Whose Side Are They On?
Rich Westerners make poor advocates for Third World
People without children have pets, people without pets have causes
All attempts to explain the
antiglobalization roadshow which has moved from Seattle to Davos to
Washington D.C. have overlooked the issues of childlessness and pet
ownership. It is that old saying, "People without children have
pets, people without pets have causes," that connects these issues
and the protests. Whether the cause is nuclear power or bottle-nosed
dolphins, Third World debt or globalization, the same faces seem to
show up at demonstrations. Can it really be that all these people
hold identical views on all these issues? Is this rent-a-crowd at
work? Or is it that the cause du jour is incidental, that the
protests are first and foremost about protesting? After all,
delivering a blow against the powers that be satisfies the
adolescent urge to rebel and gives succour to unquiet spirits. For
those without children or pets it is something to fill the vacancies
Economists who point out that
there are more pros than cons to globalization are, of course,
perfectly right. Yet they miss the point. Likewise those
commentators who attribute the protests to the vested interests of
trade unionists and farmers who are afraid of losing their
livelihoods. The collar of those who drive the antiglobalization
campaign, and most other campaigns, is not blue but white. It
belongs to a brand-name shirt worn by children of the suburban
uplands. Having been born into unprecedented wealth is a source of
shame to them. To assuage their guilt they seek refuge in the
medieval practice of self-flagellation.
conveniently flagellate themselves while shopping..."
self-loathing explains why, starting with the Vietnam War,
Westerners could only ever be mobilized to protest against something
that symbolizes the West, i.e., themselves. There were countless
demonstrations against the defensive alliance called NATO, but do
any come to mind against the strike-first Warsaw Pact? It was de
rigueur -- and laudable -- to turn out against South Africa's
apartheid regime, but few dreamt of demonstrating against the Idi
Amins of this world. People demand the incarceration of General
Pinochet in the morning and in the afternoon idolize that other
Latin American despot, Fidel Castro. When, under the rule of the
Shah, Iran was a Western ally it was a ritual object of
demonstrations. The mullahs, not much of an improvement, have
largely been spared similar treatment. When Russia was still the
Soviet Union and the West's "evil empire" it was considered uncool
to march against its various invasions. Now that Moscow is no longer
an antagonist, Western activists are up in arms about Chechnya.
The credit for formalizing the Western guilt complex must go
to Australia, which in 1998 invented the Sorry Book. Whites could
sign their names to acknowledge responsibility and express remorse
for the injustices visited upon the indigenous population. The books
were displayed, among other places, in malls, so that people could
conveniently flagellate themselves while shopping.
President Ernesto Zedillo seems to harbor the suspicion that the
demonstrations against globalization are driven less by concern for
the poor than by self-loathing of the rich. "Why are you trying to
protect the developing countries from development?" he asked the
protesters who want to impose Western-style environmental and labor
standards on the Third World. To environmentally inclined Americans,
smokestacks south of the border spell pollution. To poor Mexicans
they spell jobs.
Rich Westerners have anointed themselves the spokesmen for the poor in the South.
The demonstrators seem to forget that there
were no emission controls or 35-hour weeks when the West developed.
They should not prevent the Third World from emulating the First.
The Western route to wealth is full of imperfections. It is also the
only one known to man.
From Seattle to Washington, attention
has been focused on the organizers of the protests, the myriad
non-governmental organizations. The sponsors of the Washington event
range from the predictable -- the Progressive Librarians Guild, the
Lesbian Avengers -- to the oxymoronic -- the Committee for Academic
Freedom in Africa, the Action Committee on Women's Rights in Iran.
NGOs have been cast as the good guys, fighting the good
fight against governments and corporations. But they have their own
vested interests. Unelected and accountable only to themselves, NGOs
speak for nobody but their members. It is often hard to resist the
impression that rich Westerners have anointed themselves the
spokesmen for the poor in the South. The people of the Third World,
however, have their own voice -- the elected governments of India
and Indonesia, Brazil and Mexico.
Seeing themselves as the
source of all earthly evil in the same way that their forefathers
saw themselves as the source of all earthly good, the protesters of
Washington seem to carry a latter-day version of the white man's
burden. These days, the feeling of superiority has been replaced by
the guilt complex, which is an equally unwise counsel. What have
remained are condescension, delusions of grandeur and
The original article appeared in Time Europe 24 April 2000
Previous Visitor Comments
|Good luck in your interview! I share some of your fgeilnes of inadequacy. But remember, they *did* decide to interview you perhaps they’ve looked overall at your skills and qualities and decided you’d fit in, or you have the skills required to find out what you need to know and are capable of it. You can find out about registration requirements, and all kinds of other things. What they’re really looking for is commitment and enthusiasm (as well as at least some of the essential requirements!) Try to go in with your head held high, remember that YOU need this job too, and that you will do good with it, it will allow you to help others too. Fingers crossed, I’m thinking of you today and I’m sure lots of others are too! x|
|elrian calderon||elrian23_at_yahoo.com||poverty concern|
|I hope someday i'll become the best united nation ambassador for goodwill... bringing with me the goal that every unfortunate people suffer from poverty dream of!|
|i love political issues|
|"People without children have pets, people without pets have causes"? Interesting that this was brought up. I assume the writer did so because he believes in its truth. If so, does this mean that as far as the writer is concerned, no "cause" is actually to be taken seriously because it is simply something that people concern themselves with when they have nothing else better to do?
Seems a very bizarre idea, the concept that nobody should bother about anything except their children and/or pets.
Bring on the daytime TV then.....|