This fast-paced 64 minute documentary covers the worldpolitics of power, war, corporations, deception and exploitation.
It visualizes the words of Arundhati Roy, specifically her famous ComeSeptember speech, where she spoke on such things as the war on terror,corporate globalization, justice and the growing civil unrest.
It’s witty, moving, alarming and quite a lesson in modern history.
We is almost in the style of a continuous music video. The music used sets thepace and serves as wonderful background for the words of Ms. Roy and images ofhumanity in the world we live all in today.
Newly removed from youtube ~ but available here and well worththe time to watch.
TEXT OF “COME SEPTEMBER”
I have so many things tosay and I hope I don’t take too long to say them to you. I’m a writer, and soI’ve actually written what I want to say, for two reasons. One, because I’msure that you are much more interested in the way I write than in the way Ispeak. And, second, because the things I have to say are complicated, dangerousthings in these dangerous times and I think we have to be very, very preciseabout what we’re saying and how we say them and the language that we use. So Ihope it’s okay if I read it out to you.
My talk today is called“Come September.”
Writers imagine that theycull stories from the world. I’m beginning to believe that vanity makes themthink so. That it’s actually the other way around. Stories cull writers fromthe world. Stories reveal themselves to us. The public narrative, the privatenarrative – they colonize us. They commission us. They insist on being told.Fiction and nonfiction are only different techniques of story telling. Forreasons that I don’t fully understand, fiction dances out of me, and nonfictionis wrenched out by the aching, broken world I wake up to every morning.
The theme of much of whatI write, fiction as well as nonfiction, is the relationship between power andpowerlessness and the endless, circular conflict they’re engaged in. JohnBerger, that most wonderful writer, once wrote: “Never again will a singlestory be told as though it’s the only one.” There can never be a single story.There are only ways of seeing. So when I tell a story, I tell it not as anideologue who wants to pit one absolutist ideology against another, but as astory-teller who wants to share her way of seeing.
Though it might appearotherwise, my writing is not really about nations and histories; it’s aboutpower. About the paranoia and ruthlessness of power. About the physics ofpower. I believe that the accumulation of vast unfettered power by a State or acountry, a corporation or an institution – or even an individual, a spouse, afriend, a sibling – regardless of ideology, results in excesses such as theones I will recount here.
Living as I do, asmillions of us do, in the shadow of the nuclear holocaust that the governmentsof India and Pakistan keep promising their brain-washed citizenry, and in theglobal neighborhood of the War Against Terror (what President Bush ratherbiblically calls “The Task That Never Ends”), I find myself thinking a greatdeal about the relationship between Citizens and the State.
In India, those of us whohave expressed views on Nuclear Bombs, Big Dams, Corporate Globalization andthe rising threat of communal Hindu fascism – views that are at variance withthe Indian Government’s – are branded ‘anti-national.’ While this accusationdoesn’t fill me with indignation, it’s not an accurate description of what I door how I think. Because an ‘anti-national’ is a person who is against his orher own nation and, by inference, is pro some other one. But it isn’t necessaryto be ‘anti-national’ to be deeply suspicious of all nationalism, to beanti-nationalism. Nationalism of one kind or another was the cause of most ofthe genocide of the twentieth century. Flags are bits of colored cloth thatgovernments use first to shrink-wrap people’s brains and then as ceremonialshrouds to bury the dead.
When independent-thinkingpeople (and here I do not include the corporate media) begin to rally underflags, when writers, painters, musicians, film makers suspend their judgmentand blindly yoke their art to the service of the “Nation,” it’s time for all ofus to sit up and worry. In India we saw it happen soon after the Nuclear testsin 1998 and during the Cargill War against Pakistan in 1999. In the U.S. we sawit during the Gulf War and we see it now during the “War Against Terror.” Thatblizzard of Made-in-China American flags.
Recently, those who havecriticized the actions of the U.S. government (myself included) have beencalled “anti-American.” Anti-Americanism is in the process of being consecratedinto an ideology.
The term “anti-American”is usually used by the American establishment to discredit and, not falsely –but shall we say inaccurately – define its critics. Once someone is brandedanti-American, the chances are that he or she will be judged before they areheard, and the argument will be lost in the welter of bruised national pride.
But what does the term“anti-American” mean? Does it mean you are anti-jazz? Or that you’re opposed tofreedom of speech? That you don’t delight in Toni Morrison or John Updike? Thatyou have a quarrel with giant sequoias? Does it mean that you don’t admire thehundreds of thousands of American citizens who marched against nuclear weapons,or the thousands of war resisters who forced their government to withdraw fromVietnam? Does it mean that you hate all Americans?
This sly conflation ofAmerica’s culture, music, literature, the breathtaking physical beauty of theland, the ordinary pleasures of ordinary people with criticism of the U.S.government’s foreign policy (about which, thanks to America’s “free press”,sadly most Americans know very little) is a deliberate and extremely effectivestrategy. It’s like a retreating army taking cover in a heavily populated city,hoping that the prospect of hitting civilian targets will deter enemy fire.
But there are manyAmericans who would be mortified to be associated with their government’spolicies. The most scholarly, scathing, incisive, hilarious critiques of thehypocrisy and the contradictions in U.S. government policy come from Americancitizens. When the rest of the world wants to know what the U.S. government isup to, we turn to Noam Chomsky, Edward Said, Howard Zinn, Ed Herman, AmyGoodman, Michael Albert, Chalmers Johnson, William Blum and Anthony Amove totell us what’s really going on.
Similarly, in India, nothundreds, but millions of us would be ashamed and offended if we were in anyway implicated with the present Indian government’s fascist policies which,apart from the perpetration of State terrorism in the valley of Kashmir (in thename of fighting terrorism), have also turned a blind eye to the recentstate-supervised progrom against Muslims in Gujarat. It would be absurd tothink that those who criticize the Indian government are “anti-Indian” –although the government itself never hesitates to take that line. It isdangerous to cede to the Indian government or the American government or anyonefor that matter, the right to define what “India” or “America” are or ought tobe.
To call someone“anti-American”, indeed to be anti-American, (or for that matter, anti-Indianor anti-Timbuktuan) is not just racist, it’s a failure of the imagination. Aninability to see the world in terms other than those the establishment has setout for you. If you’re not a Bushie you’re a Taliban. If you don’t love us, youhate us. If you’re not Good, you’re Evil. If you’re not with us, you’re withthe terrorists.
Last year, like manyothers, I too made the mistake of scoffing at this post-September 11thrhetoric, dismissing it as foolish and arrogant. But I’ve realized it’s notfoolish at all. It’s actually a canny recruitment drive for a misconceived,dangerous war. Everyday I’m taken aback at how many people believe thatopposing the war in Afghanistan amounts to supporting terrorism, of voting forthe Taliban. Now that the initial aim of the war – capturing Osama bin Laden(dead or alive) – seems to have run into bad weather, the goalposts have beenmoved. It’s being made out that the whole point of the war was to topple theTaliban regime and liberate Afghan women from their burqas, we are being askedto believe that the U.S. marines are actually on a feminist mission
(If so, will their nextstop be America’s military ally Saudi Arabia?)
Think of it this way: inIndia there are some pretty reprehensible social practices against“untouchables”, against Christians and Muslims, against women. Pakistan andBangladesh have even worse ways of dealing with minority communities and women.Should they be bombed? Should Delhi, Islamabad and Dhaka be destroyed? Is itpossible to bomb bigotry out of India? Can we bomb our way to a feministparadise?
Is that how women won thevote in the U.S? Or how slavery was abolished? Can we win redress for thegenocide of the millions of Native Americans upon whose corpses the UnitedStates was founded by bombing Santa Fe?
None of us needanniversaries to remind us of what we cannot forget. So it’s no more thanco-incidence that I happen to be here, on American soil, in September – thismonth of dreadful anniversaries. Uppermost on everybody’s mind of course,particularly here in America, is the horror of what has come to be known as9/11. Nearly three thousand civilians lost their lives in that lethal terroriststrike. The grief is still deep.
The rage still sharp. The tears have notdried. And a strange, deadly war is raging around the world. Yet, each personwho has lost a loved one surely knows secretly, deeply, that no war, no act ofrevenge, no daisy-cutters dropped on someone else’s loved ones or someoneelse’s children, will blunt the edges of their pain or bring their own lovedones back. War cannot avenge those who have died. War is only a brutaldesecration of their memory.
To fuel yet another war –this time against Iraq – by cynically manipulating people’s grief, by packagingit for TV specials sponsored by corporations selling detergent and runningshoes, is to cheapen and devalue grief, to drain it of meaning. What we areseeing now is a vulgar display of the business of grief, the commerce of grief,the pillaging of even the most private human feelings for political purpose. Itis a terrible, violent thing for a State to do to its people.
It’s not a clever-enoughsubject to speak of from a public platform, but what I would really love totalk to you about is Loss. Loss and losing. Grief, failure, brokenness,numbness, uncertainty, fear, the death of feeling, the death of dreaming. Theabsolute relentless, endless, habitual, unfairness of the world. What does lossmean to individuals? What does it mean to whole cultures, whole people who havelearned to live with it as a constant companion?
Since it is September11th we’re talking about, perhaps it’s in the fitness of things that weremember what that date means, not only to those who lost their loved ones inAmerica last year, but to those in other parts of the world to whom that datehas long held significance. This historical dredging is not offered as anaccusation or a provocation. But just to share the grief of history. To thinthe mists a little. To say to the citizens of America, in the gentlest, mosthuman way: “Welcome to the World.”
[September 11th, 1973 -Chile]
Twenty-nine years ago, inChile, on the 11th of September 1973, General Pinochet overthrew thedemocratically elected government of Salvador Allende in a CIA-backed coup.“Chile should not be allowed to go Marxist just because its people are irresponsible,”said Henry Kissinger, Nobel Peace Laureate, then the U.S. Secretary of State.
After the coup PresidentAllende was found dead inside the presidential palace. Whether he was killed orwhether he killed himself, we’ll never know. In the regime of terror thatensured, thousands of people were killed. Many more simply “disappeared”.Firing squads conducted public executions. Concentration camps and torturechambers were opened across the country. The dead were buried in mine shaftsand unmarked graves.
For seventeen years the people of Chile lived in dread ofthe midnight knock, of routine “disappearances”, of sudden arrest and torture.Chileans tell the story of how the musician Victor Jara had his hands cut offin front of a crowd in the Santiago stadium. Before they shot him, Pinochet’ssoldiers threw his guitar at him and mockingly asked him to play.
In 1999, following thearrest of General Pinochet in Britain, thousands of secret documents weredeclassified by the U.S. government. They contain unequivocal evidence of theCIA’s involvement in the coup as well as the fact that the U.S. government haddetailed information about the situation in Chile during General Pinochet’sreign. Yet, Kissinger assured the general of his support: “In the United Statesas you know, we are sympathetic to what you’re trying to do,” he said. “We wishyour government well.”
Those of us who have onlyever known life in a democracy, however flawed, would find it hard to imaginewhat living in a dictatorship and enduring the absolute loss of freedom means.It isn’t just those who Pinochet murdered, but the lives he stole from theliving that must be accounted for too.
Sadly, Chile was not theonly country in South America to be singled out for the U.S. government’sattentions. Guatemala, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Brazil, Peru, the DominicanRepublic, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Honduras, Panama, El Salvador, Mexico andColombia – they’ve all been the playground for covert – and overt – operationsby the CIA. Hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans have been killed, torturedor have simply disappeared under the despotic regimes that were propped up intheir countries. If this were not humiliation enough, the people of SouthAmerica have had to bear the cross of being branded as people who are incapableof democracy – as if coups and massacres are somehow encrypted in their genes.
This list does not, ofcourse, include countries in Africa or Asia that suffered U.S. militaryinterventions – Vietnam, Korea, Indonesia, Laos, and Cambodia. For how manySeptembers for decades together have millions of Asian people been bombed, andburned, and slaughtered? How many Septembers have gone by since August 1945,when hundreds of thousands of ordinary Japanese people were obliterated by thenuclear strikes in Hiroshima and Nagasaki?
For how many Septembers have thethousands who had the misfortune of surviving those strikes endured that livinghell that was visited on them, their unborn children, their children’schildren, on the earth, the sky, the water, the wind, and all the creaturesthat swim and walk and crawl and fly?
Not far from here, in Albuquerque, is theNational Atomic Museum where Fat Man and Little Boy (the affectionate nicknamesfor the bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki) are available assouvenir earrings. Funky young people wore them. A massacre dangling in eachear. But I’m straying from my theme. It’s September that we’re talking about,not August.
[September 11th, 1922 -Palestine]
September 11th has atragic resonance in the Middle East, too. On the 11th of September 1922,ignoring Arab outrage, the British government proclaimed a mandate inPalestine, a follow-up to the 1917 Balfour Declaration which imperial Britainissued, with its army massed outside the gates of Gaza. The Balfour Declarationpromised European Zionists a national home for Jewish people. (At the time, theEmpire on which the Sun Never Set was free to snatch and bequeath nationalhomes like a school bully distributes marbles.)
How carelessly imperialpower vivisected ancient civilizations. Palestine and Kashmir are imperialBritain’s festering, blood-drenched gifts to the modem world. Both are faultlines in the raging international conflicts of today.
In 1937, WinstonChurchill said of the Palestinians, I quote, “I do not agree that the dog in amanger has the final right to the manger even though he may have lain there fora very long time. I do not admit that right. I do not admit for instance, thata great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America or the black peopleof Australia. I do not admit that a wrong has been done to these people by thefact that a stronger race, a higher-grade race, a more worldly wise race to putit that way, has come in and taken their place.”
That set the trend for theIsraeli State’s attitude towards the Palestinians.
In 1969, Israeli PrimeMinister Golda Meir said, “Palestinians do not exist.” Her successor, PrimeMinister Levi Eschol said, “What are Palestinians? When I came here (toPalestine), there were 250,000 non-Jews, mainly Arabs and Bedouins. It was adesert, more than underdeveloped. Nothing.”
Prime Minister Menachem Begincalled Palestinians “two-legged beasts.”
Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir calledthem “grasshoppers” who could be crushed. This is the language of Heads ofState, not the words of ordinary people.
In 1947, the U.N.formally partitioned Palestine and allotted 55 per cent of Palestine’s land tothe Zionists. Within a year, they had captured 76 per cent. On the 14th of May1948 the State of Israel was declared. Minutes after the declaration, theUnited States recognized Israel. The West Bank was annexed by Jordan. The Gazastrip came under Egyptian military control, and formally Palestine ceased toexist except in the minds and hearts of the hundreds of thousands ofPalestinian people who became refugees. In 1967, Israel occupied the West Bankand the Gaza strip.
Over the decades there havebeen uprisings, wars, intifadas. Tens of thousands have lost their lives.Accords and treaties have been signed. Cease-fires declared and violated. Butthe bloodshed doesn’t end.
Palestine still remains illegally occupied. Itspeople live in inhuman conditions, in virtual Bantustans, where they aresubjected to collective punishments, twenty-four hour curfews, where they arehumiliated and brutalized on a daily basis. They never know when their homeswill be demolished, when their children will be shot, when their precious treeswill be cut, when their roads will be closed, when they will be allowed to walkdown to the market to buy food and medicine. And when they will not. They livewith no semblance of dignity. With not much hope in sight. They have no controlover their lands, their security, their movement, their communication, theirwater supply. So when accords are signed, and words like “autonomy” and even“statehood” bandied about, it’s always worth asking: What sort of autonomy?What sort of State? What sort of rights will its citizens have?
Young Palestinians whocannot control their anger turn themselves into human bombs and haunt Israel’sstreets and public places, blowing themselves up, killing ordinary people,injecting terror into daily life, and eventually hardening both societies’suspicion and mutual hatred of each other. Each bombing invites mercilessreprisal and even more hardship on Palestinian people. But then suicide bombingis an act of individual despair, not a revolutionary tactic. AlthoughPalestinian attacks strike terror into Israeli citizens, they provide theperfect cover for the Israeli government’s daily incursions into Palestinianterritory, the perfect excuse for old-fashioned, nineteenth-centurycolonialism, dressed up as a new fashioned, twenty-first century “war”.
Israel’s staunchestpolitical and military ally is and always has been the U.S. The U.S. governmenthas blocked, along with Israel, almost every U.N. resolution that sought apeaceful, equitable solution to the conflict. It has supported almost every warthat Israel has fought. When Israel attacks Palestine, it is American missilesthat smash through Palestinian homes. And every year Israel receives severalbillion dollars from the United States – taxpayers money.
What lessons should wedraw from this tragic conflict? Is it really impossible for Jewish people whosuffered so cruelly themselves – more cruelly perhaps than any other people inhistory – to understand the vulnerability and the yearning of those whom theyhave displaced? Does extreme suffering always kindle cruelty? What hope doesthis leave the human race with? What will happen to the Palestinian people inthe event of a victory? When a nation without a state eventually proclaims astate, what kind of state will it be?
What horrors will be perpetrated underits flag? Is it a separate state that we should be fighting for or, the rightsto a life of liberty and dignity for everyone regardless of their ethnicity orreligion?
Palestine was once asecular bulwark in the Middle East. But now the weak, undemocratic, by allaccounts corrupt but avowedly nonsectarian P.L.O., is losing ground to Hamas,which espouses an overtly sectarian ideology and fights in the name of Islam.To quote from their manifesto: “we will be its soldiers and the firewood of itsfire, which will burn the enemies.”
The world is called uponto condemn suicide bombers. But can we ignore the long road they have journeyedon before they have arrived at this destination? September 11, 1922 toSeptember 11, 2002 – eighty years is a long time to have been waging war. Isthere some advice the world can give the people of Palestine? Should they justtake Golda Meir’s suggestion and make a real effort not to exist?
[September 11th, 1990,Iraq]
In another part of theMiddle East, September 11th strikes a more recent cord. It was on the 11th ofSeptember 1990 that George W. Bush, Sr., then President of the U.S., made aspeech to a joint session of Congress announcing his government’s decision togo to war against Iraq.
The U.S. government saysthat Saddam Hussein is a war criminal, a cruel military despot who hascommitted genocide against his own people. That’s a fairly accurate descriptionof the man. In 1988, Saddam Hussein razed hundreds of villages in northernIraq, used chemical weapons and machine guns to kill thousands of Kurdishpeople.
Today we know that that same year the U.S. government provided him with$500 million in subsidies to buy American farm products. The next year, afterhe had successfully completed his genocidal campaign, the U.S. governmentdoubled its subsidy to $1 billion. It also provided him with high quality germseed for anthrax, and helicopters and dual-use material that could be used tomanufacture chemical and biological weapons. So it turns out that while SaddamHussein was carrying out his worst atrocities, the U.S. and the U.K.governments were his close allies.
So what changed?
In 1990,Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. His sin was not so much that he had committed anact of war, but that he had acted independently, without orders from hismaster. This display of independence was enough to upset the power equation inthe Gulf. So it was decided that Saddam Hussein be exterminated, like a petthat has outlived its owner’s affection.
The first Allied attackon Iraq took place on January ’91. The world watched the prime-time war as itwas played out on T.V. (In India in those days you had to go to a five-starhotel lobby to watch CNN.) Tens of thousands of people were killed in a monthof devastating bombing. What many do not know is that the war never ended then.The initial fury simmered down into the longest sustained air attack on acountry since the Vietman War. Over the last decade American and British forceshave fired thousands of missiles and bombs on Iraq. In the decade of economicsanctions that followed the war, Iraqi civilians have been denied food,medicine, hospital equipment, ambulances, clean water – the basic essentials.
About half a millionIraqi children have died as a result of the sanctions. Of them, MadeleineAlbright, then U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, famously said, “It’s avery hard choice, but we think the price is worth it.” “Moral equivalence” wasthe term that was used to denounce those of us who criticized the war onAfghanistan. Madeleine Albright cannot be accused of moral equivalence. Whatshe said was just straightforward algebra.
A decade of bombing hasnot managed to dislodge Saddam Hussein, “the Beast of Baghdad”. Now, almost 12years on, President George Bush, Jr. has ratcheted up the rhetoric once again.He’s proposing an all-out war whose goal is nothing short of a regime change.The New York Times says that the Bush administration is following, quote, “ameticulously planned strategy to persuade the public, the Congress, and theAllies of the need to confront the threat of Saddam Hussein.”
Andrew. H. Card,Jr., the White House Chief of Staff, described how the administration wasstepping up its war plans for the fall, and I quote, “From a marketing point ofview”, he said, “you don’t introduce new products in August.” This time thecatch-phrase for Washington’s “new product” is not the plight of Kuwaiti peoplebut the assertion that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. “Forget thefeckless moralizing of peace lobbies”, wrote Richard Perle, a former adviser toPresident Bush, “We need to get him before he gets us.”
Weapons inspectors haveconflicting reports of the status of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, andmany have said clearly that its arsenal has been dismantled and that it doesnot have the capacity to build one. However, there is no confusion over theextent and range of America’s arsenal of nuclear and chemical weapons. Wouldthe U.S. government welcome weapons inspectors? Would the U.K.? Or Israel?
What if Iraq does have anuclear weapon, does that justify a pre-emptive U.S. strike? The U.S. has thelargest arsenal of nuclear weapons in the world and it’s the only country inthe world to have actually used them on civilian populations. If the U.S. isjustified in launching a pre-emptive strike on Iraq, why, then any nuclearpower is justified in carrying out a pre-emptive strike on any other. Indiacould attack Pakistan, or the other way around. If the U.S. government developsa distaste for, say, the Indian Prime Minister, can it just “take him out” witha pre-emptive strike?
Recently the UnitedStates played an important part in forcing India and Pakistan back from thebrink of war. Is it so hard for it to take its own advice? Who is guilty offeckless moralizing? Of preaching peace while it wages war? The U.S., whichGeorge Bush has called “the most peaceful nation on earth”, has been at warwith one country or another every year for the last fifty [years].
Wars are never fought foraltruistic reasons. They’re usually fought for hegemony, for business. And thenof course there’s the business of war.
Protecting its control ofthe world’s oil is fundamental to U.S. foreign policy. The U.S. government’srecent military interventions in the Balkans and Central Asia have to do withoil. Hamid Karzai, the puppet President of Afghanistan installed by the U.S.,is said to be a former employee of Unocal, the American-based oil company.
TheU.S. government’s paranoid patrolling of the Middle East is because it hastwo-thirds of the world’s oil reserves. Oil keeps America’s engines purringsweetly. Oil keeps the Free Market rolling. Whoever controls the world’s oil,controls the world’s market. And how do you control the oil?
Nobody puts it moreelegantly than The New York Times columnist, Thomas Friedman. In an articlecalled, “Craziness Pays”, he said, “The U.S. has to make it clear to Iraq andU.S. allies that…American will use force without negotiation, hesitation orU.N. approval.” His advice was well taken. In the wars against Iraq andAfghanistan as well as in the almost daily humiliation the U.S. governmentheaps on the U.N. In his book on globalization, The Lexus and the Olive Tree,Friedman says, and I quote, “The hidden hand of the market will never workwithout the hidden fist. McDonalds cannot flourish without McDonnellDouglas…and the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley’stechnologies to flourish is called the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy, and MarineCorps.” Perhaps this was written in a moment of vulnerability, but it’scertainly the most succinct, accurate description of the project of corporateglobalization that I have read.
After the 11th ofSeptember 2001 and the War Against Terror, the hidden hand and fist have hadtheir cover blown – and we have a clear view now of America’s other weapon –the Free Market – bearing down on the Developing World, with a clenched,unsmiling smile. The Task That Never Ends is America’s perfect war, the perfectvehicle for the endless expansion of American imperialism. In Urdu, the wordfor Profit, as in “p-r-o-f-i-t”, is fayda. Al Qaida means The Word, The Word ofGod, The Law. So, in India, some of us call the War Against Terror, Al Qaidaversus Al Fayda – The Word versus The Profit (no pun intended.)
For the moment it looksas though Al Fayda will carry the day. But then you never know…
In the last ten years ofunbridled Corporate Globalization, the world’s total income has increased by anaverage of 2.5 percent a year. And yet the numbers of poor in the world hasincreased by 100 million. Of the top hundred biggest economies, 51 arecorporations, not countries. The top 1 percent of the world has the samecombined income as the bottom 57 percent and that disparity is growing. Andnow, under the spreading canopy of the War Against Terror, this process isbeing hustled along.
The men in suits are in an unseemly hurry. While bombs raindown on us, and cruise missiles skid across the skies, while nuclear weaponsare stockpiled to make the world a safer place, contracts are being signed,patents are being registered, oil pipe lines are being laid, natural resourcesare being plundered, water is being privatized, and democracies are beingundermined.
In a country like India,the “structural adjustment” end of the Corporate Globalization project isripping through people’s lives. “Development” projects, massive privatization,and labor “reforms” are pushing people off their lands and out of their jobs,resulting in a kind of barbaric dispossession that has few parallels inhistory.
Across the world, as the “Free Market” brazenly protects Westernmarkets and forces developing countries to lift their trade barriers, the poorare getting poorer and the rich richer.
Civil unrest has begun to erupt in theglobal village. In countries like Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Bolivia and India,the resistance movements against Corporate Globalization are growing. Tocontain them, governments are tightening their control.
Protesters are beinglabeled “terrorists” and then being dealt with as such. But civil unrest doesnot only mean marches and demonstrations and protests against globalization.Unfortunately, it also means a desperate downward spiral into crime and chaosand all kinds of despair and disillusionment which as we know from history (andfrom what we see unspooling before our eyes), gradually becomes a fertilebreeding ground for terrible things – cultural nationalism, religious bigotry,fascism and of course, terrorism.
All these marcharm-in-arm with corporate globalization.
There is a notion gainingcredence that the Free Market breaks down national barriers, and that CorporateGlobalization’s ultimate destination is a hippie paradise where the heart isthe only passport and we all live happily together inside a John Lennon song.(“Imagine there’s no country…”) But this is a canard.
What the Free Marketundermines is not national sovereignty, but democracy. As the disparity betweenthe rich and poor grows, the hidden fist has its work cut out for it.Multinational corporations on the prowl for “sweetheart deals” that yieldenormous profits cannot push through those deals and administer those projectsin developing countries without the active connivance of State machinery – thepolice, the courts, sometimes even the army.
Today Corporate Globalizationneeds an international confederation of loyal, corrupt, preferablyauthoritarian governments in poorer countries to push through unpopular reformsand quell the mutinies.
It needs a press that pretends to be free.
It needscourts that pretend to dispense justice.
It needs nuclear bombs, standingarmies, sterner immigration laws, and watchful coastal patrols to make surethat it’s only money, goods, patents, and services that are being globalized –not the free movement of people, not a respect for human rights, notinternational treaties on racial discrimination or chemical and nuclearweapons, or greenhouse gas emissions, climate change, or god forbid, justice.
It’s as though even a gesture towards international accountability would wreckthe whole enterprise.
Close to one year afterthe War against Terror was officially flagged off in the ruins of Afghanistan,in country after country freedoms are being curtailed in the name of protectingfreedom, civil liberties are being suspended in the name of protectingdemocracy. All kinds of dissent are being defined as “terrorism”. All kinds oflaws are being passed to deal with it. Osama bin Laden seems to have vanishedinto thin air. Mullah Omar is supposed to have made his escape on a motorbike.(They could have sent TinTin after him.)
The Taliban may havedisappeared but their spirit, and their system of summary justice is surfacingin the unlikeliest of places. In India, in Pakistan, in Nigeria, in America, inall the Central Asian republics run by all manner of despots, and of course inAfghanistan under the U.S.-backed, Northern Alliance.
Meanwhile down at themall there’s a mid-season sale. Everything’s discounted – oceans, rivers, oil,gene pools, fig wasps, flowers, childhoods, aluminum factories, phonecompanies, wisdom, wilderness, civil rights, eco-systems, air – all 4,600million years of evolution. It’s packed, sealed, tagged, valued and availableoff the rack. (No returns). As for justice – I’m told it’s on offer too. Youcan get the best that money can buy.
Donald Rumsfeld said thathis mission in the War Against Terror was to persuade the world that Americansmust be allowed to continue their way of life. When the maddened king stampshis foot, slaves tremble in their quarters. So, standing here today, it’s hardfor me to say this, but “The American Way of Life” is simply not sustainable.Because it doesn’t acknowledge that there is a world beyond America.
But fortunately, powerhas a shelf life. When the time comes, maybe this mighty empire will, likeothers before it, overreach itself and implode from within. It looks as thoughstructural cracks have already appeared. As the War Against Terror casts itsnet wider and wider, America’s corporate heart is hemorrhaging.
For all theendless, empty chatter about democracy, today the world is run by three of themost secretive institutions in the world: The International Monetary Fund, theWorld Bank, and the World Trade Organization, all three of which, in turn, aredominated by the U.S. Their decisions are made in secret. The people who headthem are appointed behind closed doors. Nobody really knows anything aboutthem, their politics, their beliefs, their intentions. Nobody elected them.Nobody said they could make decisions on our behalf.
A world run by a handfulof greedy bankers and C.E.O.’s whom nobody elected can’t possibly last.
Soviet-style communismfailed, not because it was intrinsically evil but because it was flawed. Itallowed too few people to usurp too much power. Twenty-first centurymarket-capitalism, American style, will fail for the same reasons. Both areedifices constructed by the human intelligence, undone by human nature.
The time has come, theWalrus said. Perhaps things will become worse and then better. Perhaps there’sa small god up in heaven readying herself for us. Another world is not onlypossible, she’s on her way. Maybe many of us won’t be here to greet her, but ona quiet day, if I listen very carefully, I can hear her breathing.