I was in Madison last week, working to sustain a public interest
sustag research center in a time of big transition and to commemorate
Rick Klemme's ten years of service as CIAS director. But my heart was
in Seattle and I had proxies there. Thus the work got done in both
places. I thought some of you might appreciate this perspective from
documentarist and social commentator Michael Moore.
>December 7, 1999
>They never knew what hit them. They had assumed it
>would be business as usual, the way it had been for
>decades. Rich men gather, meet, decide the fate of the
>world, then return home to amass more wealth. It's the
>way it's always been.
>On the morning of November 30, 1999, as government
>officials from 135 nations attempted to meet with the
>largest gathering ever of corporate executives, tens of
>thousands of average everyday working Americans shut
>down the city of Seattle and physically prohibited the
>hoped-for historic and official merger of the earth's
>political and business elite. I was there. I saw it
>first-hand. It was a sight I had never seen.
>But there it was. It was a massively representive body of
>Americans (and Canadians and Brits and French, etc.),
>all of us standing there on the streets between Pine and
>Pike -- Teamsters and turtle-lovers, grandparents and
>Gap clerks, the homeless and computer geeks, high
>school students and Alaskans, nuns and Jimmy Hoffa, Jr.,
>airplane mechanics and caffeinated slaves from Microsoft.
>A few were professional protesters, but the majority
>looked as if this was their first exercise in a
>constitutionally protected redress of grievances. There
>were no "leaders," no "movement," no idea of what to do
>except stop the World Trade Organization from holding
>its secret meeting.
>Only the anarchists seemed organized. They even had
>their own anarchist marching band!
>The big labor march grew so large (that's what happens
>when so many workers are temps), it broke into six or
>seven separate marches, choking off the entire downtown
>area of Seattle.
>The beauty of all this is that it just happened. And why
>should anyone be surprised? After two decades of
>downsizing, wage stagnation, lost health benefits and
>the deliberate destruction of the middle class, the bubble
>sooner or later had to burst.
>The Fortune 500 brought this on themselves. If they
>hadn't been so greedy, if they had been willing to share
>even a sliver of the pie, then maybe Seattle wouldn't
>But the rich decided to take a piss on their biggest
>supporters -- their loyal workers, those Reagan
>Democrats -- and there's nothing uglier than a
>Teamster who voted for Nixon realizing he's been had.
>It was funny watching how the media presented the
>Battle of Seattle ("violent protests" was the mantra),
>and while a McDonald's and a Starbucks had their
>windows broken, the truth was that 99% of the
>participants destroyed no property and took great
>pains to treat the city of Seattle with endearing
>respect. Seattle is, after all, the only city in the
>history of this country to have a general strike (the
>entire town refused to show up for work back in 1919).
>The liberal mayor of Seattle, who at first did not want to
>be known as a West Coast Mayor Daley, eventually lost
>his cool and let his police force run amok. Tear gas and
>rubber bullets started flying toward the grandparents and
>the nuns. All civil liberties were suspended. They even
>had the audacity to use the term, "no protest zones."
>Hey, this is America, buddy! Seattle may be considered
>one of those groovy "Pacific Rim" cities, but that doesn't
>make it Singapore.
>Clinton came to town on the second day. He was so
>badgered by the protests, he ended up committing a
>sin so serious, it was like he was burning his draft card
>all over again. He completely changed his position and
>called on all WTO countries to enact laws prohibiting
>trade with nations that use children in sweatshops and
>do not honor the rights of all workers to organize a
>union. Whoa! You see, free trade is an absolute with the
>WTO (e.g., trade must never be used as a tool to
>accomplish "social" goals). So, for Clinton to climb the
>space needle (or was he chased up it?) and then declare
>that the human rights of workers were more important
>than making a buck, well, this was nothing short of Paul
>being knocked off his horse and seeing Jesus! You could
>almost hear the collective seething of the hundreds of
>CEOs gathered in Seattle. Their boy Bill -- the politician
>they had bought and paid for at so many coffee klatches
>and Lincoln Bedroom stays --- had betrayed them. You
>could almost see them reaching for their Palm Pilots to
>look up the phone number of The Jackal.
>It was a tremendous victory for everyone who lives from
>paycheck to paycheck. We owe a lot to those brave
>souls who got arrested and spent the rest of the week
>This is by no means the end of Big Business. The
>richest 1% still own 90% of everything in this world.
>They will not go down without a fight.
>But they have been put on notice that people from all
>walks of life have had their fill and will not let up until we
>have a fair, just, and democratic economy. This week,
>Seattle was the Lexington and Concord of a movement
>that now cannot be stopped. Mark it down, this last great,
>important date of the 20th century -- November 30, 1999 --
>The Battle of Seattle, the day the people got tired of having
>to work a second job while fighting off the collection agents
>and decided it was time the pie was shared with the people
>who baked it.
>P.S. We're still looking for someone to run our web site.
>Someone who can write, edit, and make the thing look
>like a million rubles. It's a full time job located in our
>New York City office. We need someone who, like us,
>sees all the subversive, crazy potential of the Internet.
>E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Center for Integrated Ag Systems, UW-Madison
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have names and addresses. -Utah Philips
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