Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Battle in Seattle: The Movie, and the effects of globalization.

(For the record, this is cross posted at Soulforce, and apparently you can watch the whole thing online.)

I rented this movie at Blockbuster the other day and I found it very inspirational and empowering, especially because it’s based on true events. The protesters accomplished so much, and I kept thinking about it in terms of Soulforce protests.

I remember when this was going on in 1999, there was a news clip of the protests one day, and I didn’t think much of it until they kept reporting on it day after day. It just kept escalating, but I still never really knew what it was all about. After watching this movie -- ten years later -- I now understand.

The thing about this movie and its accompanying website, is that it provides an easily understood focus, untangled by political mumbo jumbo.

One more note, protests like this are going on all over the world. In the fight for human rights, we are not alone.

Official Battle in Seattle Movie Trailer:

For background’s sake, here’s another video I found with actual footage from 1999. It’s about 5 minutes long. If you don’t feel like watching it, below the video are the words that were overlaid at various points.

This is what Democracy Looks Like? 1:
The World Trade Organization is the latest in a series of transitional bodies and agreements designed to regulate the global economy. It can use sanctions and fines to override the labor, safety, and environmental standards of individual nations.

In November, 1999, the WTO was scheduled to hold its last meeting of the millennium, behind the closed doors of a convention center in downtown Seattle. Activist prepared to blockade the streets to prevent the meetings from taking place. On Tuesday, over 30,000 protesters converged on downtown Seattle.

“I think in 10 years from now, the thing that’s going to be written about Seattle, is not what tear gas bomb went off on what street corner, but that the WTO in 1999 was the birth of a global citizen’s movement for a democratic global economy.”
Back to the Battle in Seattle website.

The trailer is on that first page (same as the first video above). Once you enter the official site, there are options to find out more about the movie. Toward the bottom of that page, there is a link that says “Who controls the world,” which leads to a WEALTH of information.

This is so relevant for me because I often bring up in political discourse (LGBT or otherwise) the 40,000 people who starve to death and die of easily preventable diseases - EVERY DAY. Not to mention the guilt I feel when I spend money on things I don’t actually need.

Here are a couple examples from the links on that 'who controls the world' page:

Note to WTO, IMF, World Bank: Africa is Not Your Buffet Table:
“At the time of decolonization in the 1960s, Africa was not just self-sufficient in food but was actually a net food exporter, its exports averaging 1.3 million tons a year between 1966-70,” Walden Bello reports in his guerrillanews.com article, “Destroying African Agriculture.

“Today, the continent imports 25% of its food, with almost every country being a net food importer. Hunger and famine have become recurrent phenomena, with the last three years alone seeing food emergencies break out in the Horn of Africa, the Sahel, Southern Africa, and Central Africa.”
The Case for Accessible Medicine:
There are four companies that together form an oligopoly, or act as a collective ‘monopoly,’ dominating the pharmaceutical industry – Merck, Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, Eli Lilly. Called the “Big Four,” these corporations wield tremendous power over international politics and trade. Previously, over 50 countries had exempted essential medicines from being patented. This would allow, poorer countries to make inexpensive “generic” formulas to help with disease control. But with heavy lobbying efforts on the part of the Big Four, a new Trade Related intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) deal went through, making it difficult to provide these lower-cost medicines. Their argument – patent protection is vital if companies are to put large sums of money into R & D [Research and Development]. The truth – only 10% of R & D (which is a small fraction of marketing expenditures) goes into the drugs that account for 90% of global disease. Brazil has rejected TRIPS, and manufactures its own HIV medications enabling the treatment of 4 times the number of patients otherwise possible. The US backed proceedings at the WTO to force Brazil to amend this patent law, but in 2001 an agreement was won to make it easier for developing countries to access life-saving medicines.
I remember when congress was debating The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and I didn’t know whether to be for it or against it. “Free trade” sounded beneficial, but there was strong opposition to it. It seems that these “free trade” agreements are mostly a free-for-all for corporations.

The North American Free Trade Agreement took effect on January 1, 1994:
NAFTA opponents - including labor, environmental, consumer and religious groups - argued that NAFTA would launch a race-to-the-bottom in wages, destroy hundreds of thousands of good U.S. jobs, undermine democratic control of domestic policy-making and threaten health, environmental and food safety standards.
NAFTA requires limits on the safety and inspection of meat sold in our grocery stores; new patent rules that raised medicine prices; constraints on your local government’s ability to zone against sprawl or toxic industries; and elimination of preferences for spending your tax dollars on U.S.-made products or locally-grown food.
I’m not sure what our trade agreements are with China, but the whole WTO/NAFTA thing reminds me of the working conditions there. They pay them pennies an hour and work them to death - figuratively, under deplorable conditions, and sometimes using chemicals that are know toxins that cause illness and death. And virtually everything we buy these days is made in China, and there’s no getting around it. It’s literally cheaper for companies to make the stuff there and then ship it all the way over here. It makes me sick every time I see “made in China” on a tag or label, because I know what it means.

I caught a good documentary on HBO awhile back, called “Mardi Gras: Made In China.” I highly recommend it if you want to get a sense of the working conditions they endure.

From one review:
With the tagline: “Beads, Breasts, and Business: A Story of Globalization Gone Wild,” it’s obvious that Mardi Gras: Made in China isn’t going to be a dull, dry documentary about international trade. Instead, this film produced by Carnivalesque Films describes (in Mandarin and English) how impoverished young girls in China toil over threading cheap plastic beads into necklaces that drunken young revelers at Mardi Gras in New Orleans will do almost anything to receive.
This trailer's a bit racy, like a Girls Gone Wild ad, and the movie focuses much more on the China end of it than the trailer implies.

Mardi Gras: Made In China:

I’ll close with the words of Soulforce co-founder Mel White, from his book Religion Gone Bad:
The person who benefits most from demanding justice is the person who demands it. The main reason for insisting that the fundamentalist leaders meet with us is not to change them, but to change us. Win or lose, we take it to the streets because just being there enriches and empowers our lives. When we help those who suffer, we are the ones who benefit most. When we volunteer to help cut off the suffering at its source, our lives are given new meaning and new power. Our Creator is not in church or synagogue, temple or mosque. Our Creator is on the front lines where people are suffering injustice, and when we join her there we discover what it means to be a son or daughter of God, what it means to be truly human.

1 comment:

libhom said...

I think meeting with fundamentalist leaders is counterproductive. When they agree to meet, it makes them look more reasonable than they actually are. It doesn't change their tactics or their agendas in the slightest.

A more practical approach is to expose these people for what they are in order to marginalize them in society.