Thursday, December 31, 2009

Information Technology as Blessing?

In chapter 3 of the book, I attack the rise of information technology in financial matters. It's a bit strong to say that I argue that it is a curse, although I do think that ATMs, websites, online banking, and pay-at-the-pump credit card scanners contribute to serious problems in our lives. In general these technologies of finance speed up the world. More specifically, they contribute to three problems: depersonalization, arrogance, and abstraction:

  • De-personalization or disconnection: our human relationships suffer the more we use money. In fact, we begin to use monetary values to measure the value of those relationships. We need to build communities and attach faces to what our money is doing.
  • Arrogance: we begin to think that we're in control, and we can move our money around at will. We need to practice humility with our money.
  • Abstraction: we forget what money really is and what it really is for. Electronic technologies contribute to a loss of tangibility about money, which is already an abstract thing to begin with. When all we see are numbers flitting in and out of electronic accounts, we get detached from the concrete realities in which those numbers are rooted. We need to practice concreteness with our money.
But I had a new thought today, as I went online to process gifts our kids chose to give to our denominational relief relief agency. Here I was, using slick web technology to make donations to specific causes with faces attached. The technology made it extremely easy to give money away--the same technology that erodes the virtues in us. It was slick, but for a good cause.

So if I could add a footnote to chapter 3, it would say something about how the church can also tap these technologies to begin moving its members toward a healthier way of living with money. I hesitate to say that such a faster, flatter world is a blessing, but I wouldn't hesitate to say that we can carefully and prudently use these technologies toward worthy ends from time to time. 

We're not subverting the system from within, but we are witnessing to a different way of handling money, a hopeful way, a loving way. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Nation Team Soccer Players Go Missing: Migration in the News

One of the aspects of globalization that I talk about briefly in the book (in chapter 9) is the fact that so many people are moving out of their countries of origin, whether as economic migrants seeking a better life or as political refugees fleeing from oppression.

A 2005 UN study estimated that approximately 191 million people were living outside or the country in which they were born. If all those people were herded together into one country, they would make up the sixth largest country in the world by population, behind Brazil and ahead of Pakistan.

The small state of Eritrea illustrates the problems when people want to leave their country. Recently 12 members of their national soccer team disappeared after playing a match in Kenya and losing 4-0. (If they had won, would they have felt better about staying?)

Migration is a serious and often overlooked aspect of globalization, which is the process of increasing interconnection between peoples. People are moving around all over the world, for all kinds of reasons. Let's hope these guys from Eritrea can be united with their families some day (if they ever turn up).

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Will Spain Win the 2010 World Cup?

It's finally time for some World Cup Soccer bracketology. My son and I have studied the field for FIFA World Cup 2010 (see the PDF document in the post below this) and compared our predictions today. Mike predicts a Netherlands vs. Spain final, with the Netherlands winning 3-1. I'm predicting a Brazil vs. Spain final, with Spain winning after overtime on tie-breaking penalty kicks. We'll see who's right.

Let me know if you want to see our specific predictions in bracket form, with all the predictions for games that precede the final.

By the way, does anybody know of sites for the World Cup like those for the NCAA men's basketball tournament? Although this tournament has only 32 teams, there is more uncertainty about who will qualify out of the eight groups (the top two in each group only).

This is the most global sporting event in the world today. You'd think people would be guessing the winner already. It'll definitely be Spain.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

I'm. . . ba-aack to chat about global soccer

After a long time away, I'm back to the blogging business and to one of my favorite aspects of globalization not covered in my book: global soccer. For those of you less attuned to the world of international soccer, yesterday was a significant day. In South Africa, Charlize Theron drew the ping pong balls that decided who would play whom in the men's World Cup next summer. Sadly, I couldn't watch it live, but apparently you can re-live the experience via video on the FIFA website. And the format for the whole tournament is in a handy PDF on the FIFA site.

My first reaction is to figure out how the US national team might fare given its draw. In the 2006 Cup, they ended up in a "group of death" with Italy, Ghana, and the Czech Republic. They never won a game and went home humiliated. This time around things look a bit better. The US is in Group C with England (a powerhouse), Slovenia (a surprise qualifier), and Algeria (who barely squeaked past Egypt to get in). The US is ranked second to England, and the top two qualify for the next round. 

However, the initial commentary I've read sound overconfident. For example, the Associated Press story published in our local paper focuses on England, but I'm worried that Slovenia could be a giant-killer--the David to our Goliath. The U.S. defense is very weak, since central defender Oguchi Onyewu wrecked his knee in the last qualifier against El Salvador.

And the bad news is that the second place team in the US's group has to play the winner of group D, which will likely be Germany, a serious global powerhouse. If the US can beat England and win the group, then it would likely play Australia, who will probably end up second in Group D. Either way, the US has a long road ahead if it's hoping to get into the quarterfinals. 

I hope to look at the brackets more in coming days.