September 12, 2008

DISCUSSIONS WITH BRIAN KONKOL – 4

Posted in Economics, Education, Philosophy, Politics, Religion, South Africa tagged , , , , , , at 10:55 am by randallbutisingh

DISCUSSIONS WITH BRIAN KONKOL – 4

SOUTH AFRICA –  “Globalization” –  September, 2008

A few weeks ago a friend approached me with a giant smile and asked, “So, what you think about Brett Favre not playing with the Packers anymore?  This whole thing must be driving you crazy!”  Of course, these words would not have been too strange if I were back in Wisconsin, but to be asked about the former Green Bay quarterback in the KwaZulu-Natal Province of South Africa?  With that one question, I was reminded of how the world is most certainly “shrinking”, and no matter where one lives around the globe, we are intimately connected in ways like never before.

There is much discussion about “globalization” in our world today, and as a result, there are numerous explanations and various understandings of the term.  There are some that emphasize the cultural exchange of globalization, some mention the Internet and mass communication technology; some observe international political developments, while others focus on global economics, multinational corporations, and foreign trade policies.  Whatever the case may be, at its most general level “globalization” suggests that current features of our world are increasingly connected, and there is a growing intensity of our connectedness.  In other words, what we do and what we say has an impact on people around the world more so today than at any other point in human history.

As Country Coordinators for the E.L.C.A.’s Young Adults in Global Mission Program, Kristen and I have been fortunate to visit numerous areas around South Africa.  What continues to amaze us during our travels is that, no matter where we go, there are constant reminders of globalization.  Whether in the urban centers of Cape Town or Johannesburg, or the rural country-sides of Mapumulo or Rorke’s Drift, we are likely to see someone wearing a professional basketball jersey or a major league baseball cap, perhaps watching the Oprah Winfrey Show, reading Sports Illustrated, or listening to Jay-Z or Beyonce.  I might walk into a store and see items from The Gap, Pepsi, or Nike, and amazingly, I have even noticed products originating from within miles of my hometown in Wisconsin (…who would have thought Wausau Paper and Kimberly Clark would make it this far!).

As we meet new friends and enjoy numerous conversations, what we find increasingly amazing is how, with the dawning of the Internet and globalized television news networks, many people here in South Africa have significant knowledge of what is taking place in the United States (…some are more informed on American current events than most Americans are!).  Whether it’s the upcoming Presidential Elections, this week’s weather forecast, Hollywood gossip, and of course – all the drama surrounding a certain football team and its longtime quarterback, all one has to do is click on a computer, grab a newspaper, or tune-in to CNN or the BBC, and the information is readily available.  As a result, people in this country – and around the globe – hear more and more about what is taking place in the world, and as a result, we are affected more and more by what each other does or chooses not to do.

While it is amazing to learn of our various connections with people around the world, when one looks a bit closer, it becomes evident that the process of globalization is not beneficial for everyone, especially not for those in the developing world.  For example: international trade often has a way of exploiting developing nations and widening the gap between rich and poor; the Western-controlled media has been accused of damaging and/or destroying native cultures; United States television programs seem to provide false ideas of what North American life is truly like; foreign advertisers increase demand for expensive products that people do not need, cannot afford, but eventually learn to desire; and international sporting events often cause under-funded athletes in poor nations to see themselves as failures for not getting the “glamorous gold” like their wealthy competitors.  Yes indeed, people are becoming more and more connected around the world, but in this globalized world where the playing field is certainly not equal, we are forced to ask ourselves: What is the nature of the connections?  Who benefits most from those connections?  Who is hurt because of the connections?

Kristen and I believe a significant part – perhaps the most important part – of our Global Mission service in South Africa is communicating the “connections” shared between North Americans and Africans, and trying our best to play a part in strengthening the positive connections, as well as “transform” those connections that are harmful to our global companions.  As people of faith, we believe it is critically important to understand how our behaviors and decisions have a way of impacting people around the globe.  As the world is getting smaller, and as Jesus reminded us to care for our neighbors, we are forced to remember that our day to day actions do not only effect ourselves, but our various “neighbors” around the world.  The amount of gasoline we choose to pump into our vehicles, the types of foods we choose to purchase, the amount of clothes and electronics we choose buy, the volume of waste we choose to put into the environment – while all these choices might appear to be small and private matters, the reality is that they have profound public consequences for all our global neighbors.

As a way to explore our various connections, Kristen and I decided to launch a new program website which will allow people to learn more about those living and serving here among us in South Africa.  The site, http://elcamud.blogspot.com will be filled with writings from American volunteers serving alongside us through the Young Adults in Global Mission Program, but also, it will contain numerous contributions from local South Africans who contribute to the program as our co-workers and hosts.  One who visits the site will be exposed to current events, personal perspectives, people profiles, and a variety of other creative writing pieces.  The overall goal of this venture is that people in various parts of the globe will be reminded of their connections, and through increased awareness, will make renewed efforts to make better use of those connections for good.  We hope you will make time to explore the site and follow its development, and if possible, share it with as many people as possible.

And so, you may continue to find Kristen and my personal reflections on http://briankristenkonkol.blogspot.com, but we hope you will also take time to visit the new site on a regular basis (…we expect to have new postings each week).   For those interested, one can “sign up” to be notified when new entries are made, and if desired, you may feel free to make comments and enter into a “global conversation”.

Thank you for the ongoing support.  We look forward to being in touch.

With peace and love,

Brian

.Rev. Brian & Kristen Konkol
Project Coordinators, South Africa
Young Adults in Global Mission
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
P.O. Box 28694
Haymarket 3200. South Africa
Phone: (Country Code 027) 033-396-5494
Cell: (Country Code 027) 071-121-9692
E-Mail: bekonkol@yahoo.com
Web (personal): http://briankristenkonkol.blogspot.com
Web (project): http://elcamud.blogspot.com

COMMENT:

From: randallbutisingh@hotmail.com
To: bekonkol@yahoo.com
Subject: RE: South Africa – September, 2008
Date: Fri, 12 September 2008

.Brian:

The more I get to know you, the more I am convinced that here is a young man who is not so much preaching the gospel, but is living it. Who with little is accomplishing great things;  things that will help to relieve the sufferings of the needy and help to make this world a better place.

I do not know what your material resources are, but that is secondary. It is not as my bishop told me: ‘You cannot run a church without money’, as if the church is the material fabric. Our Lord had no such church.  He taught on the mountainside, from fishing boats, in open spaces or under the shade of a tree near a well. But, our priests, in order to build and preserve the material fabric  have to organize entertainments like dances, tea parties and raffles.  Money is no substitute for enthusiasm, commitment, dedication, the ability to inspire a people and the capacity for making sacrifices.  Also the knowledge that you are doing God’s will.

Even before the proliferation of technology, it was evident that the civilized world could not exist in isolation, that, in order to survive, we need the input of others, far and near.  With technology, it now becomes clear to us that, as one writer puts it, ‘we are living as it were in ONE HOUSE’, that friendship and cooperation is more than ever needed to prevent conflict and to provide harmony and peace.

Within two months, Americans will have their presidential election.  There is division as usual, and as you rightly said:some people outside are more informed about current events in America than the Americans themselves.  Americans are the most uninformed and u not knowledgeable of their country than most people anywhere; misguided by the media which is owned by big corporations; so when it comes to make wise decisions, they cannot.  The country is now in a crisis which will grow deeper if the wrong choice is made in the selection of a leader who has not the drive and energy, the wisdom and the quality to inspire.

My prayers are with you in your spiritual adventure.  Know that He is beside you all the time and though things may seem tough for a time, he will allow that to test you so that you will increase in goodness.

With Peace and Love,

Randall

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