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Brazilian Dialogue

Comfortable pew impedes sacrifice

Is what the religious right in the U.S. calls the Moral Majority really moral? Isn't it, rather, asleep and wakes at moments only to respond affirmatively to media jingoism?

Oxfam recently released a report on trade globalization and the fight against poverty called Make Trade Fair.

Of course, world trade is, at present, unfair. We in Western Canada feel the unfairness caused by U.S. and European agricultural subsidies. How much more vulnerable are the Argentinians who have mainly wheat and beef to export.

Let the market rule! Yes, but when some "poor and benighted" nation proves to be competitive, slap on protectionist tariffs!

Orange juice and sugar are two products in which Brazil competes with the U.S. It costs $180 US to produce a tonne of Brazilian sugar. In the U.S. that tonne of sugar costs $600 US to produce. The result? The U.S. gives Brazil only a tiny annual quota to export to America. And for each tonne of orange juice coming to the U.S. Brazil must pay duty of $418, making Brazil's orange juice non-competitive in the U.S.

In the face of such flagrant disregard for the spirit of free trade, President Bush tells the African nations that they need not expect any U.S. "foreign aid" unless and until they remove all barriers to incursions of capital from abroad. (Note that of all First World nations "giving" foreign aid, America ranks at the bottom of the heap in percentage terms.)

Yes, the game is rigged and the standards are double.

"When developing countries export to rich-country markets, they face tariff barriers that are four times higher than those encountered by rich countries," says the Oxfam report, "costing poor countries $100 billion a year, twice as much as they receive in foreign aid."

It is this unfairness in trade that people at alternative summits protest and want to see corrected.

Yet, what the media will show is the window-breaking and looting that occurs when hooligans, who take an opportunistic ride on the coattails of the protest movement, run amok.

The "moral majority" (more aptly described by Pierre Berton as "the comfortable pew") seeing this mayhem on TV is outraged (and rightly so), but ascribes it to the protesters.

No, this majority may be "moral" in some respects, but as to social and economic issues it's merely asleep and rouses itself at moments only to applaud the repression of the rich and powerful as they fight to keep their favoured position at the trough.

All who sat in comfortable pews on the 10th Sunday in Ordinary Time would have heard Jesus say, "I desire mercy and not sacrifice."

Though the rhetoric of the G-8, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization often uses the "mercy" idea, these entities really desire, no, more than that, they demand sacrifice from poor nations, sacrifice even to the point of scrapping health care and education so that the First World can become ever richer. Moral Majority indeed.

Al Gerwing