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All in the same boat

28 January 2005
It’s not easy finding oneself or one’s cause here in Porto Alegre. Today and yesterday I spent the days bustling between other forum participants from tent to tent. What most people seem to do is glance at the programme and throw themselves at the mercy of chance. There are 11 themes at the forum, and each has its own area and a designated letter of the alphabet. Today I decided to spend some time in ‘G’, which is the section for “Peace, demilitarization, and struggle against free trade and debt”. And yes, I think that’s a broad subject too. Thankfully event browsing is socially acceptable. If you go to an event and don’t like it, it’s OK to stand up and walk to the next tent. There’s so much going on here at once: event organisers definitely have a tough job cut out for them getting people to stay put. Yesterday I couldn’t help grinning at the fact that there were less than 20 people gathered at the “Coalition for a World Parliament” meeting. How are they supposed to create a new world order with that sort of turnout? But they were there again today, and will be again tomorrow, I suppose – and maybe it will add up. They’re definitely determined. And I remember them from 2003. The Puerto Rican meet was interesting. Aside from some basic historical facts about how Puerto Rico was handed over to the Americans after the Spanish-American war, there was some economic analysis that put the islands economic dependence on the United States into perspective. Perhaps alternatives to the current de-facto colonisation are imaginable? Today, I walked into a meeting on the “Asian response to globalisation and war”. There were Indian trade unionists, Korean and Japanese. The next WTO meeting is being held in Hong Kong, and activists are gearing up for it already. One Korean trade unionist said they were going to “slow down “ or “de-rail” the “WTO train”- and she spoke of the Korean activist who committed suicide in protest of the WTO during the trade talks in Cancun last year, and described him as a hero. The Japanese rail worker on stage said he had been fired from his job because he belonged to a union that was against his government’s plans for rail privatisation. And the Indian representative affirmed his solidarity with the other Asian unions. The translation was shaky, and the delivery of some of the speeches was rocky. But I did feel as though I had been transmitted to an entirely different continent. Being here sometimes feels like eavesdropping on conversations that have nothing to do with me. But I guess the whole point is that it does have something to do with both you me, and everyone. I am going to think about that as I arrive 40 minutes late to meet collegues on a floating yellow boat, which doubles as a bar.

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