April 23, 2001
impressions from Quebec

It really comes down to a very simple question: should money translate cleanly into power for whoever has it?

In other words, should having a lot of money give whoever holds it the potential to control natural resources, the media, politics, education, and health care? Should there not be other ways of delegating power over the institutions that shape our lives and the planet?

If there's anything that was reinforced for me in Quebec, it's the fact that an increasing number of people have a problem with the trend towards the Commodification of Everything. More forcefully, I'm having trouble seeing how any kind of effective democracy can happen within capitalism. I can still imagine how capitalism can be just and not as violent as it is if it is governed by democracy.

Thirdly, I get the distinct impression that a lot of people think that democracy and elections are synonymous, and I disagree completely. 31 rich males in a room secretly discussing the future of the western hemisphere is not democracy. On the other hand, I am extremely encouraged to see what I believe are elements of actual democracy taking hold among protesters and activists. Affinity groups making decisions by consensus, Food Not Bombs providing free food to the visitors, thousands of hours of volunteer effort in organizing places for people to stay and spaces for teach-ins, training, meetings and discussions, the creation of alternate sources of information. All this is, in my understanding, a sign of democracy at work. And it's all done for the love of an idea, not money or anything other material gain.

What if these people were paid, even minimally, for their work? It's not hard to see how a alternative system is feasible, at the very least.

Last, I want it to be absolutely clear that the police did not "act with restraint". Unless indiscriminately filling an entire city with poison gas is restraint. But it's not, so they didn't.

posted by dru in activism