Everything Day Logs
< beck | ford >

I really need to watch more TV. I caught, in dribs and drabs, on the radio and the web, word of "riots in Seattle", in honor of the fab get-together by the World Trade Organization. When I first heard a discussion of the planned protest, I thought "well, OK, another cry in the wilderness against prevailing corporatist power". It's one of those "if a tree falls in a forest, and there's no-one to hear it..." things - if your protest only gets two seconds of TV coverage in the background of the suits just going ahead and doing their thing, all you've really done is hang out and make a few new friends.

But when the protest becomes the Top Story (even if the catalyst here was the Violent Few), progress is being made. Even better if CNN shuts down regularly-scheduled programming to cover you. I still haven't seen any footage, but I suspect it wasn't a true riot - you need fires and mayhem spread out over a wider area; you need an open-ended spirit of chaos (in which you really don't know when - or if - the rioting will end); you need people breaking windows and stealing TVs and household appliances and clothing...

But most of all, you need to scare the bastards. If commissions are appointed, or special hearings scheduled, to address the anger and chaos and grievances - even if it seems like lip-service at first - then the sick carnage wasn't totally in vain.

I owe a lot to capitalism, and I believe in the idea of free trade on paper, but the WTO and related treaties and groups are really only using the Good Thing of Free as a trojan horse to help enshrine the power relations of 19th Century capitalism for the post-industrial age, with politicians saying "Our hands are tied, we signed the treaty..." with an invisible smirk. From Peoria to Paris to Panang to Perth, the life of the working person (and unless you're an exec, an entrepreneur, or vested beyond belief, you're a worker, no matter how high-tech or glamourous or "independent" it may seem today - furthermore, even if it's OK for you and OK for me, let's not forget The Other Guy, your literal or figurative neighbor; "what's in it for me?" shouldn't be part of our vocabularies) would be an ongoing brutal atrocity straight out of Dickens or Riis, a reversing of the gains of the labor movements in the 20th Century, which sought to provide a counterweight to the unchecked power of capital. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, as the saying goes, and a corrupt or amoral capitalism is a Cuddly, Smiling Evil that eventually eats you for lunch.

You (yes, you) may eventually be the main course, but if you're in the West (and you are fortunate enough to have money for boxen, and time to waste reading this), odds are you're safe for the time being - right now, the meal is the Guatemalan garment worker, or the young Filipina making shoes for Adidas, or that guy in a Chinese or American prison assembling some widget, or...

Someday, it might be you (you, who didn't give a shit when old Elmer got eased out of his "cushy", "high-paying" GM assembly line gig in favor of two-dollar-a-day overseas labor), and someday this rogue capitalism may well eat itself. Or destroy the planet first.

Be advised that I'm still suffering from a bad cold, and may just be free-associating like a lunatic. No brain cells were exercised in the typing of this writeup. If you wanted coherent, you'd be elsewhere, wouldn't you?