Globalization and the human person

Someone throws a brick through the window of a sneaker store that has factories in Southeast Asia likely to be exploiting workers, including children. "Protesters" tear down a fence and throw rocks at police because of a meeting being held to negotiate world trade agreements. Such events taking place in Seattle and Canada in recent months should give us pause. The violence is never justified. But might not there be a just anger?

Most of these people are reacting to (or say they are reacting to) issues of world trade as further intensified by what is called "globalization." Globalization is the rapid movement of people, products, wealth and culture across the world. Throughout history, we have seen small-scale globalization - think of the trade routes to India or the New World's development. Now, with the advent of advanced technologies of travel and information transfer, globalization is taking place at breath-taking pace. More is possible - for good or bad - more quickly, in more places than ever before.

Good people don't throw bricks or tear down fences. They think about issues, they posit arguments and peaceably take action. Often they suffer greatly. Occasionally they see some good accomplished because of their efforts. As Catholics, we can take the lead of our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, who recently said: "Globalization is (in itself) neither good nor bad. It will be what people make of it. (Globalization) must be at the service of the human person; it must serve solidarity, and the common good."

So, as for globalization, what are the possibilities? Many considerations of globalization center on the issues of trade, commerce and economy - we must turn these considerations back to the human person and the common good.

Some people worry that globalization will impact the job market and lead to the exploitation of workers in other parts of the world. We should look at these issues through the lens of improving all people's lives - not simply American lives. Others fear that globalization will degrade the environment; we should push for an understanding of good stewardship (with humanity at the center of creation). Still others fear globalization will foster the spread of the moral relativism (and other cultural aspects) from the Western industrialized nations to other parts of the world; we must respect the face of truth in other cultures and awaken the seeds of the Gospel within our own!

We should remember that we welcome cultural exchange and new people, rejoicing at the differences of people and places. Our Holy Father has talked about a right to migrate to where work and family may live better. Time and time again, it has been shown that the best way to improve the conditions of the poor is to promote jobs and economic development. Faith-filled economic development promotes the good of all involved.

When it comes to globalization, we must be advocates of a painstakingly thoughtful application of Gospel principles. We must bring moral truth to bear on the market and the world - truths emphasizing the inherent dignity of the human person and the common good of all humanity.

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