What are we really doing here?

26 January 2006
  At the World Social Forum Presentation yesterday, organizers of the Caracas, Mali, Mumbai, Nairobi, and Brazil Social Forums met in a panel discussion to talk about the direction that the World Social Forum should advocate.  While the talk did occasionally veer into substantive issues, the meat of the discussion boiled down to advocacy and whether it was the place of a forum that promotes open dialogue to advocate on behalf on certain political issues.  [Although it should be noted that there was a large poster that read "Bush iAsesino! (killer)" with a rather inflammatory picture of Bush sporting a Hitler style Mustache].
A highlight of the talk was Jacobo Torres de Leon (organizer of the Caracas WSF) assertion that the Forum could maintain its autonomy from government, despite the belief that Chavez was running the show.  He spoke of the importance of autonomy in maintaining a free discourse at the forum but felt the need to qualify that statement by saying that he personally advocated the Chavez government and that the forum could only happen in South America with the help of leaders like him.  While it is a valid assertion of one's personal beliefs, it seemed inappropriate to the procedural purpose of the panel discussion. The panel never fully resolved the issue, but it could be that the forum is what the participants make of it.  Formal goals and procedures are often the downfall of open discourse.
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