In week-end news, Indian farmers from all over the country marched to the capital to bring their grievances to the government: farmers are committing suicide in record numbers due to the takeover by agribusiness, which forces them to borrow to buy expensive, non reusable seeds. When crops fail, as they do, the farmers can’t pay back their loans and have nothing to fall back on.
The point of all this is not the why of the march but the how. Some people walked for weeks, mostly barefoot, to the capital, where they sat down and demanded the government listen to them - which it apparently did.
The developing world appears to have some advantages over the developed world: can you see irate Americans walking across the country to Washington and sitting there? I believe sit-ins were invented by Gandhi and taken up by the 60’s student movement, but we don’t have time to sit anymore.
Sit and wait for our elected representatives to do what we elected them for. We think we’re making a difference when we demonstrate for a few hours. But even a nation-wide chain like the one that took place last Saturday is not going to change an iota in Washington. At rallies, we make speeches to ourselves. To make a difference, protesters would have to drive to the capital and paralyze the place. But Californians wouldn’t be able to afford the gas!
The Cubans had to face peak oil when the ex-Soviet Union cut off its subsidies in the early nineties. Their inventiveness, which I’m familiar with, like the Indian farmers’ single-mindedness, has nothing to do with the spin that passes for information and policy in the so-called developed world. Take the apartment complex I live in: in an effort to recruit new tenants, they advertise a concierge to help us manage our busy schedules instead of fixing the fifty-year old pipes that regularly cause inundations.
Meanwhile, housing in Havana is getting a face-lift courtesy of the U.N. which is helping restore Havana to its original splendor. While tourists from everywhere but the U.S. admire the new paint and plaster, George Bush exhorts their governments to cut off relations with Cuba, rejecting Raul Castro’s recent call for dialogue, in the same hubristic way he has rejected Iran’s calls for dialogue over the years. (See Barbara Slavin’s new book, “Bitter Friends, Bosom Enemies”, for details about the U.S.-Iran relationship.)