Lee McQueen On The FTAA, Globalization and Race
One of our viewers Lee McQueen has done a considerable amount of thinking on trade issues, the FTAA and the impact of globalization. She shared her thoughts with us and today we run them as a commentary on globalization, free trade and the protests. Her opinion was written prior to this weekend's protests but is very timely and forward-looking in its vision. In her commentary she even connects the trade debate and globalization to America's racial divide.
Here it is:
FTAA is an expansion of NAFTA. NAFTA deregulated trade b/t Canada, the US, and Mexico. FTAA would deregulate trade from Alaska down to Argentina with the sole exception being Cuba. In theory, free trade and the global village sound like a good warm and fuzzy "we are the world" idea. However, in practice, free trade benefits large corporations at the health and safety of workers of those corporations, not only in the US but in all 34 countries possibly involved. Environmentalists, unions, prison activists, and students from around the world are demanding FAIR TRADE, not just free trade. Anti-globalization protest is no longer the US versus "them ferners." The issue is profit-motivated corporations verses poor and indigenous populations from around the world. Which is why anti-globalists in the US have united with anti-globalists in Mexico, Brazil, Europe, Africa, and on and on to fight against WTO, IMF, and GATT. Anti-globalism is not a bored, rich, white liberal issue. The push for fair trade involves everyone affected by large corporate smothering - which is actually everyone. FTAA teach-ins, actions, demonstrations and protests are planned throughout the month of April with the most crucial days being April 19-22 during which world leaders in the Western hemisphere meet in Quebec City, Canada. Quebec City is currently a police state and many people will not be able to cross the border. One alternative site for protest is Buffalo, NY and you can get more information here http://www.a22buffalo.org. Protests are also planned in Cleveland, San Diego, and a few other border crossings. See 90 events in 75 cities: http://www.a20.org/calendar.cfm.
For a clearer understanding of how FTAA will affect you, view this link http://www.stopftaa.org.
Particularly for people of color around the world, FTAA is relevant. Particularly for people in the United States of color and poor people, the anti-globalization movement is relevant to you if:
(1) You are a white-collar worker (dot.com, telecommunications) who was down-sized by a corporation during or after a merger despite your education and work skills. In an effort to make higher profits, one person works three times harder for the same pay and two people are fired.
(2) You are a blue-collar worker (factory, construction) whose job was sent to Mexico or Bangladesh where corporate employers know they don't have to pay health insurance, a livable wage, or ensure worker safety, or worry about polluting the air and water. An underage child laborer now does what you do at one-fifth the cost. The child laborer is not the enemy. The corporation is.
(3) You know people in jail and prison who do not belong there. Or maybe it was you who "fit the description" and did time. You were charged with a non-violent crime (such as passing bad checks, marijuana possession, loitering). Perhaps you were in the wrong place at the wrong time. You did time because you could not afford bail, did not have the right connections, and could not afford a good lawyer. Being beaten, raped, and degraded is not equal punishment for smoking a joint or bouncing a check.
A lucrative industry today is part of the prison-industrial complex. America's love of money has made us the world's largest jailer. Corrections Corporation of America, Wackenhut, prison construction firms, insurance agencies (Merrill Lynch), telecommunications (AT&T) and more need raw materials/product/commodities in order to increase profits. Rural towns whose main employment sources are now in Mexico and Bangladesh (as described in point 2) need jobs. If you are an ethnic minority, an immigrant, a political dissident, without connections, your body and life will become a source of income for the prison industry.
See http://www.theatlantic.com/issues/98dec/prisons.htm and http://www.criticalresistance.org/mission.html
If you consider it carefully, the prison-industrial complex has replaced slavery as a viable economic system for America. The similarities are frightening - mostly colored, poor, immigrants, and now women make up the largest growing prison population. Inside the system, these groups are beaten, raped, tortured, degraded, and controlled by rural whites who have no personal wealth and therefore welcome the chance to participate as guards. Prison inmate laborers are paid very little or sometimes not at all. Work + no pay = slavery. Women and men are used for sex and punished by other inmates and prison officials for resisting. All due to public officials turning a blind eye to the cries of protest (when they are not passing additional "tough-on-crime" legislation). Largely colored prison populations are transported away from their families sometimes across state lines to fill beds in other communities. Remember, family separation was one way to weaken Blacks during slavery. Lani Guinier explained in the Black forum on C-SPAN that prisoners are counted in the Census as part of the rural white community. That rural white community receives federal funds that otherwise would go to the urban centers where the inmate lived before incarceration. And once released, after all the trauma, the ex-felon may be denied the right to vote although he may pay taxes. Ex-felons are counted, but not allowed to vote. Remember the famous 3/5ths of a person clause?
See the parallels?
Slavery was the first American socio-economic effort to repress the Black voice. Segregation and Jim Crow was the second socio-economic effort to diminish Black power and self-determination. Today, the prison-industrial complex is the third act to place the voice of young, vital Black men and women under lock and key. Is it time for another Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Nat Turner to speak and act out on a system that while legal is at the same time brutal, barbaric, and morally unjust? I think so.
(4) If your neighborhood smells to high heaven. If the air you breathe is brown. If the women in your family find tumors and cancerous growths more frequently in strange places. If the men in your family experience high rates of prostate cancer not due to diet or smoking. If your child plays in areas where lead paint is still lying on the ground and peeling off the walls. If you have begun purchasing distilled water because the tap water is no longer drinkable. If parks are giving way to parking lots. Then the anti-environmental realities of FTAA would definitely concern you.
(5) Speaking of children, if your child is profiled at school as a behavior problem, low-intelligence, and maybe having a short-attention span...the school may prescribe Ritalin, Prozac, or other drugs to regulate his behavior. If you refuse the drugging of your child, you may be held liable. The pharmaceutical companies are amazing lobbyists and it would not be difficult to give a private (or public) school this type of legal power over your child. Currently, Rod Paige, the Secretary of Education has allowed the practice of Channel One, whereby corporations are allowed to advertise their products in the classroom by paying off the school district. If your child suddenly develops a thirst for Coca-Cola, you'll know why.
(6) If you are alarmed at what is happening to the world food supply in regards to Mad Cow disease, Hoof and Mouth disease, and genetically-modified corn (not approved by the FDA) finding its way into a supermarket near you, the free trade trend of privatizing social policies such as food regulation with an eye to profit would definitely concern you.
(7) Again, NAFTA and FTAA trade deregulation do not equal "free" trade. There is nothing free about it. To have an idea of how deregulation can affect your life directly, those folks in California can review their latest electric bills and decide how unfree free trade and deregulation actually can be. Imagine what free trade can do for the price of your electricity, natural gas, and gasoline.
(8) If you know of someone or you, yourself are affected by AIDS, FTAA has the possibility of keeping the price of drug treatments out of your range unless you can afford $15,000-20,000/yr for effective treatment. Currently Brazil, India, South Africa, and Cuba are refusing to buy drugs manufactured by prescription corporations because corporate prices are inflated beyond belief. Instead, these countries are basically saying "f--- you" to the pharmaceutical corporations and are manufacturing generic drugs that cost $1/day or $365/yr. Brazil said screw it and are now giving away the AIDS drugs for free. If the US has its way, it will put increased regulations in the FTAA to prevent the production of cheap but effective generic AIDS drugs. Anyone with HIV and AIDS who does not have $15,000-20,000/yr to spend will die in the name of profit. These drugs were developed using public tax money and now the finished product is being withheld in the name of profit. Read about it here http://www.a20.org/feature.cfm?ID=45
(9) We've already seen how large corporations affect the entertainment industry. Radio, television, and film are controlled by approximately five corporations now. These corporations control content, access, and visibility. If these corporations feel their profits will be threatened by the content or visibility of independent voices, it is easy to pull the plug and join other corporations to quash and blacklist the activists. The latest episode with Tavis Smiley, BET, and Viacom is but one example in television. Viacom has won approval from Michael Powell's FCC to purchase UPN. With BET and UPN safely under its authority, Viacom has vast control over what little Black expression remains on television. Other examples are the payoffs that result in radio airplay given to low-quality music in all genres. Also in radio, independent stations, such as Pacifica are being forcibly shut down. Spike Lee's Bamboozled reveals how Black expression in film and television are corporate-controlled to the point 'Scary Movie' will make millions due to heavy promotion, but quality independent Black films like "The Visit" are ignored. Lucky for us we have the Internet. For now. Michael Powell, Colin Powell's son is head of the FCC. Both Powells have never met a merger they did not like. With AOL and Microsoft negotiating for ever-increasing control of information technology, we may have to go back to beating drums in order to have free and open communication systems.
(10) Okay, now I'm going to get really wacky with you. I've discussed healthcare, telecommunications, and criminal justice. Where do these different social policies meet? In a new technology being developed called Digital Angel. http://www.digitalangel.net/da/uses.htm
DA is currently being marketed as a means to track lost children, seniors, and pets. But it is also being billed as a multi-million dollar industry which makes it highly unlikely that Digital Angel will be limited to children, seniors, and lost pets or even livestock. A multi-million dollar industry needs more people than that. The technology is also a possibility to track military personnel, prisoners, and people who have "bad thoughts." The manufacturer, Applied Digital Solutions, is quietly partnering with medical manufacturers right now. After FTAA, the sky would be the only limit for a multi-million dollar industry whose main goal is to track and monitor people and objects. How many campaign donations would it take before Digital Angel is legislated as a required for every child attending public school, any student wishing to enroll in college, all military, anyone who's ever entered the criminal justice system, anyone who receives a vaccination (DA is as small as a grain of rice) and can be worn as a watch-like device or injected under the skin. Digital Angel is currently voluntary. But, once upon a time, vaccinations and Social Security numbers were voluntary. While it is probably possible to get through life without a smallpox vaccine or SS#, it is not easy. I'm speculating here, but you look at the site and judge for yourself how endless the possibilities are for required monitoring devices. Unless you don't mind a centralized corporate-controlled agency knowing where you are at all times. Will those of us with the misfortune to reside in the prison-industrial complex find ourselves "Running Men," much like Arnold Schwartzenegger's character in that movie? With the possibility of a televised, or even bootleg digitized execution forthcoming with Timothy McVeigh, plus the rise of semi-reality television programming, it remains a possibility.
I will end the speculation here.
I hope I've made the possibility of what FREE versus FAIR trade can bring and how what happens in Quebec City during April 19-22 will change lives. The problems that are visible right now, will be magnified but only if mainstream media reports it. We may all be told by the five largest media corporations to take Prozac, listen to a Britney Spears CD, or watch a Jim Carrey movie and get over it. It doesn't have to be that way if the people whose lives are affected speak up now. If you read through this long post and have felt the affects of corporate domination over your jobs, your civil rights, your healthcare, your access mainstream media and telecommunications, your employment and unemployment, your environment, your food quality, and your childcare, NOW is the time to speak up BEFORE FTAA is ratified and given final approval.
Go to http://www.stopFTAA.org and read about it and decide for yourself where you fit in.
You'll have to seek information about FTAA on your own because mainstream coverage will focus on how "fringe groups" are breaking glass windows for no reason. I've outlined ten reasons for protest. But there are many more.
Tuesday, April 24, 2001
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The views and opinions expressed herein by the author do not necessarily represent the opinions or position of BlackElectorate.com or Black Electorate Communications.