Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Phenomenon of Globalization and Sin

I SAW a picture of a McDonald restaurant (‘McDo resto’, young people say) in China many years ago. In fact, I used to have snacks in one as a student priest in Rome (they were inexpensive, pretty much affordable to those of us who subsisted on meager scholarship allowances and Mass stipends). You see them in Metro Manila and in many of our urban centers. Go anywhere in the big cities of the world, chances are, you will see ‘McDo restos’ and their familiarity gives you the illusion you are home.

While in one in Rome I asked a fellow priest during the semestral break where he was going for the summer. He answered matter-of-factly: “To Iceland to see my auntie.” I asked, incredulous, “Are there Filipinos in Iceland?” “Of course,” he said, eyeing me like I came from the boondocks (true: boondocks of Samar). McDonald restaurants everywhere. Filipinos everywhere on earth. That in brief is what we call globalization. Its root being ‘globe’ (world), globalization refers to the reality in which any human activity, operation, presence or institution reaches the different corners of the world.

Now here’s the catch. If McDo restaurants are global, so are their carbohydrates-and-fat-rich menus. If Filipinos are now global, so are our ‘crab mentality’, ‘destructive regionalism’, ‘Filipino time’, ‘intrigue’ tactics etc. Isaiah in our first reading denounces Israel’s sins but also those of the whole known world as embodied in the wayward human practices of his time. All this is a statement that just as a neutral or even virtuous human activity or behavior could be done anywhere in the world by most human beings, so are our human sins too.
Take greed for profit and the deceptions behind the ‘melamine’ scare which started in China. Milk and milk products packaged by certain Chinese companies have been found contaminated with this substance which is responsible for kidney stones and even death in babies. The wonder is, its reach is now global. Almost all countries have warned its citizens against buying contaminated products from China and are carefully testing other products as well for other defects.

Jesus in his time did not go global. He was confined within Palestine. But he had a global outlook. For instance, in the gospel of Matthew he excoriates sinful people in the sinful cities of Chorazin and Behsaida (Mt 11:20-24). They are both located near the Sea of Galilee, Jewish enclaves. He compares them to the sinful Gentile cities of Tyre and Sidon in Phoenicia and holds the Galilean cities more reprehensible. Now, that is certainly daring and prophetic to tell your own people their true faults rather than deceive them with praise releases. The point is that Jesus is indeed aware of how sin and iniquity is true not only in one part of the globe but also in others, that it could be less or more serious in some rather than in other places. Most of all, it is equally abhorrent the whole world over.

Call it negative human solidarity. Warays call it ‘tapon’ (contamination that spreads). Bible experts are one in saying that Jesus’ denunciation of these sinful global cities is meant to ‘shock’ them to conversion. Is their hard-headed, hard-hearted reaction a mirror of ours? That, too, is proof of the ‘global’ manifestation of sin. On the other hand, is the repentance of Niniveh reflected in our personal lives, our families, communities and society? That likewise points to the global dimension of conversion.