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!Boston at World Social Forum! (english)
28 Jan 2003
The following is a subjective reflective writing about what a member of the Boston community learned from the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil.
For more detailed info about what actually happened at the Forum, please check out http://brasil.indymedia.org
I feel an obligation to give some kind of report of my one woman Boston IMC delegation to Porto Alegre this past week. I have a lot I want to communicate to Boston, but my time is limited today before I head out west to a MST settlement. And I'm exhausted from an all nite drumming party at the indymedia space last night, so bear with....
I want to write as an American.. It essentially has everything to do with my subjective experience here, unfortunately hindering my sore eyesight. I'm so used to a homogenized reality that is strip malls, cold blank concrete, big money politics, a people addicted to the screen before life, and a communication that has been condensed to one syllable words, that I can say in honesty and shame, has provided me with a new sense of alienation. It's not that I haven't had a blast here, because truly it's been amazing. It's just that I feel enraged with my country and capitalism for how it has warped my consciousness.
Even as I exist outside of the mainstream and as an activist, I feel it's neccessary to acknowledge my mental weaknesses which shapes my spirit. I have been coming to terms with my identity as it pertains in such a context and that it is in fact very colonized, as much as I might think Ive grown out of that ideology... I am an example of america politics. I am stressing here trying to figure out how to connect Boston to Porto ALegre, cuz they seem so different and I feel so out of place... This is reminiscent of the the way american imperialism operates around the world, so disjointed and unwilling to pontificate any other possible reality.
The first problem (a very big one); I cant speak the language. This was completely irresponsible of me to assume I would be accomadated on a level that hasn't been met. And it is symbolic of the way America might assume (or enforce!) the rest of the world to rotate around it.
My reasoning for not studying Portuguese DID have to do more with deciding to come to the WSF less than 2 weeks before. I regret that more than anything. I can rely on my intuition to tell me what's going on around me in the streets, at the IMC, but I can't comprehend it in a honest sense. And I have wasted a lot of time getting lost and not feeling comfortable in asserting myself in an atmosphere that I deeply crave. Why should I inconvenience people on my behalf when I am the dictator.
Ok. So I can tell you a little bit about what my intuition has found::
This is a beautiful city now containing a people, mostly from Latin America, with an enriched understanding of how their everyday activity affects their livelihood and the livelihoods of comrades. People are not as divided into separate subcultures here. Common people have an enthusiasm that carries from demonstrations that can be angry and militant or cultural and festive which then is carried into a more everyday existence with their community. I think a lot of this has to do with a vision of a more participatory democracy. (for details see post from znet)
The city is poor and I stumbled upon one too many children sleeping in the middle of sidewalks and I've felt the benefits of being able to easily afford the properties of existence with a privilege I am ashamed of. There is a battle going on, of course, when an empire finds it neccessary to control all the resources in existence....
I can definitely draw connections to struggles in Boston.. The energy here is reminiscent of Jobs with Justice and the huge janitor strikes, being it not only that everyone was banging around their home-made recycled instruments throughout the extremely wealthy downtown Boston, but that many in fact were from the South, if not Brazil itself. I think if we are to take any measure of solidarity with the people here against globalization that it should first honour this new resurgence of colossal energy rising with immigrant workers in Boston and across the globe.
Me and some of the other Americans I've met have noticed a trend in a huge misunderstanding of the resistance in the states that is immensely frightening. Basically the common conception is they think there is none and that even activists love George Bush! If this isn't reason enough to form more of a cross-pollination between different movements in the North and the South, then what's the point of this convergence any way.
Another observation of Porto Alegre was the obvious physical display of resistance all over the city. Every block has some form of political graffiti on it, walls into walls of enormous brightly colored murals mocking the U.S.'s domination over the rest of the world. I think this helps create a mood conducive to a state sponsored call for all lefty's too converge on its grounds.
The Brazil Indymedia rented out a building for IMC people all over the world to converge at to use computers and occasionally sleep.. Besides my irritation with not being able to assert myself with the language barrier and share knowledge with all these dedicated activists, it has been a remarkable sight. Organization isn't at it's highest level, but more understandable because of the lack of resources available. People have gotten a chance to meet and work with IMCistas they only know by code name from irc chats in the global network. And it's alas breath-taking to find so many active people of color here. Folks have been organizing community dinners and running across the street to indulge in the all night buffet. There's around 100 bodies stretched out all over the floor and on the porches.. Teams of kids have been running around town throwing up posters with articles from the newswire. Workshops have been facilitated by women from the South in the network... Screenings of videos created from IMC's all over were shown at the youth camp. There's a distint unity present, at least within those who can communicate. Big up's to those who made this convergence possible.
I am not saying the Forum has been the most ideal. There has definitely been way too much bureaucracy in the organization of the official World Social Forum happenings. My experience in the official conferences and workshops, those few which I could actually locate that had English translation and weren't cancelled without posting, was very sedate for what I had imagined. The thousands of delegates from NGO's and the like had too high of an air of authority in the forum and it became more about how to help their cause than about empowering the so-called audience.... There was some great presentations from hardcore freedom fighters, but the structure to build outside of that wasn't as key. A different kind of feeling of wealth was also present at events at the PUC university, where it was held. People seemed to spend more time purchasing their exotic cultural souvenirs and expressos and coca-cola than sitting down and trying to communicate with what could manifest into a real grassroots revolution.
I talked with many who felt they got more out of very simple short connections with people from here than they did from the Forum itself.
There was a lot more disparity between the PT socialist party and the folks organizing resistance to that than the mainstream I assume hasn't lead onto. The first day of the Forum in the opening march the anarcho-punx block was screaming 'fascistas' and trying to throw fires into a float operated by some in the party.. And the presidente of the PT was pied the last night by an un-disclosed member of the Biotic Baking Brigade.
There's a movement of independent recycling going on in the city of Porto Alegre. Young and old struggling workers travel around the city by bicycle or horse-pulled wagons! and collect trash that they separate and recycle to get money.. I was lucky enuf to find their contingent during the Opening Marche as well.
My experience at the Forum also took into account that I had a distorted perception due to me being an American looking in and my past lessons in the states giving me a more jaded stance on our movement. I don't immediately trust activists' genuine motivations and unfortunately found myself applying this to swarms of people whose conversations I couldn't even overhear in other languages.
Oh, but it's all good because at least I don't bump into a McDonald's or Starbucks on every street corner and people smile.. Here, I am enjoying being ignorant.
This computer is starting to bug, so I'll leave it at that for now and try and report once I get to Buenos Aires..
watch my short video at: http://boston.indymedia.org/front.php3?article_id=10233&group=webcast