Tuesday, June 19, 2007
protesting the G8 protesters, take 2
I was thinking a bit more about why I ridicule the G8 protesters almost as much as the leaders. It is a terribly cynical perspective. There is no doubt that most of them are there for a good cause; it’s great that they want to make a difference and are willing to sacrifice their own time and money to attempt to do so; and certainly there is legitimate reason to think the G8 countries do not sufficiently manage the world system (or, perhaps, that they deliberately mismanage it, i.e. to their own mutual advantage and to the seemingly eternal disadvantage of so many other countries, who, while ostensibly receiving aid and ‘developing’, are also, in very real ways, getting screwed.)
There are two questions about the protesters. First, what do they want?
Second, what are they trying to accomplish?
I don’t think these two questions mean the same thing. The former relates to the politics and philosophy: what are your gripes with this meeting, these leaders, the new world order? The latter is practical and refers specifically to their appearance at the meetings, the way they carry out their protest, and what larger movement this act attempts to fuel.
My gripe is this: in 2007, hasn’t the g8 protest been done before, and done better, to sufficiently good results? Isn’t it time for the next level? I’m not sure what that level is, but it would ideally be more practical. And less violent, for chrissakes.
It’s so easy to dis and dislike the protesters, and not just for their inevitable violent antics. What do they expect the G8 to do, exactly? Who, exactly goes to and/or recruits for these events?
Well here is an example. This is the British Socialist Party in 2007. Just in case you didn’t realize that people like this still exist. In their defense, I should admit that part of me considers part of myself to be a bit of a socialist. But come on—“How imperialism condemns millions to poverty”? Hey guys—the Cold War is OVER. (You LOST.) You would do well to follow the lead of the Eastern European former Communist Parties and at least change your name, invoke your cause under the banner of Social Democracy, and nominate some clever career bureaucrats to appear as the benign public faces of the “new” Party. I mean, there is a relatively successful precedent for this. Instead, the Socialist party website offers up gems like ‘Make Homophobia and Capitalism history!’ I mean, not just one traditional institution, but the other? Covered in one digestible article on their website? Can we please elect these people now?
Don’t get me wrong: protesting of course has a proud history and sound moral ground. I just wish these people would organize resistance in a sustained and strategic grass-roots way, without turning the G8 into a carnival and making themselves look like naive troublemakers. The other option, I suppose, would be to mount a truly impressive and noteworthy demonstration, a la Seattle, again in 2008. But as I've mentioned, it seems the mere possibility of such an event has been neutralized by the movement's own carnivalish predictability.
In any case, I should be dissing the G8 leaders themselves, I guess, though I’m still not sure what for exactly. Not solving the world’s problems? Not bringing about equality while still defending their best interests? Isn’t it true that much of our obscene standard of living would be compromised if we were really to bridge the income wealth gap? Insofar as our wealth is inversely proportional to their poverty? (Isn’t someone always being exploited to the benefit of those with—obviously—the power to exploit?) I wonder how much these protesters--the ones with nice lives in the First World, anyway--are ready to give up the many fruits of their imperial victory. They want free trade, but what about when their economies suffer and their own jobs are put at risk?
The movement I’d rather be part of could be called "let’s make capitalism better in some obvious ways here, and then we can talk about non-capitalist long term solutions." (Succinct and catchy: I should've gone into advertising.) The anti-globalization movement and culture is quite something else. Most importantly, it is self-defeating. But hey, they’ve got leadership, experience, and a detailed wikipedia page. We'll see what develops.