Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
March 27, 2000
The temptation to fall for the allure of power
One of the intriguing narratives of the Lenten season is the story of Jesus being tempted to fall for the privilege that comes with power.
In the age of globalization, with daily updates of new mergers, a lesson about the pitfalls of principalities and powers is instructive.
Satan tempts Jesus with economic power: Turn this stone into bread.
International financial institutions have managed to turn starvation into occasions for unrivalled profit. Latin America's most indebted country, Brazil, owes western banks more than $235 billion, even though it already paid $216 billion in interest from 1989 to 1997.
The world's food production and distribution is controlled by a handful of multinational corporations. They have not yet learned to turn stones into bread but patented life forms will give these companies increased powers over life and death.
Jesus is offered political power: All this will belong to you. The assets of the world's three richest men are more than the combined GDP of the least developed countries with a total population of 600 million. Disparity between rich and poor nations has more than doubled in the last 30 years. It has also widened within nations - even in the richest nation on earth.
The top one per cent of U.S. households now have more wealth than the entire bottom 95 per cent. Money rules the world and elected governments serve like acolytes at the gilded shrine.
Finally Jesus is offered spiritual power: Jump and the angels will carry you. I can't speak for the angels, but humanity, by and large, has carried the rich on its shoulders as the great heroes to emulate. We have been grateful for the chunks and crumbs that fell off their tables.
We have been led to believe that the concentration of ever-more power in the hands of fewer people is not only good for us but "inevitable and irresistible."
Not so, say Maude Barlow, Linda McQuaig, Nette Wiebe and thousands of lesser-known citizens who believe that the effects of the global economy are so pervasive that governments are unable to govern in accord with the will of the people.
Citizens are realizing that what has happened in the Third World over the last 50 years is now happening here - reduction of social, health and educational services, abandonment of the poor, massive layoffs, decline of fisheries and the family farm, decay of the inner city, corporate welfare and tax havens for the ultra-rich, and an assault on the integrity of the earth.
People are resisting. They have launched campaigns to stop government handouts to millionaire hockey players, to eradicate landmines, to cancel unpayable debt, to halt the MAI, to prevent the sale of our water, to save the earth, to abolish nuclear weapons, to end violence to women and to protect the rights of children.
A new generation of civil society representatives has learned from their Third World brothers and sisters that there comes a time when one has to move from words to action.
They are prepared to be clubbed, pepper sprayed and handcuffed to protect basic justice and human rights at the Vancouver APEC Summit and the Seattle WTO Conference; at the Davos Economic Forum and the Paris OECD Conference and wherever secret deals are being made by the world's oligarchs.
This well-organized grassroots coalition of Church groups, NGOs, labour unions, environmentalists, First Nations, women, seniors and youth is a hopeful indication of what can be done when people are listened to instead of being talked at. It is called people power.
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