"A single ruler could, by fiat, decide which enemies were legitimate representatives of a state and which, by contrast, were mere 'bandits'..." - Daniel Heller-Roazen, The Enemy of All: Piracy and the Law of Nations
In June of 2001, I was in Gothenburg, Sweden, to witness both then President George W. Bush's first European visit, as well as the EU meeting which followed, and the extremely well organized anti-globalization protests which took place over the several days of the events. The photos I have of that time show that journalists were allowed close to the then president, (though questions were few and had been pre-selected), and that there was a great deal of "action" in the streets on the parts of protesters and the police. These clashes grew out of the snowball effect of the anti-globalization movement which began with the WTO protests in Seattle in 1999. In Gothenburg, plastic bullets wounded protesters, storage containers encircled a school where many protesters were staying, creating a fire hazard, and locked them in, and, as a result, a fringe group (the same thing happened in Seattle none of the real protesters knew exactly where these "anarchists" came from) changed the tune and banks were attacked, windows broken, fires set, and dogs and police with protective gear confronted both protesters and so-called "anarchists."
By the end of that summer of 2001, a young man, Carlo Giuliani, a protester, had been killed in Genoa, Italy, and within a few weeks, the world would experience 9/11 and nothing would ever be the same. The anti-globalization movement would be basically pushed underground, to Porto Allegro, and heightened security at world events where heads of state convened, created a kind of Big Brother control of protesters, would lead to where we are today. More journalists have been killed in the past years since 9/11 than ever before, and the tactics used to police and control any form of dissent have become Orwellian to say the least. Many people have been scared to say, write and broadcast what they really believe and have experienced.
But the anti-globalization movement is back, and it is taking forms that extend beyond the left of center radicals, to those who are out of work, out of money, losing what little they have left to the greed of a very few. The walls between "Us" and "Them" are taller than ever before and harder to penetrate, yet people are also angrier than ever before. It is symbolic that "pirates" would be making a comeback, not only on the high seas of the East Coast of Africa (perhaps not so ironically positioned precisely where the oil tankers head out to the rest of the world?), but to the internet, and technology in general. The controllers are trying to control more than ever, punishing those who "pirate," be it a Somalian bandit or a housewife who downloads a film or a simple student in Pittsburgh last week during the G20 meeting. (See video here.)
I would argue that we should be learning from the protesters and "pirates" instead of simply fighting against them. We should be coming up with new models for sharing the wealth, the resources, knowledge and content, as well as all benefiting from the distribution mechanism, so that the few do not only end up controlling the commodities, but also the pipelines through which they reach the rest of us. And it may very well be that in parts of the so-called "developing world" we will continue to see leapfrog technologies that can teach all of us about how to move forward in new directions. Microcredit, made popular by Nobel Peace Prize -winner Muhammad Yunus, can also be applied to legal, shared Content Micro-distribution (and indeed, is, in places like India where cablewallas divide up the neighborhoods to distribute "pirated" cable content). Content can be appropriately priced so that even the poorest people can have access to education and information, for example via the cell phones in rural villages owned by women who then can help villagers access educational and other content. This would mean a true democratization not only of content -- choice of what they and their communities receive -- but also job possibilities that can lift them out of poverty. Add to this content creation, be it local news, documentaries, or even entertainment, and local ownership of telecoms, and you have a situation which will help pull many of these countries out of poverty at an exponential rate. The new financial models need to be inclusive and participatory, not hyper-controlled, and regulations should serve the majority, not a minuscule part of the world's population.
It is mostly those who are the elite, in power, and of a mostly older generation who want to adopt more controlling regulations against the "pirates" and protesters. In France, it is the Hadopi law that is slamming down on internet pirates. In the UK, there are CCTV cameras everywhere, and in many countries guards are capable of pulling aside a ten-year-old at a border crossing. The establishment and the wealthy are scared and the gatherings of the elite and heads of state have now become islands so separate from the people that they do not communicate anymore. Exaggerations and lies tend to circulate because there is no or little interaction. Someone needs to listen to the protesters and what they are saying. At least people are standing up for themselves and are getting angry. They should be angry. They feel as if they have been robbed. Those who are not standing up for themselves are the ones taking anti-depressants because anger turned inward is victimization and depression. Anger can bring about constructive results.
Remaining vigilant means taking on the responsibility of becoming more aware. Listen to and develop your intuition. Talk to your friends around the country and around the world to hear what is really going on. Don't "buy" what mainstream media is telling you. Learn about other financial models that are working such as Microcredit and Social Business, which are also more sustainable. Look into alternative sources of information about the financial crisis, piracy and new models for media and the economy such as NGO websites, news sites such as www.demotix.com and www.maxkeiser.com. The protesters and the pirates are not menacing enemies, but mirrors reflecting a deeply disturbing society in which inequalities have grown to levels not seen since, well, the last Depression, the 1930s. And look where that brought us.
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