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Archive for the ‘Economy’ Category

I have seen many villagers who used to have many buffalos, cows, and chickens living on five acres of land. They were once satisfied with life and were named successful. And then there were motorcycles, pickup trucks, mobile phones, and processed food in the market. Then they were told what they really needed in life in order to be happy. Things they needed to have. Processed food was better than their chickens and vegetable in their backyards. Their buffalos were not as good as the pickup trucks and their village ways of communication had to be replaced by cellular phones. And they became less satisfied. And they started to think of themselves as the outsiders. And they felt poor and oppressed. They were once again told that to move into the inner circle, to feel better about who they are, they needed to exchange buffalos for trucks, cows for motorcycles, and chickens plus cabbages for processed food. And they started to feel better about themselves owning trucks, riding motorcycles, speaking through cellular phones, and eating hamburgers. They thought life must be better even though they have sold their animals and lost their farms. From self-employed they have become employees. From owning farms, they are employed to work on their very own farms.

When globalization is driven by market capitalism, the world becomes a poorer place to live in because big corporations will always control the market making it impossible for independent farmers to compete.  Soon we will be faced with the world controlled by few major corporations dictating policies for their self-preservation.

We were told that we live in a global village. And interdependency is a necessity. We have to learn to live with one another, depending on one another, selling and buying products from one another. I think interdependency is a great idea. However there is also that false dependency where mutuality is not the basis for ethical conducts. The more we depend, the less free we become. The less we depend on others for our sustenance, the more free we become. The more we need, the less we have. It seems to me the simpler we live, the more space we have.

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This is awesome as it challenges our understanding of what education is all about. It seems that ultimately life is about living and things pertaining to living. And living deals with the every day thing of sustenance. However we have transformed this world through global economy into a world of dependency that takes advantages of our earth and all the resources in order to feed a reality that we build for ourselves. Local economy through local resources seems an option that we have not quite explored enough. This TED talk on an innovative form of education is something to ponder.

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Globalization has not resulted in global prosperity that it has promised. According to the 2006 World Development Report, the gap in income per person between the thirty riches countries and the thirty poorest countries grew from 17 to 1 in 1980 to 27 to 1 in 2002.  People at the top 20% benefit from liberal free-trade policy and the higher they are up the ladder, the higher the profit. However, the lower they are the lower they will lose out in proportion. According to United Nations Development Program, in 1960 the gap between the richest 20 and the poorest 20% was 30 to 1. By 1991 it has grown to 61 to 1 and by 1994, 74 to 1. In 2004 the gap between the top 10% and the lowest 10% was 103.

What is the effect of globalization on labor? Here are some examples:

Globalization and Agriculture

Globalization and Factory Workers

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I do not recall the last time I felt hungry and if I did it was not because I did not have access to food. It was because my work kept me busy or I was busy doing other things. I could not imagine what it is like to feel the hunger and not knowing when the next meal may arrive or to live with hunger over extended period of time. I used to make it a requirement for my class for students to fast a meal and give that amout of money to a needy person. And while the students were all so willing to give, they would complain of how hard it was to go without a meal, to be hungry. My complaint has only been overeating. And we are spending our time trying to loose weight. Yet there is another reality out there. Check out this link. Hunger

 

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Recently a friend asked what my faith is to me and I ponder the depth of what this question mean to me. What is Seventhday Adventism to me? In the process I was drawn to the question of the Sabbath, the concept of rest.  What is so restless about our society that makes rest a rare commodity?  We always talk about rest but it does not seem as if there’s really a place in our world. Even in the world of Adventism that I’m in. There are plenty of striving and struggling to be good enough as defined by the religious insitution and interpreted locally and regionally. When perfection is demanded, there’s no room for vulnerability. And without vulnerability, there’s no room for rest neither.

A couple of months ago I had the privilege of sitting with a Thai professor from Chulalongkorn University. I asked him about sustainability and he invited me to reflect back to the time with Thailand was a agricultural society. People learned to live and give and share. There were not major disparity between wealth and poverty. The distribution of wealth was within appropriate range. Then came industrial revolution, the progression of machines and technology that enabled mass production that was once not within reach.  This mass production as a result of machines and technology result in the widening of the gap in production and hence income. Disparity of distribution increased. Where once farmers used to take turn to assist one another in harvesting and planting, with the arrival of machines and mass production, sharing was no longer practiced and replaced by wages.  Farmers stopped helping others and started demanding wages for their sweat. I suspect the repitition of this process further played an important role in rewriting local and national narratives on what it means to succeed in a society. A new public discourse emerged.  A new measure of success articulated and populated. Quantification became the means for the measure of success.

But really, is there a basis by which quantification become the standard measure for success? Why not sharing, why not contentment, why not happiness, why not compassion s as measures for success? There are no more ground for accumulative quantification as measure for success then contentment and happiness and compassion. I have nothing against quantification. But to set this as a standard for measure seems arbritary. We can probably say I like to acquire and accumulate because I like comfort or for the pleasure it can afford but I think success needs to be redefined.  Because success becomes the place where people measure themselves and their worth. And there’s nothing more important for a person than to realize their worth. But the society caught in this definition of succcess (and here I am looking way beyond economics. There are always so many standards of measure for so many different areas in our lives such as good looks, reputable careers, cognitive ability as meaasured by standardized tests etc).  I think for this very reason it becomes difficult for us to find that place where we can rest. And I do not mean rest only in a literal sense but  figurative sense as well.  When there’s room for validation of simplicity, rest becomes a possibility. And as a result, this philosophical shift toward simplicity becomes sustainable.

I guess this is perhaps the place in my current journey into what my faith means to me at this point in my life. And who knows what might happen in the futurer…..

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Last night I met with two of the students that received scholarship from our program. These two sisters came from a Hmong village way up on the hill with no public transportation and no electricity.  Actually this scholarship program sponsored three of the sisters.  The first graduated three years ago and is now working with an insurance company doing well. The second sister will graduate with a bachelor degree in tourism and the youngest will graduate with this February as well. These sisters are really hard working and are performing well academically. While in Chiang Rai they used to work at times till 5 in the morning, came home, and got ready to go to school again in the morning. I asked how many young people in the village get to go to college. Their response was, about 5%.  Not only are they hard working and determined to help support their families, they are concern for their village as well. I had a long conversation about the struggle of the villagers and learned that most villagers do not have sufficient connection. They grow crops yearly and make approximately 500 to 1,000 dollars a year if they were able to sell their crops. They do not have knowledge in terms of outlet for their products. When the price is bad, they suffer. Some years, their entire year labor reaps nothing due to external circumstances and the cycle of debt continues. Their are young people with dreams and vision and courage. They are the minority but through determination, they make a difference for themselves and for their families and hopefully for their village as well.

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I met Banyen this evening at a restaurant by Ratchadapisek, Bangkok. She has just spent a week in Bangkok and learning to find her ways around. I have known Banyen for over four years. She was among the students that I sponsored while she was pursuing an undergraduate degree in accounting. The very first time I saw her, I visited her house which was located 40 minutes from Chiang Rai city in a small Akka village. We ate Akka meal which was interesting. Since, we have been in contact and every time I visited Chiang Rai I would try to give her a visit. Banyen came from a family of 5, she being the youngest and no one has earned anything beyond a high school diploma. Not just her family, but very few in her village pursued higher education but Banyen was determined to earn a degree and be a place of refuge for her family. After completed an associate degree, she worked full-time for an NGO while studying during weekends to earn her bachelor degree.  A couple of weeks ago I talked to her on FB and told her that I would like to meet with her. But by then she has left Chiang Rai city for Bangkok. Sitting across from her at the restaurant I asked her about her job in Bangkok. Banyen told me that she took three exams in order to become government officer. She competed with over ten thousand applicants and was among one hundred who were selected for employment. She told me that she prayed really hard because she wanted so badly to be an example for young people in her village. She was always encouraging others in her village to go to school and will be helping her nieces and nephews with education. It felt really inspiring to not only learn of her achievement in her career (very few at her age make it through the process) but her passion for her people in the Akka village. I left the dinner touched by her story and hope that God will continue to lead her in her path as she seeks to reach out to others.

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