Ando Isamu, SJ (Tokyo Jesuit Social Center)
On 15-19 April, 2002, Jesuits of the Assistancy of East Asia and Oceania, from Australia, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Micronesia, Philippines and Taiwan met in the East Asian Pastoral Institute (EAPI) Manila, Philippines, for the first regional Global Economy and Cultures (GEC) gathering in this part of the world.
The Meeting is one more important step in a worldwide project Jesuits have undertaken to deal with the issues of globalization, as this phenomenon affects the lives of millions of people around the world. We are aware that globalization strongly affects the pastoral and educational tasks we perform and thus changes would be needed. We need to know where the world is moving to plan ahead the future direction of our endeavors. It helps to have a clear idea of, who are the actors and the motors of globalization? Who are the winners and losers? In order to find this out, common discussions based on serious research that lead to cross-culture cooperative action are very important. There is no intention of stopping this modern phenomenon. The issue here is how to face its challenges?
Let me, first, briefly introduce the project.

The GEC project is a five-year, collaborative effort of sixty Jesuit social research and action centers worldwide. Its purpose is to come to a better understanding of how the global economy operates in local cultures, especially among the poor, and to provide them with a learning tool that helps them respond to the harmful and beneficial dynamics of the global economy as they experience it locally.
This project responds to the need for dialogue among the local and global "actors" so that those involved in local economic and political processes can better address the rapid cultural changes occurring in their local situations.
Participants employ the Jesuit method of decision-making, which begins with experience, continues with reflection, and ends with decision and action. The participating centers begun by gathering local experiences in the form of narratives. They deepen and develop this data through interpretative and consultative analysis. Finally, the participants will arrive at a publishable consensus that explains what is happening in some illustrative instances, and offers options as to what can be done in view of basic human needs and values.
The outcome of the project will be an educational handbook that can be used in the design of materials that enhances grass roots educational programs. The same handbook will be useful to decision makers, business people and others, who shape or influence local, national and international economic policy. The project is unique, in that it seeks to address questions related to globalization "from below" by building on the grassroots experience and scholarship of the participants who live and work closely with the poor throughout the world.
In our last regional meeting we begun our discussions on globalization, accepting it as a real situation that is present practically everywhere. We tried to come to an agreement on, when did globalization start in East Asian countries? It was considered important to fix a date for the beginning of globalization, so that following that date we could consider the real effects of globalization in our own societies, especially on the issue of how it affects the lives of the poor in East Asia.
A working hypothesis had been established at a number of International Consultations and regional meetings, recognizing the fact of globalization and fixing the year 1992 as its provisional starting point.
But, from the start of our meeting we encountered difficulties to admit such hypothesis. From the point of view of Japan, the process leading to what is called globalization takes different steps. Thinking of the postwar period alone, Japan after the destruction of the II World War went gradually through a process of modernization (kindaika), industrialization (sangyoka) and internationalization (kokusaika). Although we have Japanese expressions for all those steps, there is none for globalization. Japanese only use the English word. Would this be a sign that globalization is an imposed phenomenon from outside, and that Japan tries to reject it? Opinions, most probably, vary. Our discussions clarified different situations in East Asian countries and proved to be enriching and fruitful.
Sticking to the last 60 years of the postwar we can rightly assume that the oil crisis of the early '70s produced, as a result, a wide opening of the Japanese economy and of its trade, especially in the Asian region. Such development grew increasingly during the '80s, the bubble times, when lavish consumption and capital investment patterns greatly changed. The long economic depression of the '90s drastically changed employment, consumption ways, capital investment, etc. Japanese society is still suffering from astronomical public debt and bad assets and many companies have taken severe re-structuring reforms. The so-called "Big Bang" focused on financial institutions is a recent ambitious reform of banks that are key to Japanese economic development.
In Manila we accepted globalization as a free international global movement of trade and finances, a process of an open flow of information and movement of money, goods, images and ideas between different countries and cultures. In fact, it is the opening of the economy. Most publications on this matter will essentially agree on that definition, and people tend to add that globalization also refers to the free movement of peoples.
It is considered important to fix an approximate date, regarding the beginning of globalization, in order to analyze the changes that occur once globalization has started. The GEC built, as a valid hypothesis the year 1992, when the world financial crisis was evident. Once more, it was clear that the countries of East Asia, especially Japan, have gone through different experiences and the year 1992 was not based on objective findings. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that globalization brings definite changes in production and consumption patterns, as well as in trade and in the lives of people. The powerful presence of multinational companies, as a result of globalization, strongly influences many

All participant organizations in the GEC project worked on their narratives. Each narrative tries to represent or symbolize some essential dimensions of globalization, within its own society. All narratives, from about 60 different research institutes and social centers were analyzed at Woodstock Theological Center (Georgetown University) and re-edited. They became the content of the International GEC Consultations and of the various Regional Meetings.
The meeting in Manila dealt with the narratives gathered from the 8 participant countries. We thoroughly discussed the narratives from Korea, Japan, Philippines and Taiwan, comparing them with the case studies of Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Micronesia.
On the second day of our discussions I presented a 5-page narrative that had been sent 3 years ago to Woodstock, coordinator of the GEC project. The theme is "Construction Business in Japan and Migrations". It is the story of a man, Mr. Kato, from a rural area (Niigata prefecture) who migrates to Osaka (Kamagasaki) to take day work at construction companies. He ends homeless and unemployed. The narrative covers the life span --about 60 years-- of Mr. Kato in the countryside and in Osaka where he works as a day worker. The case study deals with the Japanese construction business (Zenecon), about 586,000 companies with a 10% share of all industrial activities that employ 6,850,000 workers or about 9.7% of the total work force in Japan. The narrative gives a short historical background and presents the Traditional Japanese Construction Culture and the Actual Winter Times for Constructors. Social issues such as the situation of homeless people and foreign workers are also presented in the narrative.

A very important aspect of the GEC project is the analytical framework; the Methodology and Analysis used. The objective is to look for changes in the way of life in terms of actors as decision-makers in economy and society and as carriers of cultural meanings and values.
We studied together in detail the narratives trying to know fully persons, like Mr. Kato, that appeared there. We discussed them in common, asking questions about their lives and background. Then, we proceeded further into the political and social realities, the situation of foreign workers, and the attitudes of labor, NGOs and church groups. We also looked for the changes globalization produces in the business and official sectors as they relate to the narrative presented. We continuously referred to objective indicators and MacroEconomics and Social Data from international sources like the World Bank.
An important aspect of the analysis dealt with the changes globalization produces in cultural meanings and values, like religious observances, family, social and political relations or indigenous traditions. The narratives also offer a valid platform to look for other variables like, access to information and knowledge, the participation of women, crime and public morality and the treatment of the environment.
Nevertheless, there is a very important vacuum in the whole process: How to proceed from now on? What should be done to help persons like Mr. Kato to face a more human future?

We started each day with a prayer prepared before hand and ended the day with a few minutes of reflection and sharing.
The process of the GEC project continues and the discussions on the narratives have produced a very enriching new material to review them. On the other hand, the Meeting has given a new impetus to strengthen and enlarge the networking that has started. During the years left to complete the GEC project, the Tokyo Social Center agreed to monitor the e-mail networking or flow of information around East Asian countries with the help of Woodstock.

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