Thursday, April 2, 2009

Important world matters: G20 and a child´s views

“Today I really missed you as I thought of affinity and so I go with you in mind. I will be thinking of you and the people you have met as grounding force when I am on the streets.”

Email received Monday from a dear friend as she sets off to London for the G20 protests.

In La Casa de la Red we have been keeping up to date with the protests in London. I want to give a damming critique of how, irregardless of what outcome the G20 come up with, capitalism is crisis. I see it so painfully on the streets of Bogota everyday. 300 people arrive in Bogota every day, the majority fleeing the violence, the violence imposed to re order land use, to control it so it can be handed over to one of thousands of the multinationals. I see old men, old women, men with kids, young women always always politely begging with the utmost respect. I don´t know how they keep their spirit, faces ignoring them for days after days, invisibilising them, my face turning away. Yesterday I physically kicked out, frustration, powerlessness filled me.

The moral argument goes that this economic crisis is set to increase unemployment causing misery for faceless people (in Colombia unemployment due to increase this year from 40% to 60%) so governments must do something. Yet this is a blinkered take on it, (or I could say, a historically and politically decontextualised view, if I want to use a snippet of the language of experts so I am taking more seriously. I have been reading the Times to see what the elite/my parents are thinking about the G20. The Times, exempify a problem with the UK elite: the constant rational, pseduo scientific arguments that only with those with access to high levels of education can engage with


Arguments won before even made due to invisible privilige. Arguments then used as tools against those with visible non-privilige. I ´m not going to use my privilige today to read, intellectually think in order to engage with The Times articles about supposed benefits of the G20 decision on the twistedly-named ´developing´ countries . Nor let myself be made to feel shit by their supposed superiority of knowledge on important world matters. I have a story of importance. It is about a little girl called Lorelia.

I met Lorelia last week in the sierra of the sur de Bolivar. The adults were deep in working groups debating and fine-tuning the community standards (normas de coexistencia) that they are creating for their region. Once they have been approved by a general assembly the government must legally recognise them as autonomous community laws.

Lorelia had earlier won a game I had set a group of kids and her prize was some of the fruit salad that those of us struggling with rice and yuca three times had made. As we sat and ate together I asked if she knew what the adults were talking about, if she knew what normas were. I asked if she had any suggestions for what could change in her community to make life better for her and other children. She sure did. This seven year old told me about incidences; fights with broken bottles injuring kids, drunken drivers, rubbish being thrown everywhere (normal everywhere in Colombia but exciting to hear a kid criticising this culture), people being killed, and she easily translated these experiences into suggestions for changes. I created a political space for her within the assembly and she presented her contributions for the community standards. She was confident, articulate, awesome, inspiring.

There is a disturbing parallel between this story and government get togethers: marginalisation where both people and cultures deem certain people to be important and ignore the rest. Yet, everyone, irregardless of their education and ability to participate, has a right to participate in the shaping of policies that will affect their lives. Fortunately, Fedeagrominisbol, the Small scale miners federation, is progressive, that is they listen, learn and grow in their political processes. It was not a struggle to create a space for Lorelia and I´m confident that spaces for participation of children will grow.

With governments, marginality is a deeper rooted problem. With governments in the current period, marginalising of social organisations and the absolute centering of business is the norm. People protesting in London are creating a space in which a different philosophy can exist. Fedeagrominisbol are building a federation with the strength to defend their cultures, not a static culture, but one that is changed by the communities in ways like what I witnessed with las normas de convivencia, rather than changes made through state and para-state violence imposing a ´development´ model on them.

While Fedeagrominisbol cannot participate in the protests against the G20 and talking about people in London representing people from the Global South I hugely problematic, there is a misty familiar reflection across the pond.

At a time when my blog had begun to feel more like a habitual routine, I really feel a reaffirmation of my commitment to encouraging cross pollination of stories across borders and cultures. So more people may take strength in walking with others beside them. So Lorelia knows that up on the bleak sierra in the rains there are people elsewhere also taking responsibility and collectively figuring out ways to create and defend alternatives to this fucked up violent injust robot.

1 comment:

Sara Koopman said...

made me cry. miss you.
lots of love,