News for Anarchists & Activists:
August 6, 2001
The Eugene Register-Guard
Commentary: Genoa protesters seek an end to exploitation
By MARSHALL KIRKPATRICK
PERHAPS IT WAS the death of a white citizen of the First
World that brought the anti-globalization protests in Genoa,
Italy, to the forefront of the mass media, but that's hardly
where tragedy began in this story. As William Pfaff pointed
out in his July 26 column, economic "globalism" is "today's
Unfortunately, even Pfaff fails to appreciate the depth of
the destruction imposed by the colonialism that preceded
today's globalization. Frantz Fanon illustrates in his 1961
book "The Wretched of the Earth" that colonized people
everywhere have had almost everything robbed from them:
their land, their culture, their self-reliance - even their
ability to relate healthfully to other victims of
colonization without the self-hatred that was imposed on
them to facilitate their exploitation.
The proponents of globalization have been forced by today's
movements to pay lip service to many of the Third World's
economic problems, but without acknowledging that they were
largely caused by the colonization of those places just a
few hundred years ago. These problems are not caused by
over-population or brown peoples' "backwardness," but by a
history of exploitation for the benefit of First World
Indonesians, for example, haven't been sitting around in
cardboard boxes for thousands of years waiting for a Nike
factory to arrive. They were self-sufficient until they were
forced off their valuable land and pauperized to work for
the international economic elite. (Francis Moore Lappe makes
these arguments particularly well in her 1998 book "World
Hunger: Twelve Myths," AK Press.)
As Jean Paul Sartre once said, "Exploitation and
terrorization dehumanize, and the exploiter sees this
dehumanization as justification for further terrorism." What
the son of the former head of the CIA (George W. Bush) and
others call "development" is actually further ethnocide
(destruction of cultures) via standardization, dependency
and ecological destruction.
Globalization is, as Pfaff begins to argue, fundamentally
the same dynamic of power as colonialism was. They are not
only similar, but one is the offspring of the other. For
example, Colombia is currently the recipient of more U.S.
military aid than any other country in the world, and the
third largest recipient of total aid (money is being spent
to push Indians off of oil-rich land behind the smoke screen
of a "war on drugs.") Because of that relationship, the U.S.
responded to Colombia's recent vote in the United Nations
against a U.S. position on Israel and Palestine with
statements that Colombia would be "punished" for stepping
out of line.
What Pfaff seems to advocate as an alternative, however,
looks like some sort of protectionist resistance to
"deregulation and expanded trade." If he is some type of
socialist, he should learn from advocates of capitalism that
an industrial economy requires constant expansion of
material resources, labor supply and the consumer markets.
So long as "jobs" depend on mining finite resources, mass
commodity production and new customers, then industrial
economies must have somewhere to "go" - by force if
necessary. Ultimately, Pfaff's isolationist/protectionist
"can't we just mind our own business" attitude looks as
absurd as his concluding suggestion that the fleeting $110
million G roup of 8 budget be "given to the poor countries."
If life were so simple, we could basically continue doing
what we're doing right now and everything would work out in
time. Unfortunately, quite the opposite is true. At this
time in history, when the logic of our supposedly rational
civilization's alienation - from nature, from control over
our own lives and from empowering, healthy personal
relationships - is reaching its inevitably toxic conclusion,
now is when we desperately need fundamentally different ways
to relate to the world around us.
It is time to admit our mistakes. While some in Seattle,
Prague or Genoa have said "50 years is enough," in reference
to the hegemonic International Monetary Fund and World Bank
that override national sovereignty, others say "500 years is
enough" and call for an end to the racist imperialism that
has continued since Columbus.
Still others, particularly many anarchists, say "10,000
years is enough," pointing out that what anthropologists
call the most recent 1 percent of our time on Earth has been
defined by a domestication of wild nature (ours and the
Earth's). In this period, there has been a slippery slide
into alienation, industrialization and, in turn, apocalyptic
genocide and ecocide.
If there were 100,000 protesters in Genoa, there may have
been almost as many visions for the future. What most had in
common was a desire for self-determination and a sustainable
connection to our ecologies that comes from honest
relationships with nature itself. People need access to land
where they can grow, gather and hunt their own food. (How
about all those fields wasted growing feed for
super-inefficient factory farm animals?) We need freedom
from the wage-slave work that so wears us out that we'll
comply with anything (sorry, landlords, we won't work to
make you rich).
We need control over our minds and cultures so our children
grow up loving and living for themselves and their families
- not the international financial elite.
Marshall Kirkpatrick (http://www.cascadiamedia.org
) is a member of Eugene's
Anarchist Action Collective.
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