Monday, September 02, 2002

I've been corresponding with Natasha about the Johannesburg summit, which is always interesting because we see different things and point them out to each other. Not only do we notice different articles about the same topic (we tend to frequent different news sources), we notice different things inside the same articles. Then we firmly agree on some important things like this: "But the main things produced for export by the sort of mom & pop shops and struggling laborers conjured up by the word poor are durable goods, like cloth. These goods have been heavily tariffed for years on purely protectionist grounds. This is an issue that has nothing to do with environmentalism, mocks the idea that free trade is any kind of true ideal, and genuinely hurts a great many people."

One thing I haven't made up my mind on is who best represents "the poor"? In the Tech Central Station article we discussed, James Shikwati says "Where are the poor in the summit? They are hardly represented by those "Third World" NGOs here - who pander to wealthy countries in the name of Sustainable Development - perhaps to sustain themselves." Natasha thinks however that first-world "yuppies" (activists) do a better job of representing the third-world poor than their own government ministers. So there are at least four main options (and I'm not sure what Shikwati himself is, although he appears to try to represent the poor):

  • Third World NGOs
  • Third world government ministers
  • Citizens of rich countries (activists, global NGOs)
  • The poor themselves -- voting, demonstrating, etc.

I'm reminded of the book I'm currently reading, "Other Powers" by Barbara Goldsmith (loaned to me by my co-worker Quinn). This biography of Victoria Woodhull, a spiritualist and women's rights activist, contains lots of material on the movements that fought for the rights of women and blacks. It's interesting that the first woman's rights convention had a man (James Mott) chairing it. However, soon they attempted to elect a female president for the convention, "a move so unprecedented that even Elizabeth [Stanton] opposed it." Ultimately, men had to approve universal suffrage, which vastly improved the ability of women to represent themselves.

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