Eyes on the G8, not just London

16 July, 2005 at 10:49 pm 2 comments

Wasn't it amazing how effectively the London bombings knocked the Make Poverty History capaign and the Gleneagles summit off the front pages? I mean, just look at mustard seeds as an example! There's a post on the bombings, but nothing on the coach trip to Edinburgh. What an astonishing experience! Nearly a quarter of a million people taking over the streets of the city for 7 hours. I spoke to a police officer (I'd lost one of my bus charges!) and he said there'd been no trouble, no drunkenness and no ambulances called. He couldn't believe it. I'm usually not on the side of people who whinge about the media and their reporting, but I couldn't help noticing how effective violence is as a publicity stunt! Look how much coverage and screen time the handful of anti-globalisation demonstrators got by comparison with our record-breaking demo.

Of course, the good news is that there was some significant good news to come out of Gleneagles. The package of debt relief, doubled aid and a commitment to tackling Aids is going to make an enormous difference to millions of people's lives.

Here's the question that intrigues me. What if we've actually done it – what if we've actually changed the way of life for Africa, and with it, the world? What effects will that have? Let's be optimistic. Let's say that release from crippling debt will revolutionise the economies. Let's say that the aid gets to where it's needed. Let's say that the Aids programme starts to bite. African lives are going to change dramatically – thank God! We need to keep up the pressure so that the debt relief is extended as far as is needed.

But how does it change us? I wonder if it's going to alter radically our postmodern mindset? I have a feeling that somewhere at the heart of Po-Mo is a despair of the complexity of reality. It seems to me that part of the demise of the Big Story is a pessimism about being able to alter things on any significant scale. The global economy is just too big, complex and powerful. Unaccountable multinationals, far more powerful than nation states, are unaccountable. If the pressure on them in one place gets too great, they decamp operations elsewhere. So we give up on any hope of changing the world and instead concentrate our efforts on small, individual, single issues. We might at least make a difference in our own back yards! So, for example, we profess a "zero tolerance" policy towards drugs and jail someone for 14 years for having a dope party in the privacy of their homes, but live with the fact that the drugs cartels can be inconvenienced but never eradicated. Small wonder that students these days are so frighteningly conservative by comparison with our generation, obssessed with grades and CVs!

But what if we've actually done it this time? What if we've got the most powerful people in the world to listen and act? How much pent-up hope will that unleash? Will we find other ways of making a difference to the Big Picture? So many questions! I confess to being quietly hopeful…

dave faulkner has an interesting section on "What Did the G8 Accomplish?"

Oh, the picture? It's of two of the demonstrators at Edinburgh, saying to the G8 (ala Sting) "We'll be watching you!"


Entry filed under: campaigns, current affairs.

Can we handle life in the highways and byways? just chillin’

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Lindy  |  20 July, 2005 at 9:04 pm

    Hello Blogger
    I read your article with interest. Congratulations to all those, including yourself and gang, who took the trouble to make the trip to Edinburgh. Let’s hope you have indeed made the most powerful people in the world sit up and take notice, I have my doubts. As you say, the global economy is just too big, complex etc. I am also concerned about the greed and bribery involved in some of the African countries, will this ever be eradicated? Let’s hope it is.

    But another question – where were we while the crops in Niger were eaten by locusts? And why didn’t we notice the drought. Why does it always seem to be newscasters and reporters bringing these dreadfully sad pictures to us? Why can’t we act before these situations get so dreadfully bad?

    Yes there are a lot of questions, I’m not sure I’m as quietly hopeful as you..

  • 2. Wol  |  21 July, 2005 at 10:21 am

    Thanks for the comment. I guess when I say “We” I mean ordinary people en masse all over the world, rather than those of us at Edinburgh. That’s important. The pressure on the G8 worked because it was co-ordinated and global.

    There is a great deal of corruption in Africa, as you say. One of the worst at the moment is Mugabe in my own home country. I tend to take the view that “We taught ’em!” Colonialism was a less nakedly corrupt system, with more of a kickback for the explouted countries, but, at the end of the day, the colonial powers (Britain, in much of Africa’s case) siphoned off the wealth of the colonies for their benefit. It is that essentially one-way traffic from the periphery (the colonies) back to the centre (the power) that defines colonialism. We react indignantly to corruption because of its nakedness, yet its essence is the same as colonialism. I am content, though, that the measures in place will mean that aid and debt relief actually do benefit the people who need it (via NGOs) rather than the fatten swiss bank accounts of Mugabe and his ilk.

    I agree with you absolutely about Niger. It’s shocking to see those pictures, isn’t it? And sickening that this was predicted and yet, as you say, we’re way too late to save far too many lives.

    Let me suggest why you might be a little more hopeful for the future, though. I go back to this business about our feeling helpless to change the Big Picture. One thing that breeds is either a very careful selection of “projects” to engage with (and in this instance, Niger wasn’t one of them) or a deliberate shutting out of the things that distress but about which we can do nothing. So it is possible for a Rwanda, or a Niger to happen unnoticed, even in this age of news and image saturation.

    My hope is that, if we begin to believe we can actually do something about these things, we will become vigilant and proactive. After all, then we no longer have to hide from the things about which we feel guilty and helpless.

    But I know I tend towards over-optimism …


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