Is anyone out there concerned that the constitutional rights of U.S. citizens are being eroded away year after year by our courts and political system? The problem is no one really notices that much because most Americans are content to live a self-centered, complacent life, devoid of political activism. We just assume that our rights are still there, waiting for us, and that we can pick them up and brandish them anytime we want. Well, to all Americans out there--THINK AGAIN. What we've experienced is that you either use it or lose it, and while so many Americans have been selfishly wrapped up in their materialistic lives, political and social injustices are spreading everywhere, here in our own country and around the world.
The institutional reactions to preliminary protests here in D.C. over the past week have made it painfully apparent that the constitutional rights of U.S. citizens don't mean much to World Bank or IMF officials, or to the U.S. government, or to the police (their minions.) What's worse is that many D.C. residents are feeling, "Just keep them [the protesters] under control--whatever it takes. Don't let them interfere with my getting to work on Monday (or cause me any other kind of inconvenience.)" So many Americans are so foolish, they don't even realize that these protesters are working for them, as well as for oppressed people all around the world. So many Americans are so foolish, they don't even realize they're practically prisoners in their own state. So many Americans don't even bother to exercise their constitutional rights that they don't even realize they are half gone. They look at the protesters and see bothersome rabble-rousers, probably much as the native British looked at the American revolutionaries a few hundred years ago. The minions walk in out of the World Bank, or the police station, or their corporate offices, without ever questioning who are they working for and why are they doing it. Is it moral? Is it good? These seem to be questions that no one wants asked, let alone answered.
The atrocities committed by multinational corporations in complicity with the World Bank and IMF would make many people shudder, if they were to know the full details. But they don't want you to know, so you don't. Several reputable reporters tried to get press passes to the IMF/World Bank events, but we were refused because we weren't "mainstream" enough, I suppose. (They would not give us an official explanation.) An employee who works at the World Bank described to me how the World Bank and IMF have a massive database of media outlets and reporters' names. They track all the press coverage and if any reporter says something negative about the IMF/World Bank, they get a black mark next to their name. In other words, they're black listed from future World Bank press conferences. So people go home and read their papers and watch the news every night, like idiots, expecting that they're hearing the truth. But the whole thing has already been contrived by the World Bank and IMF and other powerful global organizations, such as the multinational media corporations which stand to benefit from the World Bank and IMF's anti-environment, human-exploiting policies.
I have been shocked by the police presence in Washington, DC, and by their aggressive attempts to shut down the activities of the protesters. This morning, one day before the main protests are to take place, the police escorted the Fire Marshall to shut down the activists' Convergence Center for "fire code violations." The police are planning to completely blockage more than 10 city blocks in the vicinity of the World Bank and IMF building. They have apparently been indiscriminately searching activists' vehicles and homes, in the hope of finding something incriminating. This morning three activists were arrested when police found the activists' equipment, special pipes which allow them to make an unbreakable human chain. Personally I don't see how possession of pipes is a crime, but I am sure the police and government have found a way to make it one.
Incredibly, according to the most recent reports, hundreds of activists were being arrested this afternoon, less than a day before the main protest is to take place. Their crime? Apparently, walking in the street. The activists were walking through the city with signs and chanting, in opposition to multinational corporations who are complicit in exploiting poor nations. Suddenly, the police barricaded either end of the block that the protesters where walking on, locking some 500 or more protesters within the block. No reason was given and the media were all corralled off into a small corner. Shortly afterwards, the police began arresting hundreds of the activists and hauling them off into buses.
This kind of behavior is astonishing, in a nation where the right to assemble is supposedly guaranteed. I want to warn every American out there: whether you agree with the IMF/World Bank protesters or not, be warned: in every way that these protesters' rights are stomped on and violated, it WILL impact you and your family's lives in one way or another. This country isn't supposed to be about the rights of the select few, such as the World Bank and IMF officials, or other people who work within the multinational "system", it's supposed to be about the rights of ALL people EVERYWHERE.
Yet, the D.C. police's behavior shouldn't be a surprise to anyone who is familiar with the practices and policies of the U.S.-led World Bank/IMF. They have repeatedly supported oppressive regimes, who are more able to implement the unpopular Structural Adjustment Programs, which are necessary for multinationals to be able to most effectively exploit poorer countries and their workers. The disease is spreading. It should come as no surprise, since it started on our own turf. What started out as a nation built on religious freedom has turned into a monopolistic greed machine, seeking to devour every material resource--human and non-human--in its path. Meanwhile so many Americans just remain blind to it all, ignorant of how their own lives are being influenced by the "Greed is god" practices of the U.S. government, multinational corporations, and globalization machines such as the World Bank and IMF.
Everyone wants to live a reasonably comfortable life, and there is nothing inherently wrong with that. But when greed gets out of control, it seems there are no moral or spiritual checks as to what actions we should take to achieve so-called "comfort." "Economic development at any cost," seems to be the chant of the globalization leaders.
What the "Moblization for Global Justice" activists who have gathered here this week are saying is, "NO! PEOPLE OVER PROFIT!" They see that the endless path of consumption is just taking us all to hell, even materially speaking, let alone the conditions of our hearts and consciences. Just look at our own country. Where has this unchecked consumption taken us? In the face of our so-called "booming" economy, there are millions of impoverished people. Schools are disasters, mental disorders are at an all time high. The air is polluted and the water is laced with chemicals and other contaminants. Both parents have to work just to get by, and the children are left to be raised by overburdened, ill-equipped school systems, or better-yet, the local gangs. More and more, the nation's wealth is concentrated into the hands of an elite few, while the middle class is squeezed out and the poorer are increasingly impoverished.
If the American people want to see a change in our own country, they need to wake up and get back in the driver's seat of this nation. They need to examine their own conscience and determine if they are willing to live of life of excess consumption and multinational consumerism at the expense of their down-trodden brothers and sisters of the world. The "Mobilization for Global Justice" activists are calling us all, everywhere around the world, to wake up to our conscience, wake up to our moral and spiritual values, and reject an economic system which calls for the oppression of the many for the wealth of a few.
I for one, will be standing by the side of the protesters on Sunday and Monday, and I will be praying for their protection and for their cause. And I will be offering them my thanks for their courage, for their belief in justice, and for their hope.