With some nostalgia and much regret I watched the colorful, violent events unfold recently in Quebec City.
I was on security detail of the Shamrock Summit protest in 1985 when Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and President Ronald Reagan got together.*We led the main contingent of demonstrators away from the Chateau Frontenac Hotel as anarchist-punks and other malcontents started to throw bricks, rocks, and bottles at the police.*Later we approached media in an attempt to distance ourselves from the protesters, with only limited success.*Fortunately, in the days leading up to the demonstration, we had managed good media coverage on the big issues of the day:*the superpower arm's race, Reagan's strategic defence initiative or "Star Wars," NATO's questionable Deep Strike strategies, and so on.
The Summit of the Americas protest appeared largely centred on issues of freedom of expression, and the freedom to threaten and intimidate foreign diplomats and government leaders.*In the days leading up to the event, it is the supporters of increased economic integration that appeared to do the best job of getting the message out.*And this should surprise no one, as the theory and evidence is overwhelming in favor of the win-win type benefits from increased trade.
Sure, there are individual losers from structural changes due to trade as there are losers from any economic structural change, particularly technological change.*Many of these losers or their descendants are never adequately compensated. But clearly the cure is often worse than the disease. Canadians only have to look at Atlantic Canada where efforts to protect folks from structural change have led to regional economic stagnation and the collapse of fish stocks.
The continuing integration of the world capitalist system should be viewed as a wonderful opportunity by activists concerned about social justice, peace, and environmental issues.*Freer trade will not only bring greater economic prosperity, but it invites scrutiny by foreign activists into the internal affairs of sovereign countries that would otherwise be lacking.
In the meantime, little is said of the ongoing crisis in Palestine.*Ironically, North American support for Israeli-sponsored ethnic cleansing has caused the North American economy to lose trillions of dollars over time, and to put many American lives in jeopardy overseas.*Palestinians are evicted from their homes because apparently two wrongs make an historical right.
Canada has a free trade agreement with Israel and could use its influence to pressure the Israeli government to stop its program of ethnic cleansing in the Gaza and the West Bank.*Sadly, we are largely silent on this issue.
Erik Poole, Economist
We have been inspired by the UN to develop civil society as the basis of a culture of peace. And what is actually happening? Genocidal war continues in Central Africa, ignored by the rest of the world. And when the Albanian Kosovo was "liberated" by aerial shelling, the mutual massacre of Slavs and Albanians merely spread to Montenegro and Macedonia. In democratic Israel, elections replaced a moderate coalition with a hawkish one and the civil war has become more vicious. Recent eletions in the United States and Italy did not elect advocates of the culture of peace either. And Canada needs no change in government to sway with the US political winds.
Sovereign nations pursue their conflicting self-interests with ultimate reliance on military power. Most middle and small powers, including Canada, seek safety in alliances dominated by their greater neighbors.
For those of us who want a peaceful world, it is not enough to advocate our (necessarily diverse) ideas of World Government. We must draw more people into the discussion. The majority of our fellow humans can only spare serious thought and energy for matters close at hand. That is why we must promote instruction in civics from the community level up, in the school systems and in voluntary but widely available adult education for citizenship. The most practical medium for the latter is radio, which is very accessible even in the poorest areas of the world. The topics must be of local and current interest, and problem-oriented rather than persuasive. Contrasting alternative points of view are suitable discussion-starters. Given democratic leadership, the groups themselves will discover that the causes of their troubles are often global.
Sounds utopian? Sweden, Denmark, and Norway developed this type of adult education during the last century and these are the countries that managed to steer clear of the wars. We need World Government to deal with the many types of human conflict. But that will not emerge without the informed support of the peoples of the world.