As some of you may know, I went back to school last fall to finish my bachelor's degree. Yes, you CAN do that later in life. I only need a few classes to finish, but I decided that since some of them were staged I would be best served to get an International Certificate on my BBA-Finance at UW-Milwaukee. I LOVE being back in school. It can be really hard, I have to study a lot and can't write as much as I'd like to... The upside is that I'm learning a LOT (it really does matter to finish those last few classes..)! I should graduate by December of this year.
Below is an essay I wrote last semester in my course Concepts in Global Management (I got an A-, not bad after nearly a decade huh?). The question the professor asked was (paraphrased): If you could have gone, would you have protested in 1999 in Seattle at the WTO protests? Why or why not? My answer was long (my readers know brevity is not exactly my strength), but I thought with Wisconsin's labor wars, it might help to add to that "bigger picture" I mentioned in my blog earlier this week... Remember this was written about 8 months ago, long before we knew what was going to happen in Wisconsin. Rereading it for a class I'm in now, I was amazed at how it is relevant today.
In simple terms and knowing myself, yes, in fact, I was bummed to have missed it. More practically though, I was pregnant at the time and had two other children, so going would not have been an option for me. I think the bigger question you're asking is why would I have gone? And the lesser questions are once the violence broke out, would I have stayed and what would I have done? Contributed to the violence? Tried to help calm things? The answers to these questions are complex, so I'll start with the simple parts. The answers are maybe, I'm a peaceful protester, I was not angry enough to participate in violence and if I decided to stay, I would have probably tried in vain to both help calm things and take notes on how the violence was developing and who was participating. I would have left when the tear gas came out. I hate tear gas.
I love a good just protest. I was raised in the civil rights movement in the 1970's, marched for justice for Earnest Lacy in the early 1980's, built shanty towns for divestment in South Africa the 1980's at Cornell University and was a major player in the Win Without War peace movement in Milwaukee in the first half of this decade and my job now partially involves organizing to ensure protesters are not inhibited by government interference. I was also very informed about the global economic justice movements in the 1990's, so I had an informed opinion at the time that the WTO, IMF and World Back were behaving as a perfect trilogy of disaster.
This does not mean that I am in anyway against globalization. I believe that both coercion and hegemony are critical to getting bad players in the world to behave on behalf of their populations. What I am against is unfair trade policies that specifically are designed to both destroy labor movements globally, the power of the people to organize for fair labor practices, and take money out of the developing nations' government's ability to care for the basic infrastructures that bring a developing nation into the developed world. That's what the trilogy of disaster was doing in the 1990's especially after NAFTA was passed and what they are still doing today.
Baqwhati's piece was very difficult for me to read mostly because his writing style was arrogant, demeaning and sarcastic to the point where I didn't like him at all. That said, he makes some good points about the benefits of globalization, such as the benefits of cross cultural advancements when two cultures collide, but then ignores the negative effects making his argument very biased. For example, he discusses (in a very obnoxious way) the spread of the women's rights movement as US Corporations move around the world with female managers, etc ignoring the setbacks of women and their children being forced into slave labor and the sex slave trade as a result of mass migrations from rural areas to large cities to find limited employment and unfair labor practices such as long work days, no right to grievances, unsafe working conditions that lead to work ending injuries, etc...
Social justice movements serve a purpose, but cannot be effective in a vacuum. Millions of people can march in the streets to not go into
A divide exists in this world between the very wealthy and the rest of us. One of the great equalizers in that divide has always been the labor union. EJ Dionne wrote a great piece on this in the Washington Post this week for Labor Day. None of those poor working conditions are new to the labor environment. In fact, what’s new is workers organizing for example, the eight hour workday, the five day work week, OSHA standards and the end of child labor in
As a union organizer in
That was an American company he worked for behaving like that around the time of the WTO protests in
My main issue with the WTO and the rest of the trilogy, is it’s complete and utter lack of acknowledgement of problems such as these, the fact that it’s leadership and decision makers operate in a vacuum to the needs of the majority on this planet in deference to the greed of the few, with no oversight at all and that’s where Seattle came into the picture.
I believe the