By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
“They were grinding it out,” Tom Hayden said of the protesters on the plane back to L.A. “I don’t mean this as a criticism. Sometimes you’ve got to do that.”
Indeed, the only real surprise came from Lee Kyung Hae, whose public self-martyrdom made him a hero back home and laced the tedium with tragedy. Not that this mattered to the cynics, who quickly began joking about his lack of PR savvy. “If you’re going to commit suicide,” one reporter said to me, “you’ve got to put out a press release in advance so everybody will be there. After all, you only kill yourself once.”
Quite true. The poor man simply didn’t understand the media.
The protest organizers did, and they neatly turned Saturday’s culminating demonstration into a grand gesture designed for the international media. It began with a march in the city center, a carnivalesque romp complete with a looming float of a Mayan water god, syndicalistas chanting union slogans, a drum squad pounding out a relentlessly jaunty rhythm, and scores of young Mexicans clad in the motley garb of a Mad Max movie. What headgear! There were hardhats and motorcycle helmets, balaclavas and bird masks, bandannas and touristic straw hats Magic Markered with anti-capitalist slogans. An Italian TV cameraman fought the intense heat by wearing nothing but low-cut Cassini briefs and running shoes.
While the locals looked on in bemusement, all these thousands of protesters made their way to the orange steel fence that for days had been separating them from the WTO delegates. Over the next two hours, a group of women and Korean farmers used metal shears and ropes to tear down part of this barricade — a purely symbolic act designed to be captured by the media. Although there was no hope of these protesters actually breaking up the WTO meeting, they could at least present the world with images of their defiance: If you put up a fence, we will tear it down.
And in CancĂșn this September, such a symbolic statement was probably enough. For back at the convention center, the Group of 21 was also showing its defiance. On Sunday, these nations walked out of negotiations, bringing the WTO meeting to an abrupt end with no new agreements, and leaving the rich nations grumbling that their globalization agenda was no longer following the correct timetable. For them, the meeting was a terrible failure.
But for others it was a badly needed triumph. Hearing this news, the globalifĂłbicos in downtown CancĂșn cheered and engaged in a spontaneous dance that, like virtually everything they did during the WTO meeting, was captured by far too many cameras.
For my part, I was happy to see that, this time anyway, the poorer nations stayed together and didn’t let themselves get rolled — or steamrolled — by the richer ones. At least they didn’t lose. Then again, they didn’t win anything either. All those poor farmers who hoped for some sort of relief from unfair competition got nothing, proving the wisdom of the woman in the Dylan song who knows there’s no success like failure, and that failure’s no success at all.