw the potency of such access in Seattle and Genoa, and now face it in their corporate boardrooms and stockholder meetings.
The media proclaims globalization’s advantages and disadvantages. Money flows from international lending institutions and TNCs to developing countries. Children receive an education, parents have better job opportunities, families benefit from improved medical care, and local farmers and industrialists can sell to an ever-expanding market. Countries begin to develop and climb out of debt, the quality of life improves, and children imagine a better future.
There are certain drawbacks, however. Those affected negatively sometimes seek refuge in intense nationalism or religious fundamentalism. Closer economic integration brings financial uncertainty and trans-border problems. Remember the Asian financial crisis of 1997-98? Over time, borrowed money can strangle a poor country, as in Africa. Development projects change people’s lives-and not always for the better, as illustrated by Mexico’s on-going Zapatista rebellion. National development policies can affect a region’s climate and, in the case of China with its huge population and rapid industrialization at the expense of its environment, the global climate.
Globalization has even changed our concept of time. Never has “time is money” been so accurate. Time has become an asset to be exploited, no longer a luxury to be enjoyed. Everyone wants to manage it better, to control it so that the hoped-for benefits will be attained. Now people say that the world is no longer divided between the haves and the have-nots, but between the fast and the slow.
The growing access to and use of antibiotics has spawned new drug-resistant bacteria, which means that antibiotics are becoming less effective. Moreover, some nations and groups are exploiting the wide availability of the experts’ increasing medical and technological knowledge of bacteria to produce biological weapons. Without religion’s assertions that all life is equally valuable and sacred, and that we must work together to uplift everyone, one day such weapons might be used.
To understand the advantages and disadvantages of such interconnectivity, we must analyze its impact upon our selves and our lives. This is one of the purposes of reflection and self-criticism, for these practices show us where we fit in. Many people use these tools to pursue corporate, political, national, or personal interests, whereas many others use them to pursue interfaith dialogue in the hope that tolerance, understanding, acceptance, and cooperation will spread around the world.
But the real value of reflection and self-criticism lies in helping us relate to existence and the Divine, as well as to nature and others, so that we may prepare for our own resurrection and eternal life. Once we understand that such issues remain relevant, regardless of time or place, we realize that religion was not invented by “primitive” people to explain what they could not understand.
We hope that you enjoy this issue and, as always, look forward to your comments.