I am thrilled with today's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. I don't agree with all the content (the gushing over Stanley Lowe made me choke), but the fact that we have content on a Sunday rather than New York Time reprints is wonderful.
My delight was tripled when I read the piece on the G-20 by arguably the best writer in the region, Dennis Roddy. To put this topic in his hands lends credibility and sensibility to what could otherwise be lost in the ongoing hysterical media coverage of the baby-eating anarchists.
The issues, my friends, are quite varied as are the groups lumped together under the banner of “protesters.” You should understand that the G-20 dissent is not an attempt to influence a particular decision, but an opportunity to highlight significant social justice and related issues that fly in the face of democracy and human rights, allegedly represented by the democratically elected members of the G-19 nations (plus the EU).
Objections to the G-20 and its policies are best captured in that dash of capital across international borders, in search of cheap labor and wider profit margins.
“When we have creativity, we ship it elsewhere because it can be produced or made cheaper in another country,” said state Sen. Jim Ferlo, one of a dozen or so prominent leaders who says he is both welcoming the G-20 and planning to take to the streets to protest its policies.
Groups objecting to the G-20 range from environmentalists who want to press governments to drastically curtail greenhouse gases to a range of anti-authoritarian anarchists who see the institution as undemocratic and the free-market theories it promotes as flawed beyond redemption.
“It's hopelessly undemocratic,” says Noam Chomsky, a renowned linguist and a guiding light to much of the anti-authoritarian left.
Mr. Chomsky is among those who see the G-20 as a body that largely reflects concentrated private economic power and the small circle of people that possess that power.
I think many folks in Pittsburgh lose site of the strong connection their personal stories of job loss and economic challenges share with the “agenda” of those planning to protest the G-20. Roddy does a nice job of linking the world economy to the personal story of a local man who lost his job because assembly makers in other nations are paid $3.00 per hour.
That's a real concrete connection. Does it mean you should don a mask and charge the barricades at the Convention Center? Of course not, but it hopefully makes you take a step back to realize that many, if not most, of the folks making time to take a stand against injustice are just like you and I. Just like my steelworking father who can't retire because of the health insurance mess. Just like half the folks shopping at Wal-Mart in spite of the irony that the low wages make it affordable to the masses who likely also live at poverty level.
Read Roddy for a coherent explanation of American's love-hate relationship with world economies.
There's a sidebar in the print edition which summarizes some of the major issue-clusters.
One which I believe you really need to consider is the environmental agenda. We here in Western Pennsylvania had a humbling dose of the international realities with the EarthEcycle debacle. Hundreds of local residents were duped into donating electronic goods for recycling only to have the toxic elements dumped in South Africa and caught en route to Asia. We were fooled by our willingness to accept the free lunch and EarthEcycle's mad-genius idea to affiliate with reputable non-profits.
We were also fooled by our ignorance on the issue, in spite of major media attention and powerful images of children playing in toxic dumps. We trusted the non-profits, who failed to do their homework. They trusted the company who promised to help them help others. We turned a collective blind eye and children in the two-thirds world suffer, children whose parents probably don't even have access to the $3.00/hour jobs.
By definition, we need to include Homewood in this two-thirds world analogy. EarthEcycle took advantage of our blind eye to dump computers in Homewood.
EarthEcycle, which is also storing collected electronics equipment in the yard surrounding an old auto repair shop in Homewood, collects and exports used electronics equipment and parts, including color computer monitors that contain cathode ray tubes. The CRTs may contain toxic phosphors within the glass envelopes, which could contain heavily leaded glass and represent an environmental hazard. The average color computer monitor contains 4 pounds of lead in addition to mercury, cadmium and arsenic.
Maybe we need to rethink a few things. It isn't just those damn <insert country> treating their own residents like disposable creatures. It is happening in the East End of Pittsburgh and I have yet to hear a public leader, including those representing Homewood, decry this injustice. Seriously, don't the children in Homewood have enough on their plates without the potential leakage of mercury, lead and arsenic thanks to the good folks trying to help dogs and cats? I've been asking around about what happened to those items as well as the storage unit filled in Monroeville. No response.
Perhaps it makes sense that environmental activists team up other groups to draw attention to the fact that not everyone is fooled, as well as their faith that we can be educated about the myriad of issues. Their faith that we can take control of our economic destinies, on the personal level of where we choose to spend our hard-earned dollars and on the systemic level of demanding fairness and justice in labor policies. Their stubborn willingness to sleep in tents in order to pass out pamphlets and carry signs in hopes of reaching some of us, in spite of our disdain for the ensuing traffic jams and access to Starbucks.
Yes, the G-20 will be a pain in the ass for a lot of us, but that's mostly due to the actual summit rather than the protestors. I'm just saying that perhaps we can be part of the dialogue by getting ourselves informed on the issues instead of bemoaning the tactics.
Let's not turn a blind eye this time folks.
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