One person's Green-zone report, and why I was there.

While I worry that mainstream media reports will mostly focus on the red zone, I wanted to offer my own thoughts on the party in the green zone. I also wanted to try to address in this article one of the most common questions I was asked by bystanders to our march, which was "Why are you here"?

(Other reports can be read from the Ontario Independent Media Center , including a copy of this article)

First, an explanation about the green zone. From the GDO events Website it indicates the following:

The march to the green zone will begin after the speeches that take place at the Supreme Court (around noon) and will go to the green zone on the perimeter - this green zone is in the Byward Market - bordering Rideau and Sussex. The GDO march and demonstrations within the green zones will respect principles of non-violent dissent.
On the other side of the Government Conference Centre is what is being called the "red zone", or those people who may not fully respect the principles of non-violent dissent. My largest worry is that the differences between these zones were not clearly explained to people, and the proximity of the red-zone to the Supreme Court where we all started from. In our case we needed to travel around the conference center to the Rideau-Center side, while the red zone was directly in front of people. Far fewer people took the full parade route via the Laurier bridge than I had expected, and while some of this may have been a conscious decision, much of it might not have been.

As we traveled across to the green zone, the difference in how the police understood events was visible. Near the National War Memorial the riot-police were quite visible and looking rather aggressive. By the time we had crossed Laurier and were onto Nicholas the OPP officers there were not in riot gear, and were quite peaceful looking.

At the fence on Sussex at the Rideau center was the stage for the activist theater and dance. There were moments of aggressive-looking behavior by police in riot gear, but everyone acted quite calmly. The protesters sat down very specifically at one point to ensure that we didn't look intimidating, changing "We are not violent, how about you?".

I left a little after 15:00 with the street party in full gear with dancing and singing.

Why was I there

One of the first things to recognize about those of us opposed to globalization is that there are many many more different, sometimes incompatible, reasons why people oppose the various institutions than there are reasons to support them. My particular reasons will not entirely match those of everyone there. We may all share a dislike for the way these institutions now, but do not necessarily fully share ideas on what we would like to see. This is the process of democratic debate, a debate that is currently not out in the open with the general public which is one of the shared disagreements.

I am in my early 30's and grew up as part of the "Internet age". Because of this I see the world, traditional nation-states, and political boarders different that others older than me might.. Long before the Internet I was an early teen involved with electronic Bulletin Board Services (BBS's), quickly getting involved in Fidonet, later UUCP, and eventually the Internet. I have been quite active in the area of online community networks, and am currently hosting many community groups via FLORA.org itself. The world has always seemed a small place to me, and my affinity has been with all the citizens of the world, not just the citizens of Canada.

My interest in politics of an international nature has grown over the years, as has the solidity of the public policy proposals that I work towards. One of my first activities was an involvement in information liberation, with the common slogan being "Information wants to be Free". With this term one needs to understand the meaning of the word Free in the same context as Free Software (``free speech'', not ``free beer.''). I also have a belief in internationalism, which is often referenced with the slogan "Think Global, Act Local". I have a desire to slowly erode what I see as arbitrary nation-state boundaries.

One of the common problems when discussing anti-Globalization is the mistaken public belief that the "alternative" is xenophobia or the shutting down of national boarders to trade and other forms of commerce and communication. I offer myself as an alternative perspective where I believe part of the problem are the boarders which are open to trade, but very much closed in other ways.

My main complaint is not that we are opening our boarders, but that certain policies are being brought to an international level without the balance that these policies might have had domestically. Often the policies being brought to a global stage are policies that simply don't make sense even domestically, and become disastrous when internationalized.

As a point-form summary of my complaints, and suggestions of alternatives, I offer the following:

Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs)
Since this is a meeting of the G20, with one of the most controversial members being the Bretton Woods Institutions (the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank), the nature of Structural Adjustment Programs need to be discussed. This is the imposition on nations under debt to make extremely controversial changes to their economies such as privatization (without the required balance of increased regulation to obtain similar service levels), reduction in government services (which disproportionately affects the poor, and can result in increased civil unrest), and other related policies that seem clearly aimed at benefiting the most wealthy worldwide at the expensive of the domestic poor.

Global Democracy Ottawa includes further information under their 10 Reasons to Oppose the G20, World Bank and IMF Meetings.

Tariffs
I believe we should get rid of the arbitrary nature of tarrifs, but we need an adequate balanced definition of 'arbitrary'. One country having a policy of full-cost-accounting (IE: Where the full cost of the production of a product is reflected in the sale price) trading with one that does not would need to add in the price of manufacture to the product on import. GATTS and WTO would not allow this, considering this removal of producers ability to externalize their costs onto society as a "barrier to trade". I believe this is extremely misguided.

Economic/trade Monopolies
Policies and organizations which promote monopolies, such as GATTS and WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) must be balanced with even stronger polices to protect competition, innovation and consumers.

The fact is that the countries like Canada and the USA that most promote WIPO internationally have proven track records of not having adequate balance in their own countries. The Microsoft case in the USA proves that anti-trust legislation in high-tech isn't currently enforced, and the conflict-of-interest in Canada of having the Competition Bureau part of Industry Canada is obvious. Canada doesn't even have a Consumer Affairs any more once Industry Canada replaced Consumer and Corporate Affairs. Canada was also opposing

More references to my involvement in this area can be seen via a number of recent postings to this Weblog on Intellectual Property, including two submissions to the recent copyright consultation process. Others posted articles such as "Canada blocks access to cheap medicines". I will also be hosting a campaign website focused on High-Tech Competition, and will soon post an additional piece to be titled "Who are the "Luddites" in the post-Industrial economy?".

Barriers to people, but not goods.
Beyond the obvious human rights issues, having immigration policies that put limits on where people can go, work, or move to , is outdated in an economy that is moving more towards a services industry. Any of the arguments that suggest that non-tarrif barriers to trade should be eliminated apply to people as well, and vice versa. We as citizens need to decide whether we want our boarders to be open or closed, and to apply the policies such that people always have more freedoms and rights than capital, goods or services.

Public Health and Safety
We can go on-and-on about which countries such as the USA have opposed implementation of the Kyoto protocol, and never signed the Land-mine treaty. The World Health Organization has written many times about the problems in the current patent system as it relates to pharmaceuticals and the conflicts of interest of regulators in North America actually being "employed" by the industry itself.

Investment
I became involved in the whole movement because of the Multilateral Agreement on Investment. In principle, I consider investment to be a risk taken with the possibility of rewards, not something that should be protected in any agreements or legislation. The "legitimate" issues that Investment policy bring forward can be addressed in other agreements, and definitely at another time. Protecting investment from changes in government policy is something that should only be being discussed when all other more critical multi-national issues are dealt with (IE: Environment, Famine, Poverty, Housing, War, etc, etc problems are all solved).

This is not going to be an easy direction to take, partly because of the poor implementation of domestic policies in the countries most trying to promote these policies.

The round of WTO talks last weekend was a case in point. The so-called "Singapore issues" (Non-trade issues brought up at the 1996 Ministerial Conference in Singapore which included: investment, competition policy, trade facilitation and transparency in government procurement) are not at all supported by majority-world countries (commonly called third-world in the self-named first-world countries).

The two most often discussed and opposed issues are Competition and Investment policies. The lack of proper handling of competition policy, as discussed earlier, is a very likely reason for the lack of support for these policies. The USA, Canada and European Union governments need to fix our policies at home before trying to discuss bringing them to an International level, and to reduce the powers of current institutions until appropriate balance can be initiated. I also already mentioned my feelings on investment policy, and the lack of sound reasoning for this policy at all.

I also have a strong support for transparency in government procurement policy, but this is also an area where domestic handling of these policies is a problem. I was personally involved with supporting a few lawsuits against Canadian federal government departments, as it related to transparency in government procurement. We won both cases, but in the case of the Library of Parliament they then just "took their ball and went home" by canceling the procurement.

In this most recent case it was the Library of Parliament wanting to specify "Microsoft only" for any services they were going to procure. Not only was this not allowed by trade agreements which specify that brand names cannot be used as a substitute for technical specifications, but this is the Library of Parliament specifying that they only want the products of a company that is guilty of considerable anti-trust violations worldwide. If the Government of Canada, and the Library of Parliament that services the members of parliament, were actually interested in Free Market economics they would have had Microsoft under investigation themselves in an independent (from Industry Canada) Competition Bureau and put a stop-purchase on any further Microsoft products by the government once they were found guilty of this considerable economic crime.

I am interested in your thoughts - please hit 'reply' and get a discussion started on reports from the protests, and reasons why one is protesting these policies.


Comments

    Indymedia sometimes [94]
    by Julien (IMC Ottawa) on Sunday, November 18 @12:51AM
    I've been noticing that even indymedia tends to cover mostly red-zone stuff. This was true in Quebec City, and still true here, although i hav'nt had the time to review all of the articles.
    The independant media newsroom has been very active. Certain times there is not enough computers for everyone.

    However, it is important to note that indymedia is at the basis self-reporting, and therefore if people find there is a lack of coverage in one matter, they can do so by themselves.

    I'd like however to report that some people have been saying there has been impressive co-opereation between people of diffrent groups. This will be reflected in IMC Ontario's feature of today's event (due late morning of the 18th).

    are the democracies losing their nobility? [97]
    by Craig Hubley on Monday, November 26 @04:09PM
    Very well written, and very well balanced. I'd add some of the issues about technology proliferation (use as weapons, "one user six billion victims", etc.) and science as a destructive force, but as you said we'll all disagree about something.


    Once upon a time, democracies were noble. Now they seem like crass corporations designed to suck the life out of everything weaker than them, like they have become just another type of gang. No doubt the rise of corporate-donor-parties and lobbyists was partly responsible. But the public has to take some of the blame for voting for it!


    This is the paragraph I'd like everyone to read:


    "privatization (without the required balance of increased regulation to obtain similar service levels), reduction in government services (which disproportionately affects the poor, and can result in increased civil unrest), and other related policies that seem clearly aimed at benefiting the most wealthy" except those that choke on bad water or get killed by "terrorists".


    Really, the "structural adjustment", by bypassing the most fundamental safeguards of society, only decreases the actual body security of the wealthy and middle class. If bodies don't come first, they come last, and are ground into the dust...


    So there are at least three feedback loops that are poorly understood by the decision-makers: 1. if you let more people sell the basic services or commodities you need more controls on contracts and other standards, i.e. privatization requires more regulation if only so results can be compared 2. welfare and social housing are bribes to the poor not to kill the rich or to riot every day or to become "terrorists" - cut back on these payments and you will shortly see crime increase, drugs sold to your kids, and communities explode. 3. bodies are best served by localized food and water supplies and local control of all violent force - once an external regime of law is imposed on people, they tend to obey it less and become angry slaves of absentee landlords instead of negotiating a balance of power with local landlords. Humans do not fit into spreadsheets.


    Democracy itself also has a limit, and perhaps we have hit it, as the greedy middle class of NATO is willing to impoverish and bomb poorer nations (e.g. Afghanistan) after using them as proxies to win its war against the USSR and Communism. The problem with democracy is that it has no memory nor sense of responsibility for its decisions. I think Queen Rania of Jordan is more responsible and more likely to stay responsible than the Bush family. I think monarchy has some advantages. As Rania herself says, "if you make a mistake as President you lose your job. If you make one as King you lose your head."


    Also, very well said. Maybe we can cultivate some nobility in the world again? Seems to be time...


    Indymedia sometimes [94]
    by Julien (IMC Ottawa) on Sunday, November 18 @12:51AM
    I've been noticing that even indymedia tends to cover mostly red-zone stuff. This was true in Quebec City, and still true here, although i hav'nt had the time to review all of the articles.
    The independant media newsroom has been very active. Certain times there is not enough computers for everyone.

    However, it is important to note that indymedia is at the basis self-reporting, and therefore if people find there is a lack of coverage in one matter, they can do so by themselves.

    I'd like however to report that some people have been saying there has been impressive co-opereation between people of diffrent groups. This will be reflected in IMC Ontario's feature of today's event (due late morning of the 18th).

    are the democracies losing their nobility? [97]
    by Craig Hubley on Monday, November 26 @04:09PM
    Very well written, and very well balanced. I'd add some of the issues about technology proliferation (use as weapons, "one user six billion victims", etc.) and science as a destructive force, but as you said we'll all disagree about something.


    Once upon a time, democracies were noble. Now they seem like crass corporations designed to suck the life out of everything weaker than them, like they have become just another type of gang. No doubt the rise of corporate-donor-parties and lobbyists was partly responsible. But the public has to take some of the blame for voting for it!


    This is the paragraph I'd like everyone to read:


    "privatization (without the required balance of increased regulation to obtain similar service levels), reduction in government services (which disproportionately affects the poor, and can result in increased civil unrest), and other related policies that seem clearly aimed at benefiting the most wealthy" except those that choke on bad water or get killed by "terrorists".


    Really, the "structural adjustment", by bypassing the most fundamental safeguards of society, only decreases the actual body security of the wealthy and middle class. If bodies don't come first, they come last, and are ground into the dust...


    So there are at least three feedback loops that are poorly understood by the decision-makers: 1. if you let more people sell the basic services or commodities you need more controls on contracts and other standards, i.e. privatization requires more regulation if only so results can be compared 2. welfare and social housing are bribes to the poor not to kill the rich or to riot every day or to become "terrorists" - cut back on these payments and you will shortly see crime increase, drugs sold to your kids, and communities explode. 3. bodies are best served by localized food and water supplies and local control of all violent force - once an external regime of law is imposed on people, they tend to obey it less and become angry slaves of absentee landlords instead of negotiating a balance of power with local landlords. Humans do not fit into spreadsheets.


    Democracy itself also has a limit, and perhaps we have hit it, as the greedy middle class of NATO is willing to impoverish and bomb poorer nations (e.g. Afghanistan) after using them as proxies to win its war against the USSR and Communism. The problem with democracy is that it has no memory nor sense of responsibility for its decisions. I think Queen Rania of Jordan is more responsible and more likely to stay responsible than the Bush family. I think monarchy has some advantages. As Rania herself says, "if you make a mistake as President you lose your job. If you make one as King you lose your head."


    Also, very well said. Maybe we can cultivate some nobility in the world again? Seems to be time...