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6.27.2010

"we need g6,000,000,000": why we protest, part one

Sunday morning, the day after.

The day after massive peaceful protests against the G8/G20, after small non-peaceful protests and vandalism, after police-provoked and police-allowed violence.

The day after police violence against peaceful demonstrators - after rubber bullets, pepper spray, baton beatings, bicycles smashing against bodies, pre-dawn raids with guns drawn.

The day after 25,000 people march in the rain in Toronto, carrying signs about women's human rights, the for-profit destruction of the planet, the rights of seniors to live in dignity, the demise of democracy, the rights of indigenous peoples.

The day after, I'm going to change the subject, turn back the clock, just a little.

These are some of my notes from the stellar event called "Shout Out for Global Justice," held at Massey Hall on Friday night. (Held there because the University of Toronto closed down completely and cancelled everything on campus - with three weeks' notice and without paying many of their employees. Union grievances abound.)

Unfortunately, because of transit schedules, I wasn't able to stay for the entire event, so my notes drop off a cliff - I heard only half of Naomi Klein and none of Maude Barlow. But I hope the notes I have will paint a picture of why we must protest the G8/G20, and what is being done to our world in the name of capitalism.

If you don't already know these speakers and the issues they speak and write about, I encourage you to follow links and buy their books and learn, learn, learn.

* * * *

The event was emceed by Canadian actor R. H. Thomson and streamed live via Rabble across Canada, to the US Social Forum in Detroit, and to several different countries. It was kicked off by the Raging Asian Women taiko drummers, who also played after intermission. They were amazing! I was quite smitten.

Thomson said while the G20 so-called leaders are talking about financial deficits, the real leaders are here in Massey Hall, talking about more dire deficits: environmental deficits, social justice deficits, deficits of native rights, water as a human right, media, peace.

The first speaker was Clayton Thomas-Muller of the
Indigenous Environmental Network, organizer of their tar sands campaign for the past 20 years. (I also heard Thomas-Muller speak at the Marxism conference.)

He spoke about Canada's shameful record on native rights - how native lands are exploited for resources while the people on those lands benefit the least - how the great resource wealth of native land is stolen in exchange for environmental degradation, health crises, and a paltry token royalty.

At the same time, leaders of the environmental movement do not necessarily include aboriginal people in their plans and those plans often do not reflect the realities of aboriginal people, people of colour, low-income people and people in other marginalized communities that are disproportionately affected by environmental destruction.

Because of this, the IEN calls for climate justice - the link between the rights of indigenous peoples and the environment.

Thomas-Muller reminded us that his community has a 60,000-year track record of providing green jobs for the community. It will be native people, he said, joining with the labour movement, who will bring down the tar sands. (Also at the Marxism conference, Thomas-Muller gave a separate talk about the tar sands. I wish I had been able to attend, but there's a lot of great info on their website.)

Thomas-Muller was passionate and stirring, calling on us to reject the authority of the G8/G20, and look to the authority of the people, ourselves.

He said: I am here to tell you: you are not sheep. You are wolves.

* * * *

Next Vandana Shiva took the stage. I hope you know Dr. Shiva's work. She is a scientist, philosopher, writer, environmental activist, and global food and farming activist. She is the founder of Navdanya, a network of organic producers that trains farmers in seed sovereignty, food sovereignty and sustainable agriculture, and helps set up and promote fair trade organic networks in India. I can't really do Navdanya justice in this description. You should go to their website and learn for yourself.

Shiva is a warm, funny, engaging person, and her presence onstage filled me with joy and hope. She said, "You know, I'm actually starting to feel sorry for the G20. Not only are they so boring, they don't even know what they want to do anymore! Not only are we more than them, we are so much more fun!"

When Shiva read about the civil liberties' crackdowns and the noise cannons, she thought, they are really afraid we will be heard. She said in India women use their own sound cannons: they bring out their pots and pans and rolling pins and take to the streets. "And let me tell you, that noise we make has a way of scaring the patriarchs!"

Shiva said that her country, India, is being used to enlarge the nuclear agenda. 200,000 tonnes of uranium, mined on indigenous lands in North America, is being forced on India, as the nuclear industry there balloons to a $15-billion enterprise. The corporations who profit from this have worked out a deal to cap their own liabilities at a ridiculously low level - so, as Shiva said, they can create another Bhopaul and have the legal right to walk away from it. This courtesy of US corporate economist under a Democrat administration, Lawrence Summers.

US international "development" money is now all about biotechnology and profits for Monsanto. It's no coincidence, Shiva said, that the provinces most associated with this "development" have the highest rates of farmer suicides. It's the same pattern being forced on the entire world: the socialization of risks and costs, the privatization of profits. Now even liabilities are socialized, as taxpayers are forced to bail out the corporations from the effects of their own disastrous policies.

And Shiva brings the story full circle: none of this can happen without militarization. Global military budgets are sucking the life out of our needy world. The money must be redirected to reversing climate change, local food production, clean water, global health.

She noted something I had never thought of before: why is it that only these financial and economic meetings bring out the heavy police presence and civil liberties crackdowns? The United Nations represents almost 200 nations, "not just this pathetic 20," but we don't see the thousands of police for the UN.

The police presence at the G20 is both a symptom and a symbol of the militarization of the entire economic structure, where the land of the world's poorest people is being grabbed and exploited by the world's most powerful corporations.

Shiva asked, who is the G8 or the G20 that they presume to speak for us? The United Nations, G198, is much better, but even that is only a start. We need G6-billion. G6,000,000,000. The whole world.

She said, We are here to tell them, there is a world order beyond corporate power.

Part 2: Amy Goodman, Leo Gerard, John Hilary, Pablo Solon.

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