The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

20 November 2003

Meanwhile in Miami

Laredd at Today's Shoes is not impressed with the general run of demonstrators in town today:

They claim to be anarchists, and yet they rely on the electronic media to advertise their protests and demands. Here's a little something to chew on: true anarchy would destroy the electric grid, bring down all media, stop running water and sewers, and leave us little better than cave dwellers (not that there's anything wrong with that).

True anarchy would allow the police you taunt to shoot you and damn the consequences, of which there would be none. Well, you may argue, they wouldn't be policemen. And you'd be right. They'd just be pissed off people with automatic weapons and riot gear. Sort of like the knights of old, in their armor, smacking the crap out of the little people wearing rags.

Nor do they get any Brownie points for their politics:

Here's another something to chew on, other than your grainy tofu from your community kitchens: if the average household income in a third-world nation is about five bucks a year, and a 10-year old, who has no chance of going to a non-existent school anyway, is making about 50 cents a week sewing Nike sneakers rather than being a child sex worker, what's the problem? You don't want to support sweat shops in Asia? Fine. Don't buy the products.

I have always been somewhat perplexed by the insistence that "Globalization is bad," that people in Third World hellholes are somehow better off starving to death than toiling long hours for not much money for some Evil Capitalist. This doesn't mean that we shouldn't try to improve conditions for these folks, but as a practical matter, we're not going to turn Indonesia into Indianapolis.

Posted at 4:15 PM to Political Science Fiction

I dont have the time or patience to conduct a seminar on anarchy as a political philosophy, but needless to say the misperception that anarchy is nothing more and suicidal ludditic chaos is just plain wrong.

The basic concept of anarchy is decentralization or power. Oppresion is the natural occurance of accumulated influence. The FAQ and Zmag's anarchy watch page with links to lots of information about anarchy. Good reading. You will see similarities in other political movements as well.

"The term anarchy comes from the Greek, and essentially means 'no ruler.' Anarchists are people who reject all forms of government or coercive authority, all forms of hierarchy and domination. They are therefore opposed to what the Mexican anarchist Flores Magon called the 'sombre trinity' -- state, capital and the church. Anarchists are thus opposed to both capitalism and to the state, as well as to all forms of religious authority. But anarchists also seek to establish or bring about by varying means, a condition of anarchy, that is, a decentralised society without coercive institutions, a society organised through a federation of voluntary associations." ["Anthropology and Anarchism," Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed, no. 45, p. 38]

and ...

"While the popular understanding of anarchism is of a violent, anti-State movement, anarchism is a much more subtle and nuanced tradition then a simple opposition to government power. Anarchists oppose the idea that power and domination are necessary for society, and instead advocate more co-operative, anti-hierarchical forms of social, political and economic organisation." [The Politics of Individualism, p. 106]

So you see, these assertions about pure anarchy is sheer boloney. CG, I know this person doesnt do their homework before running off their mouth, but I would hope you would know better than to give their ignorance a wider forum.

thank you

Posted by: bruce at 6:42 PM on 20 November 2003

Don't assume that the street fighters in Miami are aware of any of these nuances. I'd be surprised, in fact, if they knew anything about the concept other than the fact that Johnny Rotten said he was one.

And anyway, they're the reverse of Rotten's Anarchist in the UK; they do claim to know what they want, but they don't have a clue how to get it.

Posted by: CGHill at 7:08 PM on 20 November 2003

And globalization:

AAAARRGGHH... you perpetuate two misperceptions in one post!

ok, think about the Grapes of Wrath, sharecroppers losing their land and traveling across the country to work for subsistence in california. Now try to imagine those farmers losing there land because cheap subsidized crops from another country were undermining their way of life. OK, now imagine that upon arriving in California, the same country that put them out of house and home is offering them those subsistence jobs in order to feed themselves. Wuold you say "hooray, good thing they got jobs", or would you think "too bad they got cheated off their land"?

Agricultural dumping has forced many small farmers off their land as they can no longer afford to live off their land. Many times the younger children go to the cities to work long hours in factories making our products. They were poor before, and they are poor now. What has changed is their quality of life. They work longer hours now and are no longer their own bosses. We get cheap products and we dont have to take any responsibility for humans that make them like we would if they lived here.

What is wrong with globalization (and you wouldnt know this without doing some research) is that the way it is being promoted is unbalanced, with the third world making the lion's share of the concessions. Its like that game "lets see who can hit the softest". We let the third world go first, lowering trade barriers and letting in foreign capital. But when it came time to return the favor we refused to follow suit. It comes as no suprise. We had no intention of following that path.

I know, and others in the protest movement against corporate dominated trade policy know that the rules were always rigged. It was sold as free trade, but it was nothing close to it.

I do not oppose people making a living, what I do oppose is the idea that we should accept the use of labor in conditions we made illegal ages ago.

It was always about freeing capital from the burden of doing business in the civilised world. We lowered the barriers for capital flow without insisting that human and worker rights should follow.

Neoliberalism is, and was always about, providing protection for investors while eroding rights and protections for workers.

The recent breakdown in trade talks, first cancun and now miami are a natural result of the west's reneging on our end of the deal. The third world want us to stop dumping and direct subsidy for our market, a politically unviable position that we forced them to swallow years ago.

Another analogy, imagine you go into your bosses office, he says, "I'm thinking about firing you but I might not if you get down on the floor and grovel" you do, he says "ok, now run around the room naked screaming for your mommy" you do, then he says "well, you're fired."

The west, as the main power broker in the global economy has humiliated the third world yet again. For our benefit? Of course. The current stagnation in wages would have been painful if not for the use of low wage labor to keep product cost down.

Here's some reading for you

Posted by: bruce at 7:19 PM on 20 November 2003

Actually, the protesters would much rather turn Indianapolis into Indonesia.

Posted by: Ralph Gizzip at 7:23 PM on 20 November 2003

You know its easy to characterize the protestors. Detractors do it all the time. It helps you ignore them. But I dont know if you all recall but I was pretty heavily involved in a protest-oriented group for a year or so. It was educational. We had reading groups, a library of donated books, group discussions and presentations. It was like a mini-university with all the things I learned.

I know the general impression conveyed is that of spoiled college kids that just want to run around and spread mischeif. And there is some of that, but most of the people involved really know their stuff. You might be suprised. We have access to so much information, all it takes is curious mind, put that together with a desire to do something and you have protests.

I assume that they know about these things because they are my friends, and they taught me.

Posted by: bruce at 11:04 PM on 20 November 2003

Bruce is right; the author is off base with her use of anarchy in the admitted hate-filled tirade. If you read her previous entry, she expresses how stupid her superiors at work are, yet evidently favors their ilk to develop global trade policy around the world.

I oppose the current trend of globalization, yet can guarantee that I am far from an anarchist. I vote, volunteer in the community, write letters to the editor, donate to charities, own property, trade stocks, pay taxes and have a decent job. Anarchy doesn't appeal to me at this time.

I simply don't trust our state and national sovereignty to a group of non-elected bureaucratic authorities with the power to override local laws and customs. Perhaps I'm too nationalistic in feeling that capitalism should serve society rather than vice-versa. Yes, I like capitalism.

What ever happened to our trade policy being used to encourage democracy and human rights? Now we trade with some of the most oppressive governments on earth in the hopes that they will see the light. We should trade with those countries that actually make an effort to establish freedom as opposed to any despot that provides the cheapest manufacturing costs at the time. Is it any wonder we're losing respect throughout the world?

Posted by: Mike at 12:56 AM on 21 November 2003

Certainly there are good reasons to distrust the World Trade Organization. And on free trade, the US talks the talk a lot better than it walks the walk; we still have farm subsidies, and we still have steel tariffs.

But I am not persuaded that cutting the despots out of the loop will provide benefits for us or for the people who suffer under their rule; the trade embargo with Cuba hasn't moved Castro in the slightest, and where the US won't deal, others certainly will.

Posted by: CGHill at 7:43 AM on 21 November 2003

I'll answer for myself.

Bruce, you are correct that I am ignorant about the subtle nuances of anarchy as a political dogma. What you write smacks of libertarianism, another political vision for which I have only lukewarm enthusiasm and then only for pieces of it.

However, I was not bitching about anarchy per se, merely the half wits proclaiming to be such with no more understanding than I have.

I am not particularly in favor of the FTAA, because of the very issues you bring up: it is a front for Agribusiness and a globalization movement that really means the homoginization of world cultures into a Micky D and Wal-Mart sort of Borg universe. Resistance is futile: assimilization is inevitable.

I'd like to think that it isn't.

As for demonizing the protesters? Like you, I have friends in the movement. College educated, well-read, deep thinking friends who can and do articulate their points. They were not on the streets yesterday.

As for the idiots I work with, I would not want them to be in charge of anything. The point I was making was that we need to elect competent, intelligent people to posisitions of power. We need to see that those same kinds of people achieve success in business. You do that by supporting the businesses you favor, and withholding your money from those you don't.

Where you shop is as important as what you buy. Do you buy your books from independent book sellers, or do you buy them from Barnes and Noble or Borders, or Wal-Mart? Are you willing to pay full retail for something to support an independent rather than a mass merchandizer?

My family ran a small clothing store for three generations until the malls moved in to my small town and the Federated brands moved in. We closed the doors rather than sell the name to someone who would not have maintained the integrity for which we were known.

And that's where I come from, ideologically. At least, in part.

Posted by: laredd at 9:20 AM on 21 November 2003

laredd, thanks for your thoughtful response. You explained yourself wonderfully.

I myself am not a follower of Anarchism. But when I studied the basics I noticed that the fundamental idea of anarchism shares similarities with other political movements, libertarianisms, some conservatism, socialism and at its heart, democracy. When you spread authority you lower the risk of oppresion or corruption.

I take a certain relish in saying the phrase "oh, I havent shopped at Wal-Mart for years" which used to illicit suprise but is more and more respoded to with "yeah, I dont either".

I think we recognize that when you feed the gorilla its going to sit on you one day.

Posted by: bruce at 1:45 PM on 21 November 2003