This could be the free tradesman's exit

From a talk by Naomi Klein, the author of 'No Logo' to mark the World Development Movement's campaign against corporate interests
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The Independent Online

There is a man in Canada named Conrad Black. Last year, he launched a new national newspaper in Canada. It was a conservative newspaper with the express purpose of changing the political culture in my country.

There is a man in Canada named Conrad Black. Last year, he launched a new national newspaper in Canada. It was a conservative newspaper with the express purpose of changing the political culture in my country.

He said at the time that the problem with my country is apparently that we derive our national identity through our public services. It's true. If you ask Canadians what makes them Canadian as opposed to American, what they will say is public health care available to all, accessible post-secondary education, and so on, and this drives Conrad Black nuts. He just whips himself into a frenzy about it. He thinks it to be a sort of sissy national identity and unmanly. He says it is a glorification of bureaucracy and we need a more macho identity - a new national brand if you will. And it should be more rugged individualism, achievement and less Body Shop.

Of course, our public services are the public tangible manifestation and expression of our shared values as citizens. How we choose to heal our sick, teach our kids, protect our water, connect to one another through transport and communication are expressions of our collective vision for society. This idea is an extremely threatening one to the free market.

This is what the attempts to extend the World Trade Organisation's reach into services is really all about. In market terms, services are not an expression of our will as citizens but opportunities for foreign investment untapped resources.

We are told globalisation would benefit everybody once we work out these kinks. And yet the economic policies that brought about the current wave of prosperity are exactly what has exacerbated a divide between rich and poor. Globalisation was built on the backs of the unemployment programmes that we slashed. It was built on the backs of the labour protections we revoked, of the schools we didn't fund, and soon, if we don't stop it, the public services that we will lose.

It's time to admit that poverty and inequality are not unfortunate side effects of globalisation that can be fixed with a little additional economic medicine, a little more free trade, a little more side agreement here and there. They are the preconditions of the brand of globalisation we have chosen to embrace. It is cause and effect.

I think what this meeting is about tonight is that all around the world, citizens have watched power and control shift steadily to point further and further away from the places where they live to the International Monetary Fund, to the World Trade Organisation, or to the stock market. For instance we find out that my country Canada is not allowed to ban a gasoline additive that we thought was harmful because we got sued at the WTO, and then we turn around and we sue France because they try to ban Canadian asbestos - this is free trade.

I think this is what José Bové, the French anti-McDonald's folk hero is campaigning about. I don't think his problem is with fast food per se, from what I've heard. Rather, it's the fact that France was told by the US that they did not have the right to ban hormone-treated beef. I think there is also a common element to the spirit of these protests. As our communal spaces, our town squares, our streets and our farms are displaced by the ballooning marketplace, a spirit of radical reclamation has taken hold. More and more activists are reclaiming privatised resources that have been bartered and traded and given away, reclaiming them for the public good, sometimes by force.

In Canada, students are kicking adds out of classrooms. I've heard that Indian farmers are igniting GM crops, that landless Thai peasants are planting vegetables in over-irrigated golf courses, that Bolivian citizens are overturning privatisation of their water system. All of us in our own way seem to be part of the same project of reclaiming a few saved spaces, pieces of our ecology, our social fabric, and our culture.

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