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Where Did This Global Movement Come From?


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Where Did This Global Movement Come From?

  1. 1. Where Did This Global Movement Come From? Weekly Research Report for October 8, 2014 Prepared by: Joe Brewer Culture Designer Change Strategist for Humanity T 206.914.8927
  2. 2. History of the “Anti-Globalization” Movement I was asked to look at the discourse about anti-globalization to see how it evolved over time. What were the early themes? How did they change with pivotal events? Was it framed in a helpful manner? And, of course, what does it enable us to do now? A brief survey was all it took to get a general picture. I read the Wikipedia entry on the history of anti-globalization to see the broad sweep of history for the last few decades.1 A story shines through the sequence of key events: 1988 in Berlin -- Annual Meetings of IMF and World Bank Protest by a few hundred activists to derail meetings and express anarchist sentiments against global financial elites. 1989 in Paris -- Counter Summit Against G7 Nations Event called “ca suffa comme ci” (we had enough) to push for cancellation of debt contracted by Southern countries. A demonstration gathered with 10,000 present to pressure French government to stand for debt cancellation. 1994 in Madrid -- 50th Anniversary of IMF and World Bank Protestors formed an ad-hoc coalition to drown out the bankers with noise. Their slogan was “50 Years is Enough.” Two Greenpeace activists climbed to the top of the exhibition hall and showered attendants with fake dollar bills carrying the slogan No $$ for Ozone Layer Destruction, a hot button topic at the time. 1999 in Many Cities -- J18 or Carnival Against Capitalism Protests were organized in dozens of cities around the world to coincide with the 25th G8 Summit in Cologne, Germany on June 18th. The two most notable locations were London, UK and Eugene, OR in the United States. 1999 in Seattle -- N30 or WTO Protest On November 30th, the movement broke through the media barriers and gained mainstream attention. 75,000 protestors gathered to take a stand against corporate capitalism. Police barricades were set up and hundreds were arrested. The term “anti-globalization” was used by media outlets to frame the event. Where Did This Global Movement Come From? Weekly Research Report for October 8, 2014 1
  3. 3. Other events followed as the movement matured in the early 21st Century. Already we can see a clear pattern—individual activists and radical NGO’s taking a stand against the powerful financial interests that had gamed the global economy to serve themselves. The Movement Got Framed Many different groups came together in shared protest to take a stand against economic plutocracy. They were culturally diverse, with a variety of competing issues—environmental concerns, social justice, worker’s rights, the oppression of women, historic forms of oppression, and more. The movement (or “movement of movements”) had no center. It was decidedly anti- authoritarian and non-hierarchical. One expression of this decentralized network structure could be seen in the absence of a name for the agenda shared by all the activist groups involved. Lacking a catch-phrase, the corporate media was able to label it in a manner that was beneficial to elite interests. The term “anti-globalization” was not used by protestors. This notion that anarchist activists are against globalization misrepresents what it is all about—painting the protestors as protectionist and against all of modernity. The movement had been placed in a box to contain it and make it weak. This is captured clearly in the argument put forth by Jeremy Brecher, Tim Costello, and Brendan Smith in their book Globalization From Below: The Power of Solidarity, published in 2000. Here is an excerpt of a review by Chuck Morse: “In Globalization from Below, Jeremy Brecher, Tim Costello, and Brendan Smith (BCS) argue that the economic, political, and cultural interconnectedness signified by globalization is irreversible and possibly a good thing: this interconnection, they assert, could potentially serve the interests of people and the earth, not just the elites. Although the rich and powerful have shaped globalization in their interest thus far (BCS call this “globalization from above”), there is a counter-movement that seeks to reshape our interconnected world in the interests of people and the planet (which BCS call “globalization from below”). They believe that the movement for “globalization from below” is disparate but growing, and their book is meant to provide a framework for uniting it into a common, grassroots struggle.”2 The critique had been made that an economy architected by and for elites was creating global poverty and wealth inequality, failing to safeguard the planet for future generations, and weakening governing institutions. And yet it was dismissed as a naive push for return to the Stone Age. Where Did This Global Movement Come From? Weekly Research Report for October 8, 2014 2
  4. 4. Hidden Power of a Network Movement As I mentioned above, the “movement of movements” took the form of bottom-up activism. It was decentralized and non-hierarchical. Thus it is relevant to note that during the same timeframe that this burgeoning global society was flexing its muscles a revolution was taking place in communication technology. The convergence of internet and civil society power is no accident. One of the key insights from cognitive science in the last half century is that our minds are shaped by the way our bodies, brains, and social environments are woven together. In a world where decentralized networks were displacing mass media outlets the geometry of social connectivity was rapidly evolving in the same direction. Much has been said about this, so I will merely note here that the frame semantic structure of networked relationships gave disparate individuals the capacity to “swarm” into collective actions that rival the power of centralized hierarchies. The global elites began to lose control of the airwaves. And the new communication technologies were beginning to show how direct democracy just might supplant two hundred years of representative democracy. The age of elite control was showing signs of wear and tear. And now we can see the present struggle in a new light. In the last few years, more people have acquired mobile phones and smart devices than the entire human population of mid-20th Century Earth. These billions of people are living in the most unequal world we have ever created. Our planetary life support systems are badly damaged. And the elites are structurally incapable of tackling the systemic risks confronting our now-globalized civilization. A Vital Missing Piece So if the peoples of Earth are now organizing ourselves in ways that represent real political power, why have we not shifted the system yet? Many answers exist for this problem. I want to speak about one of them that is close to my area of expertise—the cultural dynamics of social discourse —which is that the movement has been all about protest in the past. We have stood strong against the powers that be. But we have failed to articulate an alternative. It exists, of course! What is missing is that we haven’t offered the people a better way to organize society. How do we do this? Here are a few things to get us started: ✦ We have always been protestors -- against the financial elites.  Never have we clearly STOOD FOR something.  That has to change. ✦ So what do we stand for? In conceptual outline, we want to create a world filled with abundance and opportunity. A world that serves all people while stewarding ecological health. Where Did This Global Movement Come From? Weekly Research Report for October 8, 2014
  5. 5. ✦ Getting to this world is a transition process. We have to evolve our institutions, update the metrics for success, and address structural causes for the predicaments we are now in. ✦ This means we have to CHANGE THE RULES! It makes a lot more sense to me now why we are running these campaigns. We are part of a decades-long critique of status quo institutions of power. Just when the world needs a transition plan, we come onto the scene and expose the structural causes for poverty and inequality. Each cause has a logic to it. As such, it has a design solution. We are starting to see what must be done. While much remains unclear, this much we know. The game is rigged. It serves financial elites while creating massive poverty. Trade agreements, tax structures, clandestine crime networks, and more are at play to keep the old vanguard in power. Through our newfound organizing tools, we can generate the solidarity to challenge old power. But only if we offer a better story. That is the task now before us. Sincerely, Joe Where Did This Global Movement Come From? Weekly Research Report for October 8, 2014