Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
March 26, 2001
Bring democracy to corporate agenda
Democracy is a wonderful concept. We should try it some time. Actually we have been working at it for a long time and we have made some real headway over the long haul.
History tells us that we must constantly and vigilantly protect the gains we have made over the centuries towards a more just and equitable society.
The bloodbaths that accompanied the struggle for religious democracy date back to the early 16th century. Luther, like other Christians of his day, was not exactly a protector of the proletariat or ethnic minorities. His individualistic concept of faith found more favour with the princes than with the peasants.
Nationalistic self-interest was still at the core of the debate between a totalitarian Rome and the reformers. National identity and religious identity became almost synonymous.
The struggle for political democracy is at least 400 years old as aristocracy made way for the new merchant class. Paradoxically, while the nouveau riche wanted more say in the affairs of their own country, they unscrupulously oppressed the indigenous peoples in the new colonies.
But even at home, democratic participation was restricted to those of class, education and property. Women were not even considered as persons till well into the 20th century.
The Church, trying to protect the remnants of its former power, stayed pretty much in lockstep with the new elite until the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the industrial revolution.
The destruction of the commons and the virtual enslavement of cheap labour and child labour led to immense social upheavals. Groups of Luddites roamed the English countryside protesting the eradication of their way of life. Labour started to organize and Leo XIII responded with the encyclical Rerum Novarum in favour of unions.
Over the years papal encyclicals have progressively become more outspoken on social issues. Other denominations led or followed along the same path. In Canada it was the United Church in particular which promoted the social gospel as an antidote to the scholasticism and pietism of the previous three centuries.
Both Catholics and Protestants were obliged to make humble confessions that during all their infighting about who had a corner on the absolute truth, they had abandoned the least of their brothers and sisters.
There was a new understanding that the life of Jesus and his concern for the poor should be seen as more than a call for charity, but a mandate to transform society by bringing about the shalom of the reign of God.
Religious conversion came to mean more than the private effort to save one's soul. Rather, the inauguration of a just political and economic order was seen as integral to living and preaching the Gospel.
We're now 20 years or so into a new social upheaval with more drastic consequences than the industrial revolution. The parliamentary governments we have fought hard to obtain, in order to protect the weak and restrain the powerful, have succumbed to a new elite more powerful than all the monarchies and oligarchies of previous times.
Entire populations are being sacrificed to the corporate transnational gods on the altar of globalization.
On April 22, Canada is hosting a conference of trade bureaucrats and corporate power brokers to hammer out a Free Trade Agreement of the Americas. Citizens feel obliged in conscience to vigorously oppose this unjust superstructure. The challenge is to democratize the corporate agenda to ensure that the earth and essential human rights are protected.
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