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the story so far. . . (washington/london/edinburgh)
A personal/political missive from the G8 protests... expect a wiki/blog-ified version soon.
riding a bus into scotland in 8:00 a.m. this morning, i was very aware of are arriving in the middle of the story. of course, this is also true for the northern global justice protests as a whole. despite the sentimental memories that surrounded this weekend's live 8 concerts, said of the charity-focused rock stars, nor the street-focused counter summits began in response to the arrival of global south poverty and the mass death that accompanies it.
i came into edinburgh this morning as people were gathering for an antiborders protest at dungavel, and detention camp for would-be refugees in the united kingdom. just 24 hours before, i rode in a plane carrying three extra passengers on the public dime: two men from homeland security, and someone who failed in seeking refuge in the united states of america. in a few minutes of chatting, i found that two flight attendants agreed with me that two men with guns makes an airplane more dangerous, and that deporting immigrants makes our country less free. but, they said, this happens five days a week.
as the sun sank yesterday, i walked on the hill where british naval geographers divided eastern hemisphere the last, defining their capital as the exact center of the world. a couple miles north, london has become the permanent home of tens of thousands from the indian subcontinent, people who have a built a survival economy in the third most expensive city on the continent.
in between is canary wharf. it's a serious embarrassment to any human notion of aesthetics this monotony of steel and glass is being touted as an urban model. (and people who know me know that i am not one to declare anything whose function i don't like as ugly) what the new wharf does do is provide a minimal environment business school graduates to commute between their glass and steel homes and their glass and steel workplaces without ever seeing the poor. they even have their own in not-quite-mass transit system to do so. it must be a bit like living inside of a microchip. it will be quite a challenge for interior designers and furniture makers to make it seem like home.
the fact that it was built atop the old east india docks, which brought in the subcontinent's wealth ( yes, it was a bit more complicated than that, may be i'll provide details later), saw during acts of labor unity, and later employed some of the colonized peoples children and grandchildren should provide plenty of ghosts.
nowadays of course, the docks have been cut out of the mix. despite the charity and the much-touted loans, more wealth flows from the poorer countries to the rich than vice versa. for the most part, what flows is profit (repatriated in euros and dollars) and ownership (as indebted countries sell more and more of their industries, even their basic services, to foreign investors). the steel towers of citigroup perform the same function the east india docks once did, but with money and information. and the goods still come, as oil, as cheapened commodities, as electronics and gadgets traded for mere pieces of paper.
you don't need bob geldof or a well-informed anarchist (and there are many of us here) to tell you this. read aime cesaire, desmond tutu, or jamaica kincaid. they've been saying it for decades, because their lives depend on it.
as i write, the people here whose outrage came so late in the story, are making plans to blockade the junior staff of the g8 leaders. echoing the weekends plea to state leaders to "make poverty history", the call here is for all of us to simply make history. we need success on both fronts.
july 5, 2005