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Penny Jamieson:

A small blow
against globalization


  Every so often we see some sign of the legendary New Zealand courage.   After all,  it is a part of our national identity  --  from the time of Gallipoli.   We are a small island at the forgotten bottom right hand corner of the map,  but conscious of the life,  history and identity that is ours and only ours.   And another story in this tradition is beginning to emerge.

If I remember aright, the beginning of the idea for the so-called "People's Bank" was here in the South.   It was in Palmerston,  in East Otago.   When the last bank closed there,  it seemed like the final straw for that country community.   It was even too small for an ATM.   Palmerston and other places have suffered such loss from the life-draining processes that have systematically shifted the infrastructure of small communities to that of larger communities.

These have closed not just banks but schools,  hospitals, churches and a surprising number of pubs.   Even sports teams have diminished as watching on TV takes the place of local games.   Beginning in the likes of Palmerston,  or Roxburgh or Wyndham,  the activities of our small communities move to Invercargill or Dunedin,  then to Christchurch  --  which is where South Island medical services are now being collected  --  and then to Auckland and then to Australia and then to the United States.   So the big get bigger,  the rich get richer.   It is happening all over the world.   It is a real loss to our rural communities and it has led to blatant exploitation by some developers in our ciry areas that has produced real social stress.   Rosemary McLeod has analyzed this very clearly in the Sunday Star Times over the last two weeks.   But it is disastrous for those countries where poverty is much more sharply felt.

We call it globalization.   A trend that is inevitable,  we are told,  an ideology too big to fight that is presented as if neither the presenter  (a coalition of interest groups)  or the receiver  (the public)  has any active role to play in it,  because the global economy is going to arrive whether we like it or not.   So a complete ideological policy is advanced without any discussion of its implications or any admission that it is an ideology.

Yet we are discussing it and we are challenging it.   Perhaps it is not quite as brave as the assault on Gallipoli.   Some of our leaders have heard of the plight of our country areas and have put together the proposal that we know as the  "People's Bank".

And,  of course,  it seems mad to those who identify with global economic trends.   Of course they would wish the way to be clear for internationally owned corporations to make money out of banking services that do not serve the needs of all our people.   Of course,  they would reduce the needs of New Zealanders to their right to say what they like.   But I,  for one,  am pleased that there is still a confidence around that in some respects,  we do have the will to make this country suit the needs of our people.   And by that I mean all our people,  not just those of us who live in the reasonable protection of our cities.

I want to live in a country where the countryside is alive and vibrant and not simply full of relics of their past life.   A place where people really live,  really care for each other and really feel part of this country.   There just has to be a better way for us to live together in this country,  other than with sole regard for our own financial interests.

I simply do not believe that a government should sit back and tell people that they just have to accept all the negative impacts of globalization without any analysius or explanation,  and certainly not without any attempt to design an adaptive strategy.   A centralizing global economy is not inevitable  --  the discussion led by a Dutch Roman Catholic theologian on developing a global ethic is an important and significant antidote.

So when this bank gets under way,  it will make banking services more accessible even if they can't be everywhere that the public would like them.   So I hope that those of us who do not really need its services will make the effort to make the change, because there are many people in this country who do not have much political clout who really want it to work.

It is always somewhat risky to make a business into a symbol,  but this is what this still nameless bank has become.   I,  for one,  hope that it will provide the incentive for the development of further adaptive strategies that assist us to become,  once more,  a whole country.

Reprinted by permission.
The writer is Anglican Bishop of the Dunedin diocese.

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