Images: © 2000
Dang Ngo Impact Visuals. All rights
Put down the damn brick! Some of us have to
live here, you know!
by Elizabeth Weaver Engel
Let me begin by pointing out that I'm as
sweatshop-product-boycotting as the next bleeding heart liberal. And I'm in
support of the goals of the IMF/World Bank protesters. To quote the main
protest website: "The IMF and the World Bank
have too much power over developing countries, especially given that they are
controlled by rich country governments. The power of these institutions to
dictate policies to developing countries must be removed."
What the International Monetary Fund does, in a nutshell, is
approach soft currency countries whose economies are in trouble and offer them
money on the condition that it be spent to ensure foreign investor "confidence"
and that they allow the free entry of large multinationals. It's a catch-22:
countries either take the money which then allows the World Bank to force them
to re-focus their economies on the exports created by these large
multinationals, at the expense of programs like education and health care for
their citizens. Or they refuse the money, but how many people are capable of
turning down a Rich Manipulative Relative when he offers sorely needed cash
(just ignore all those little strings)?
It's those same multinationals that bring the labor unions
into the picture. Not traditionally allied to tree huggers and human rights
activists, labor unions are willing to join forces when it comes to the issue
of large multinationals moving low-skill jobs to countries where the workers
are willing to accept pennies a day in exchange for turning out cheap sweaters
or athletic shoes. There is the issue of different goals - the unions want the
jobs back in the US, while most of the other groups are focused on a living
wage for the non-US multinational employees - but it's still an historic moment
that could be very important for the future of leftist activism in the United
But (you knew there was a but coming), memories of Seattle
linger. So far, things have been relatively calm here in DC. A few traffic
snarls, a few
boxes removed - no big deal. Nothing unusual for DC, as a matter of fact.
Stuff like that happens all the time. That's life when the Leader of the Free
World (TM) lives down the street.
Of course, the real
protest has yet to begin. Yes, I know, it's to be a non-violent protest
designed to blockade the World Bank and prevent the April 16 and 17 meetings
there. Seattle was supposed to be non-violent too, until somebody decided it
would be a good idea to loot the nearest Starbucks. The A16 page stipulates
that anyone not following their set of
action rules is " an
autonomous action, not endorsed by, or part of, the Mobilization for Global
Justice." Covers their asses, but it doesn't give me a whole lot of
I know there will be a lot of people rallying in support of
some really important issues, and maybe smashing up a Niketown seems like a
good first step to smashing global capitalism. But this isn't just a protest
site. People live here. I'd like to feel secure in knowing that my home and my
office won't be damaged just for being in the wrong neighborhood. DC's a
residential city; there are few streets anywhere with no homes, no locally
A few requests: To the police: please act with a little more
sense than the Seattle law enforcement people did. They managed to escalate the
actions of a small group of people to a level that caused millions of dollars
worth of damage. Try to keep your heads. To DC residents: be careful out there.
This could be more dangerous than the last time the Dallas Cowboys decided rush
hour was a good time to bus through town with their police escort. To the
protesters: before you throw that rock, remember that you might be putting it
through somebody's living room window.
b i o :
Elizabeth Weaver Engel, besides being a
budding writer, is a stealth geek, a manager (but NOT the Pointy-Haired Boss)
at a non-profit association, a distance runner, a "rabid" Lindy Hopper, and a
connoisseur of fine B-grade movies.
resident of Washington, DC, Elizabeth grew up outside of Philadelphia and holds
a Master's degree in political theory from the University of Virginia. She fell
into working with computers by accident and has since been struggling to pull
herself out. Writing for Mindjack is one of the steps she's taking to do so.