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who are these guys anyway?
By Jason Hayes
They are loud, proud, and in your face.
They despise capitalism and Western culture.
They claim to speak for the public and fancy themselves to be the protectors of the poor.
They wear sea turtle costumes, preach non-violent confrontation, but some get nasty and break things when they think it might further their cause.
Media reports regularly relate their protests in places like Seattle and Quebec City where they storm fences, cause millions in property damage, and hold people hostage by blocking traffic and buildings.
Their exploits are familiar...but just who are these people anyway?
They are anti-globalist protestors, and Calgary is set to be the stage for their next big show.
In June 2002, Calgary will be a stopover for protestors on their way to the G-8 summit. However, the protestors who cannot endure the Rocky Mountain elements, or who are forced out by the military, will likely stick around to pester the capitalists that populate the Stampede City.
Portions of the anti-globalist cause genuinely mean well. Not all of the protestors are intent on causing damage; most will protest peacefully and then quietly return home. Unfortunately, the noisy, destructive protestors give the quiet and sincere ones a bad name and they are the ones that Calgarians will be watching.
At a presentation last October in Montreal, Aaron Lukas, a Trade Policy Analyst at the Cato Institute, described what to expect when an anti-globalist contingent rolls into your town. In his research of anti-globalist antics in Seattle and Quebec, Lukas noted the presence of three distinct groups in each protest march; Organized Labor, Students and Other Young Activists, and assorted radicals (colloquially known as the mixed nuts). Locals can expect to meet these same folks again next summer in Calgary.
The organized labor sector typically focuses on job security for their members, arguing that a reduction of trade barriers will cost local jobs. Theirs is a benign form of protest, when compared to the other groups, as they generally avoid calls for storming the fence and do not take part in vandalism.
Organized labor aids the other protestors by providing the respectability that comes with money and political influence. However, apart from joining in the protest fray to voice concerns for their financial security, their ties to the student activists and mixed nuts are tenuous.
One can expect to see this group carrying signs and bemoaning the "great sucking sound of jobs heading south".
The Students and Young Activist group is a young, often poorly informed collection of people with a penchant for radically over simplifying trade issues. Lukas divides this group of students and activists into three separate sections: the socialites, the compassionista, and the anarchists.
The socialites' dedication to the anti-globalist cause is largely nonexistent. They take part in anti-globalism protests mainly to have a good time. Their protest experience generally consists of locating and ingesting mind-altering substances then searching out companionship. The protest environment is, to the socialites, one big party.
One can expect to see this bunch lurching through the streets or sleeping off their latest binge on a downtown bench.
Longing for a return to some vague concept of primitivism, the compassionista embraces anti-globalization as a means of promoting new age ethics. They glorify poverty as a morally superior state and rage against the prosperity of western society. Comfortably and willfully ignorant of even the most basic economic concepts, they deny, with great passion and conviction, that poor or Third World societies ever could improve living conditions through free-market trading.
One can expect to see the campassionista carrying signs, chanting, and hating you for having a job or driving an SUV.
The anarchists exist a step below the socialites and compassionista, reveling in violence and wanton destruction as a means of expressing their discontent. Destruction, they contend, is a creative form of protest.
Ironically their so-called anarchist agenda does not support anarchy; it supports extensive government intervention to correct perceived injustices of capitalism and the free-market. Their anarchist rhetoric is typically restricted to encouraging violence and vandalism, and to claiming a moral right to avoid the consequences of their actions.
Expect to see this bunch, hooded and masked, vandalizing, looting, and knocking over the few benches not occupied by drunken socialites. If you listen, you may also hear them complaining about the police and unjust restrictions on their rights to assault citizens and damage property.
The last group, the assorted radicals, is made up of the dedicated communists and radical environmentalists. These are the people who dress up like sea turtles and idolize misunderstood visionaries like Lenin, Mao, and Castro. Chanting out their hatred for capitalism and the free market, these mixed-nuts seek to dismantle private property rights and institute extensive regulations and restrictions on Western society. Somehow, in their minds, they can link restrictions on individual liberty with protecting the poor.
Despite their claims to speak for the public, at no time should these people be confused with anything moderate or mainstream. Their concept of public appears to consist of anyone who looks back at them from the mirror every morning.
Expect to see the mixed nuts, wearing strange costumes, T-shirts emblazoned with Mao's smiling face, and speaking loudly of "direct action" and "campaigns" to stop the "offensive of global capitalism".
While most people find it difficult to take these protestors seriously, they do have a right to speak their minds. One can even grant a grudging respect for their vigor in defending their beliefs. However, as the economic and ethical premises on which they base their worldview have time and again been proven failures, Canadians have little to fear from their rhetoric.
But since the half-baked rhetoric of anti-globalism does not break windows or burn cars, Calgarians can expect to see a large police contingent out on their streets trying to maintain some semblance of order.
Fasten your seat belts folks; it's going to be a bumpy ride.
Jason Hayes a Calgary-based consultant and freelance writer.
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