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Justice and Peace: For a Globalization from Below

"Free trade is one of the most important idols that rule over us in Babylon.. Deregulation as the owners of the world call this lawlessness leads to new forms of impoverishment and slavery.. The greatest terrorist in our world is the neoliberal world economic order.."

By Dorothee Soelle

[These addresses at an April 27,2002 ecumenical forum in Bellheim are translated from the German on the World Wide Web,  http://www.lebenshaus-alb.de/magazin/001734.html.]

[On April 27, 2003, the theologian and peace champion Dorothee Soelle died at the age of 73 of a heart attack. May we all live out her passion for justice and peace.]

Justice is the foundation of peace. Without justice, there will be more ethnic conflicts, more privatization of violence and growing impoverishment of the majority of people, the so-called "losers."

The simple survival of the majority is endangered today by globalization from above. I heard of two farmers in a south India village who had tilled their leased fields until last year. Now they have no strength and no money for farming. They have no strength because they sold their kidneys like 23 other heavily indebted farmers from their village. With the money, they will pay the debts for seed, pesticide and fertilizer. The 2000 marks for a human kidney will not last long. One of the farmers said: "Every farmer has only one kidney that he has to sell."

How do we define violence? Smashing shop windows or torching cars is obviously violence and a clear breach of the law. But isn't an authority issuing export licenses for weapons also violence since children can play with the weapons? As everybody knows, all trade must be free and unhindered. Isn't speculating on the corn exchange in Chicago violence when thousands are driven to starvation because the emergency programs cannot be financed any more? This is completely legal in our world. "Free trade" is one of the most important idols that rule over us in Babylon.

We all live in Babylon. At the beginning of the 1980s, an American friend greeted me in New York with the words "Welcome to Babylon on the Hudson." At that time, the symbol of economic power, the World Trade Center towers, were still standing. According to the Bible, people in the past had a common language. But their common shared language was destroyed when they tried to build a tower to heaven. They no longer understood one another in Babylon or on the Hudson (which is also Hamburg and Koln). Only cash and fun and cash were understood. The only question still allowed in Babylon is: "Does it pay?"


Your will
We know what you wanted
when you created us
children of the earth who must die
your daughters and sons able to learn love
Even now in the midst of war
we know your will O God
you promised life in abundance to everybody
not only the whites and the rich
not only those who drink coffee but those who plant and harvest
We thank you for your many people
with them you ask us about our brothers and sisters
the trees and the animals
the water and the air
You ask about our age
and about what is important to us
One day O God we will all
transform your you shall
into a great yes I will
we will not hate foreigners any more
and will tear down the walls of separation
violence will no longer dwell with us
we will not feed, pamper and pay for violence
or hold ourselves as all-knowing
your will be done
even in our land

From: Dorothee Soelle, Leben ohne Lugen (Life without Lying), fietham 2000

Text 2

With the destruction of legal rules like minimum wage, termination protection and health protection in factories, new forms of impoverishment are arising before our eyes. Think of the seamstresses who make our t-shirts so marvelously cheap. "Deregulation," as the owners of the world call this lawlessness, leads to new forms of impoverishment and slavery. My physician daughter living in Bolivia told me that one of the most frequent causes of the death of adults in the Andes Mountains is now suicide. A 64-year old woman whom I knew fleetingly took the cheapest means, rat poison. The impoverishment is so great that the young people from the villages flee into the city slums, into begging, stealing, prostitution or the drug trade and the older ones staying behind see no point in continuing to vegetate.

The greatest and most important terrorist in our world is not Osama Bin Laden or the Taliban but the neoliberal world economic order that destroys the local exchange structures in the interest of the self-enrichment of the rich. In Burkina Faso, 58% of the gross domestic product goes to debt service. New forms of debt slavery appear. All social human rights enabling a person to be healed of curable sicknesses, a child to go to school and learn something and everybody to be full every day are trampled today.
Text 3

Many things are "for sale" according to the sign: houses, property, old clothes, kitchen articles and much more. But not everything was "for sale" in the past. The water we all need and the air we breathe are not "for sale." The world is not for sale even if the world owners imagine this and do everything to make our whole life saleable including education, health care and care of the elderly.

Who are the world owners intent on perfecting this secretly and constitutionally? They are not demonic, terrifying forces that we cannot know. A great German poet coined the important sentence: "The wicked has an address and a phone number." I'd like to name the three most important addresses that many of you know: the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Trade Organization (WTO).

At a party, a high-ranking manager asked me: "Don't you think the other religions are much more tolerant than Christianity?" I wondered what he meant. The answer came a moment later: "in economic questions for example." Justice, the unemployed and the street children who must prostitute themselves to survive are emphasized too much. In the brief chitchat, his uneasiness - perhaps about every religion but especially the biblical - became clearer. He disapproved the unnecessary interference in the real necessities of the economy and location policy - things that in his opinion had nothing to do with religion.

Justice is one of the names of God that many want to get rid of. The economy in the last 12 years has become more totalitarian; it determines and rules all things, very differently than the two totalitarian systems I know. This totalitarian economy does not roar with commands but lures more intelligently with a gentle voice to adjust and profitably capitalize on money. It does not help still human needs. Why should money be used to satisfy social, pedagogical and ecological needs when winners could make even more money?

Margaret Thatcher, a glowing defender of neoliberalism, condensed this in a formula: "There is no alternative!" If you combine the four first letters of this simple sentence, this thinking could be called "the TINA-syndrome." We all suffer in this sickness. This alternative-less thinking damages us more than our many skin allergies.

I am your tree
You should not solve my problems
i solve your problems God of asylants
you should not satisfy the hungry
i should protect your children
from the terror of banks and the military
you should not give room to refugees
i should receive you
poorly hidden God of the poverty-stricken

You dreamt me O God
how I could walk upright
and learn to kneel down
more beautiful than I am now
happier than I am now
more free than allowed among us
Don't stop dreaming me O God
I will not stop remembering
that I am your tree
planted by the water brooks
of life.

From: Dorothee Soelle, Leben ohne Lugen (Life without Lying), fietham, 2000

One of the most important goals of the new economic order is individualizing so that questions about the neighbor, the other or the earth become completely unimportant: "That's not your business." I heard this sentence again and again in the 1980s. Today a leading US management guru says: "We are the heads of personal companies and our top job is to be marketing heads for the `I'. In life this depends on right dress in the right car at the right event" (Nurnberger 99f). Every one sells himself as well as he can - without further goals or other themes. Life becomes meaningful again and the ego need not be ashamed any more since egoism was only a bad habit in the past." In his theology of the Romans letter, Martin Luther described the sinner as the person curved in himself, homo incurvatus. He cannot think or feel anything outside himself. He circles incessantly around himself. He cannot learn the upright walk; he has to turn around himself day and night. He or she will never be free from self - which is one of the most beautiful gifts of love. I was far off when I saw you. Being occupied ceaselessly with ourselves is the inside of the totalitarian economy and its violence.

I believe with the Jewish tradition in what Martin Buber formulated: In the beginning was relationship. Word and answer, the dialogue with others, has many different names.

I often have the feeling that all forms of transcendence have become inconceivable and undesirable because the pain in it does not hurt any more. The general pain of injustice escapes us. Religion is a disturbing factor in economic life that claims life needs other things for its protection outside the laws of the market. Long before the transnational corporations ruling us, this transnational dream of humanity existed for everybody: the right to food, shelter and work, to go to school and be healed. There are alternatives to neoliberalism today. Resistance against this new totalitarianism of the economy grows worldwide. Opponents of the false globalization have mobilized since Seattle, Prague, Davos, Quebec, Geneva and Porto Allegre. They coined a marvelously simple sentence that agrees with the Jewish-Christian tradition: "The world is not for sale." The world, the air, water and sex slaves are not goods on which it is written: "For Sale." There are things that cannot be bought or sold: "The world is not for sale."

Life on this earth loved by God is not for sale!

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