It was one of the coolest shopping trips ever, those days the WTO convened in Seattle. I love a man in a uniform, and I really loved trying to convince those men, in my most convincing manner, that I just wanted to go to FAO Schwartz, so please oh please let me cross your cute little bad boy formation.
"You know...FAO Schwartz, the toy store! We don't have one in Portland....I came all the way up here to spend MONEY!!"
And that's what did it. No sooner had I tongued the word then the Ninja Turtle softened up and rolled over, lifting the POLICE LINE DO NOT CROSS high for me to enter into their little cordoned-off corridor. Meanwhile, WTO delegates from around the world and local merchants struggled in vain to prove they had business in the area, as I examined plush toys and hundred-dollar Barbies.
It's the most magic of words: Money. We in the "first" or "civilized" world live and die by it, and what we do, so shalt the rest of the world do. Right? Because we figured out the BEST way to live; the way to have the most THINGS. It's so obvious! So unassailable! Who are all these people in the streets, and why do they want to stop the WTO's profit-oriented machine?!
A lot of the protesters did merely want money, too, like everybody else. Fair wages, fair working conditions, labor rights.... So why the WTO stood in their way is immediate cause for suspicion. It's a theory as old as economics. The more money the people have, the more they will spend, the better the economy. So why No, WTO? Ah ha! Because you are the fat cats at the top who stand to profit obscenely from substandard labor rights! And you try to guilt us by saying that our insistence on fair labor laws is taking food out of the mouths of third world populations. How? You underestimate our intelligence.
However, the main point made by the Violent Rioting of Black-Clad Anarchists [oh-and tens of thousands of others, too] was that there are other ways to measure wealth that are being ignored by the WTO, who with their stranglehold on world legislation heartily hope that we will forget about them. Wealth can be clean air, water, and food. Wealth can be cultural diversity and the importance of local governments and smaller communities.
It's a small world after all, and getting smaller daily. In one hundred years, ethnic differences will likely be so irrelevant as we all bow to one God, capitalism, that anthropologists like me will be extinct. We will all merely be players in a global tv-addicted materialistic economy. The only relevant differences will be differences in wealth, and any and all warfare will be class warfare.
We, the people, are at a crucial point now. We made the WTO stop in their tracks for five days, a herculean feat that must inspire us in the battles to come. The whole world is at stake. There's nothing to lose. Now that everybody's making resolutions and really intends to make good this year, please let's resolve to study our mistakes of the last two hundred years of American brand capitalism and tinker with the recipe before we shove it down the rest of the worlds' throats.
There are so many ways to measure wealth. I heartily believe that basing GNP on $$$ is coarse, obscene, and rips the humanity out of humans. Where Tanzania, the "second poorest nation on earth," is wealthy, America is horribly poor. In a fair version of global trade, we would import equal amounts of their amorphous wealth while exporting our cold, hard and oh-so quantifiable techno gadgets. Our society would be as influenced by the philosophies and lifestyles of Hindu farmers as their society is by our televisions and the Spice Girls. And the foremost symbol of national wealth would be the number of people, young and old, who dance. Dance, dance, dance.