[saymaListserv] Re: Monthly ECN Connections

Kim Carlyle kcarlyle at main.nc.us
Thu Jun 26 18:32:11 JEST 2003

Dear Janet (and SAYMA Friends),

Thank you for your interest in and appreciation of the work of FCUN. I'm a
bit puzzled about why the response was copied to our yearly meeting
listserve, perhaps it was a mistake. In any event, it provides the
opportunity to raise awareness among Friends, as is our intention in the
closing of the epistle: "We ask monthly meetings and individual Friends to
inform themselves as fully as possible about the proposed Free Trade Area of
the Americas, and to seek Divine Guidance in considering how to fulfill our
obligations, as citizens of the United States and the world, to promote
peace, justice, and the restoration of the earth's ecological integrity."

Your criticisms are justified. Many readers would interpret the statements
as you did. Your comments will be helpful as we continue to seek truth on
these issues. Please allow me, however, to explain the intent of these
statements to which you have raised concerns.

The FCUN epistle was a collaboration of many Friends in consultation with
AFSC folks who are working on these issues. Regarding the first objection, I
consulted with the source of this particular phrasing who explained that the
reaction was "as if it said people are generally getting poorer in monetary
terms and in relation to the things money can buy. It does not say that. It
says 'the conditions of life are worsening.' This is a very much different
consideration, and I think can be supported on many objective grounds. In
human and social terms the conditions of life for people working, for
example, long hours in low wage factory jobs in toxic environments are
frequently worse than the conditions of subsistence village life they, or
their parents, have left. The modernization of poverty is a relative
consideration with respect to the environmental and social conditions in
which people live. People who live in urban areas are frequently worse off
even though they have more money than they were when they lived in a rural
village. They are at a much greater comparative disadvantage with respect to
the economic world around them than are those who have not become dependent
on transnational capital. These may seem to some folks like rather subtle
points, but an analysis that does not take them into account is not seeing
the whole picture.

"Further to the discussion, I chose the word "impoverished" precisely
because is does not mean simply a lack of money. It means, as well,
'deprived of natural
richness and strength.' It includes quality of life considerations and how
people feel about the way things are going for them. Plenty of people, even
in the U.S., have money in their pocket but have a sense that the conditions
of life are worsening, that their own life, and the environment of life in
general, is increasingly being 'deprived of natural richness and strength.'
Again, this may seem a little subtle, but it is an important reality."

Regarding the second objection, perhaps the numbers from some statistical
analyses do indicate that there are more people employed (and perhaps the
exact phrasing in the epistle might have been better), but the point is that
while quantity may have increased, quality of employment has declined. Are
temporary workers included in the statistic? Child laborers? Are the workers
properly compensated? The list of questions goes on. The real issues are
employment security, income security, and adequate income.

Again, from one of the authors: "The issue is not whether transnationals
create jobs, but whether those jobs exist in a reasonably sustainable and
supportive socioeconomic context. If they don't, then the statistics give a
false picture of the situation. The plant moves on, the jobs disappear,
people left behind are worse off than before. The jobs may reappear
elsewhere.  More plants get built  in the lowest wage areas and the
employment figures keep looking positive. But human development and the
development of human communities in healthy ecosystems is not at the heart
of the process. Economists will say that's not what business is for."

But, as Friends, perhaps we have a duty to help change the way business is
done so that it not only includes the concepts of human betterment and
ecological integrity, but makes them a priority.

To explore these issues further, Quaker Eco-Witness will devote the next
issue of "Quaker Eco-Bulletin" to international trade agreements. Friends
can subscribe electronically to QEB by sending a message to QEW at FCUN.org.
QEB is also distributed as an insert to "BeFriending Creation," FCUN's
bi-monthly newsletter. Subscribe by sending a message to FCUN at FCUN.org. Also
if you would like to be included in the distribution of SAYMA's Ecological
Concerns Network newsletter (the source of this exchange), "ECN
Connections,"  please let me know.

Thanks again, Janet (and SAYMA Friends).


Kim Carlyle
SAYMA representative to FCUN

----- Original Message -----
From: "Janet Minshall" <jhminshall at attbi.com>
Sent: Tuesday, June 24, 2003 1:45 PM
Subject: [saymaListserv] Re: Monthly ECN Connections

> ...There are two quotes which very much need correction:
> "...wealth increases for the already wealthy while conditions of life
> worsen for many impoverished people worldwide."
> "Although the agreements are promoted in terms of creating jobs
> and reducing poverty,there are now more unemployed and impoverished

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